How Do You Forgive?
By Rick Warren
“God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 CEV).
Nearly 60 years ago, five American missionaries headed to the rainforest of the eastern Amazon in Ecuador to make a second visit to the Huaorani tribe, which anthropologists said was the most vicious, violent society on the face of the earth. They had a culture of killing, and studies showed 60 percent of the tribe died by homicide.
As soon as the missionaries got out of the plane, they were speared to death by members of the tribe. The brutal murders made news around the world and the cover of Life magazine, Time, and Newsweek. Many newspapers reported the deaths of these men, who included Nate Saint and Jim Elliot.
A couple years later, Elisabeth and Valerie Elliot, wife and daughter of Jim, and Rachel Saint, sister of Nate, moved into the Huaorani village to show love and forgiveness and minister to the people who had killed their family. Eventually, Mincaye, the leader of the tribe, and the five men who participated in the missionary murders all became Christians.
The kind of forgiveness that Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint modeled doesn’t make sense until you have been forgiven by God. Once you’ve experienced it, how do you forgive? You do the four things that these women did:
Relinquish your right to get even. Romans 12:19 says, “Don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge” (CEV). Leave it up to God. He’ll take care of it, and he’ll do a much better job than you ever could.
Respond to evil with good. How can you tell when you’ve completely forgiven someone? You can actually pray for God to bless the person who hurt you. The Bible says, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27b-28 NIV).
Repeat these steps as long as necessary. Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?” Jesus replied, “Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” (CEV) Sometimes forgiveness has to be continual.
Rescue others with the Good News of God’s forgiveness. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God.”
Talk It Over
- Why do you think it’s so difficult to let go of our need to get even or “have the last word”?
- What can you do to model forgiveness in your life?
- Who in your life needs to hear God’s message of peace and salvation?
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