Friends Forgive: Part 2
Just a few days ago, Julia Mayo with Verity Fellowship began a conversation with us on how, as Christians, we have been forgiven. Here, she picks up where we left off in the discussion on our need to forgive others. If you’re struggling to offer up forgiveness to someone who has hurt you, you’ll find inspiration here.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
Think about a time in your life when someone hurt you. What happened? How did they wrong you? Did they care? Have you been reconciled?
It can be tempting when we’ve been hurt to just try to ignore the whole situation. Sometimes we try not to think about it, because once we start we know we’ll spiral down into a whirlpool of hurt and anger. We can try to run away, or pretend like we’re not hurting, but none of these options address the real issue: our need to forgive.
Forgiving others is a necessary part of a Christian’s life. We are commanded to forgive anyone for anything (Mark 11:2). Regardless of how big or small an offense, whether it’s multiple times a day or once in a lifetime, God’s forgiveness of our sins means we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14; Matthew 18:34-35).
When the Bible talks about God forgiving us, it uses language of bookkeeping. Sins are counted (Romans 4:8), debts are tallied (Colossians 2:14), and by accepting Jesus’ payment for our sins, the debts in our ledger are wiped clean (Acts 3:19).
This illustration is helpful to remember when we’re in the process of forgiving others. When someone sins against us it can be easy to feel like they need to make it up to us. All of a sudden we become the keeper of accounts, and begin tallying up all their sins, and demanding they come up with the means to pay us for the wrong done.
And that’s where we go wrong.
We can’t require anyone to pay for their own sins. We don’t keep the ledgers – God does. He took our ledger, which included many more offenses against him than other people have sinned against us, and nailed it to the cross. It is gone forever! Out of this joy, we don’t keep a record of others’ wrongs. Instead, we forgive. For the prototypical illustration, please take a moment to read (or re-read!) the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
We have been forgiven of so much! And therefore should forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Colossians 3:13).
How to Forgive
There are two types of forgiveness:
1. Vertical – between you and God
2. Horizontal – between you and the one you’re seeking to forgive
Not all situations call for horizontal reconciliation (horizontal reconciliation is important to seek out, but not always possible or wise), but all situations require believers to forgive others in their hearts before the Lord. This is done through prayer. The first step to forgive others is to remember how we’ve been forgiven, and be thankful for it! Then we can confess our feelings to God, seek his forgiveness for our ongoing struggle with sin, and acknowledge our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.
Have I forgiven them?
How do we know we’ve forgiven someone from our heart? It’d be nice (and is sometimes the case!) to go before the Lord and forgive others instantly from our heart, but sometimes – especially when the betrayal runs deep – forgiveness may be a much more iterative process. Just praying “I forgive ___” is meaningless if you don’t mean it…so we need to pray for the Lord to help us mean it!
We should pray as often as we find ourselves drifting into bitter, destructive, damning thoughts against our offender.
It’s common to struggle with forgiveness, and when we do we shouldn’t hesitate to confess our sin of unforgiveness and pray for the Lord’s mercy in our situation – he will answer (Psalm 46:1; Matthew 5:7).
Sometimes we can even forgive someone today, but then years later be affected by their sin in a new way. In that case, we still need to forgive again. Whenever we sense bitterness in our hearts against someone, we need to pursue forgiveness before the Lord. You have been given the gift of the Spirit to enable you to forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
Conclusion: Whenever you have anything against anyone, forgive.
Forgiveness takes work, faith, and perseverance. In order to forgive we need to be able to know in our hearts that we have no right to seek retribution. Think about it this way: since we’ve been forgiven for our huge offenses against Christ, who is the ultimate judge, then all that is left for us is to seek to love our enemies and pray for them.
Who do you need to forgive today?
Julia grew up in the Portland area and currently attends Christ Church Sellwood with her husband, Ryan. She holds a Master’s degree in Bible and Theology from Western Seminary, where she formed the friendships that led to her involvement with Verity Fellowship. Her passion is studying the Bible and applying it’s teachings daily in a Christ-centered way. She works part-time at Eternal Perspective Ministries, with Christian author Randy Alcorn, where she is a research and editing assistant. She also works full-time as an executive assistant in the Academics department of Western Seminary.