360 degrees Forgiveness – How Do I Forgive Others?
Forgiveness is the issue of relationship: relationship with God, relationship with yourself, and relationship with each other. For many of us, the natural ability to forgive is one of those troublesome areas in life, yet when we find it, it is one of the most liberating activities that we can experience. Louis B. Smedes said: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."
Relationships are built not on a standard of perfection, but on our ability to ask for forgiveness and upon our willingness to extend forgiveness. But it is certainly not easy to extend forgiveness to those who've wronged us. Proverbs 18:19 NIV states that "an offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city...".
Forgiveness is an essential pillar of Christ's teaching, yet, for many of us, it is a difficult thing to do because we misunderstand what forgiving others really means. Forgiving others is not justifying the actions of someone who hurts you; it isn't denying that you have been hurt, and it certainly isn't trusting the passage of time, as we are wrongly taught in the myth 'time heals all wounds'.
The Bible lays out a process we can walk through to find freedom in forgiving others. In Matthew 18:21, Peter asks, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?" Jesus answers, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times." Jesus isn't suggesting that we count the number of times we forgive someone. He is, instead, conveying that we are to have a forgiving heart and that we should release people quickly and freely.
When it comes to this issue, you will either "release them once and be done with it for the rest of your life, or you will rehearse the episode of pain for all of your life". Forgiveness is not an emotion; it is a choice. And when you make that choice, tremendous freedom is yours.
The first step in forgiveness is to:
1. Release the
Release means to set them free. It means to let go of the bitterness or resentment. It carries the idea of releasing and freeing ourselves. When we release someone, we give up the rights to repayment. When someone harms us, we think that they are now in debt to us because they harmed us, but when you release the person, you cancel the debt and that person no longer owes you anything.
However, if we don't extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us, the reverse actually happens. We ourselves end up being tortured and bitter; locked in a lonely isolation chamber, where we are incessantly walled in by bitterness, our past, and our own refusal to forgive. It is said that "holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick".
We must also give up the right to revenge. God says He'll take care of that. In Romans 12:17 & 19 NLT, it says: "Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable ... Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God... . "I will take revenge."
After forgiveness, we are now ready to recognise God's purpose in the process. Romans 8:28 says: "God works all things together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." God always uses our experiences - both good and bad - on purpose and for purpose. However, you can't recognise God's purpose until you first release the persons to whom you are harbouring unforgiveness. God understands that we live in a broken, sinful world, but He miraculously brings good even out of the bad situations in our lives.
One important thing to understand is that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. There are times when you should not re-establish the relationship. For example, don't re-establish the relationship if it is going to lead to additional personal harm, when the other party is not at the place to receive the attempt, or if you have an expectation of being appeased in the meeting.
However, if reconciliation is best, then Scripture gives us the process.
a) Meet face-to-face with the person.
b) Point out the wrong.
c) Release him or her.
Matthew 18:15 NIV encourages us: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."
As we practice forgiveness, we give up demands for perfect behaviour, perfect justice, and perfect retribution and we begin to experience the truth that all of us are fallible humans in need of being forgiven and in desperate need of grace.
Colossians 3:13 says: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Where are you today? Do you need to give someone the gift of forgiveness? Are you tired of living with the venom of an unforgiving spirit? My challenge to you today is to choose freedom. Choose to forgive.