There are few things harder in our faith walk than forgiving the difficult. It might sound easy, but when we’re faced with a grievous wrong done us, it sometimes seems as if literally prying a piece of our wounded heart from our body and handing it over to the one who has hurt us may be easier.
And yet despite the effort and struggle of forgiving, there is a sacredness on the other side. Forgiveness can lead not only to healing and wholeness, but to new life and renewal—a testament to the resurrection of Jesus and a promise of the full and beautiful life that is to come for His children.
Consider the following 5 truths as we turn the corner on and strive for the riches of God’s glory in every area of our lives.
1. Forgiveness Is an Act of Faith, Not Weakness
Despite the many commands in God’s Word compelling us to forgive, we can tend to get caught up in our current culture which all too often deems forgiveness (and repentance, for that matter) as something done by the weak.
Our society puts much emphasis on the strength of the individual. Beneath this constant messaging, repentance and forgiveness can get lost in the shuffle as we subconsciously throw them to the side or, worse, convince ourselves that a just God has our back and doesn’t even expect us to forgive the person who’s done us wrong.
The reality is that while we are to seek justice, we are also to love mercy. Over and over again, we are encouraged to put faith in Jesus—not the person who has harmed us—as we seek to forgive.
This putting on faith instead of bitterness peels off a new layer of our sanctification. It is indeed a beautiful renewal.
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. Luke 6:27-28
2. When We Refuse to Forgive, We Have Blinded Ourselves to the Gospel
Ouch. This one hurts—believe me, I know. We don’t like to think that we’ve become blind to the very act that has saved us and compelled us to faith, and yet it’s when we forget all that God has forgiven us that we tend to feel justified in condemning our brother or sister.
We’re the person walking around in our own story, so it makes sense we see our view perfectly. But what about God’s view? What about the gospel view?
We all have fallen short, and we all need forgiveness. Let us not be like the debtor in Jesus’s parable who, after being forgiven an enormous debt, went out and demanded payment from another for a much smaller debt.
Washing ourselves anew in the truth of the gospel—we are loved, forgiven, and free—will help us put on eyes to see our neighbor in a truer light. Perhaps we are not so very different after all.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24
3. Forgiving Is an Act of Worship
While it’s so easy and welcome to sense the moving of the Spirit while singing a worship song among brothers and sisters, worship is not confined to service or to Sunday morning or even to church. Worship is anything that gives glory to God, and that includes forgiving.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man—not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”
In some ways, forgiving can feel like suffering. But when we make a conscious decision to walk this tough road as a way of worship, when we reflect the riches of God’s glorious grace, something sacred happens. His Spirit fills us. We become more like the God we seek to worship.
Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
4. Forgiveness Reminds Us of Our True Identity
Have you ever slammed your finger in a door? The pain consumes. Our body screams and for the next several moments, we can’t think about anything except for our damaged finger that is taking up every square inch of our thoughts and every ounce of our energy.
When we are hurt, and when we cling to that hurt, we become defined by our pain and root ourselves in its identity. Forgiving isn’t pain-free. In fact, when we forgive we are taking on the debt that is owed us. But while the road to forgiveness may hurt, it is pain that leads to a threshold of freedom.
Unforgiveness, on the other hand, causes a type of living death. As we allow unforgiveness to cripple our spirits, we are in danger of losing sight of our true identity in Christ.
As someone once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
But when we choose to renew ourselves in the beauty of Jesus’s finished work on our behalf, we replace the pain with grace, the hurt with healing. It doesn’t mean we forget the grievance, but we release it to One far more capable of handling it.
C. S. Lewis has some enlightening words on this topic for us, saying, “Even if he [the offender] is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13
5. Forgiveness Leads to a Resurrected Life
When a couple of Capernaum men lowered their paralyzed friend through a roof in front of Jesus, the Lord saw their faith. And looking with compassion on the lame man, Jesus saw his primary need. Not to walk, but to be forgiven.
Wow. Here we see the beautiful grace of Jesus. The man hadn’t even voiced his need for forgiveness and yet Jesus, so scandalous and insistent in His grace, likely glimpsed some humble, imperfect repentance here. He may have been looking for it, waiting for the opening.
There is no perfectly recited sinner’s prayer from the paralyzed man, no eloquent request for Jesus to step in where he can’t. There’s just wasted limbs, a dirty mat, caring friends, and a humble spirit.
But hold on, because even after Jesus forgives the man, we see He’s not quite done. To prove His authority, Jesus heals the man. New life is given. Resurrection life is apparent before all as the man takes his mat and leaves.
No doubt Jesus could have healed the man without the forgiveness happening, but it speaks to the impact and power of forgiveness—and gives us a glimpse of what’s to come.
Renewal. New beginnings, new opportunities, and new life. When we forgive, we pave the way for all these things.
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19
Always remember the great capacity of God’s love and grace. Root yourself in this truth and preach it to yourself every day. Pray for His Spirit to renew your mind and heart. Forgiving is hard, but while God asks us to do it, He never asks us to do it alone.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/naruedom
Heidi Chiavaroli writes women’s fiction, combining her love of history and literature to write split-time stories. Her latest book, The Orchard House (February 2021), follows the lives of two estranged sisters who find forgiveness and reconciliation through the little-known story of author Louisa May Alcott’s time as a Civil War nurse. Visit Heidi online at heidichiavaroli.com.