How Important is Forgiveness?

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Mahatma Gandhi. 

When I think of about this quote, it really makes me think more about the command of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is very hard for some people. There have been friends, family, church members, neighbors, old flames, and coworkers who may have wronged us in the past and we just cannot seem to forgive them.  They hold these grudges months, years, and even till death, going to their grave with hatred or a grudge still on their heart. It is one of the hardest things to do and very few are successful in accomplishing it.  I am sure that every person that reads this has had a problem with this one time or another.  Maybe you still are having trouble forgiving someone or even forgiving yourself for something you may have done.

So, what is forgiveness anyway? Forgiveness is letting go of resentment, ill-feelings, and the desire for revenge or wrong doing.  Forgiveness is the ability to let go of heartaches and hurts and to take control of our lives again so that we may escape from the emotional distress. It’s to be free from the burdens of anxiety, depression and anger. I know that when we hold onto the anger and resentment that it can slowly eat away at us a little at a time. Maybe the guilt of what we did to someone is bothering us and we cannot forgive ourselves. What about if someone wronged us and we cannot forgive them. Either way it can weight us down like a ton of bricks. We tend to leave God out of the equation when we think of forgiveness. That my friend, is something you should not do.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Should we forgive?  In Matthew 6:13-14, Jesus said, “But if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” The reading of these verses tells us that this not an option, but a command. This should be sufficient reason for any right-thinking person to be forgiving because God’s promises rest upon obedience to His word.  Are we really going to question whether you must follow this command?  Unfortunately, some folks will.  Some folks will say, “well I will forgive you, but I won’t ever forget it.” I highly doubt that if you said this, you have truly forgiven that person.  I have said that myself a time or two and realized it still ate at my soul.

Forgiveness involves forgetting.  But what does it mean to forget? It is impossible for a person to completely forget the wrong from his mind. Rather it means to not hold the person accountable for it anymore.  When forgiveness is granted that should end the matter. It should never again be brought up or held against the one who has been forgiven. Hebrews 8:12 says “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” You must let go of the anger. Holding on to the anger, can lead to hate, and perhaps a lingering desire for retaliation or revenge.  This is destructive and causes an emotional drain on us even if we don’t realize it. When God forgives, He puts it out of His mind – Jeremiah 31:34 tells us, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  

I know there are some circumstances that seem unforgivable. Some things are so bad that forgiveness seems to be not an option. That is why forgiving and forgetting can be very hard. Sometimes there is deep pain that needs to be overcome, but with God’s help you can get through this. You can get through any trial or hurt if you lean on God for help.  Maybe there is someone in your life that you need to forgive, but due to the hurt that they have caused you, you just can’t do it. Let us follow the example of Jesus. Jesus knows when we have sinned against Him and He feels the pain for every sin we commit. And He still died so He could forgive us more completely.  He was beaten for you and me. He was crucified for you and me. Yet in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He forgave those who beat him so brutally, and hung him on a cross to die.

Another area of forgiveness is when we cannot forgive ourselves for something we said or done, rest assured you can have the peace of a clear conscience.  Forgiving ourselves really means accepting God’s forgiveness. Continuing to hold onto feelings of guilt for things we’ve done in the past and have asked God to forgive us for may be an indication that we haven’t really accepted His forgiveness. Remember 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. If we’ve confessed we’ve already been forgiven and our sin has been forgotten. In God’s mind, it’s like it never happened. All that’s left is to accept His forgiveness and move on. Only when we learn to forgive ourselves will we truly be free from the heartache that accompanies a lack of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is our Christian duty.  If we desire to be forgiven by God, we must be willing to forgive others. Our eternal salvation depends on it.  Some people will say that they cannot get over what this or that person did to them, God tells you to forgive no matter how many times in Matthew 18:21-22 it says, “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  This means you should always forgive, no matter the how many times we are wronged. Certainly, our world would be a much better place if we all learned to apologize like we should.  The Christian is instructed to forgive others in the same manner God forgives us. When we repent of our sins and confess them to God, He will forgive us. Why do we think we are better than God? In,  I John 1:9-10 saysIf we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Apologizing to God and others must be an integral part of the Christian’s life.

A genuine, forgiving heart is hard to attain but we must strive for it. Are you going to do what is pleasing to God or continue living for self? Are you forgiving others as God forgives you? Letting go all that hate, resentment or hurt and moving forward, I cannot tell you what a wonderful peaceful feeling it is.  You deserve that peace.  If there is someone you need to forgive, please do it. If you are having trouble forgiving yourself, it can be done, with prayer and God’s help.

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