By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
As Christians, we know the benchmark of our faith is the ability to forgive others when they've wronged us. But this is easier said than done. Due to the nature of the offense, it could take months or even years to forgive someone. Forgiveness is a process. However, it is necessary for us to go through the process of forgiveness even when we can't forget what someone has done to us, or they're not sorry. Why should we forgive someone when we're afraid they may do it again?
Here are five reasons to forgive when you can't forget:
1. God Calls Us to Forgive
Throughout Scripture, God calls us to forgive others. We are called to forgive someone repeatedly, even if they commit the same offense. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins. God will not forgive us if we don't forgive others. This is one of the only commands that comes with this promise."
God chooses to forgive us no matter how grievous our offense is and chooses to remember it no more. He gives us the chance to come to him and experience the freedom that Christ's death on the cross afforded us. Because we have been forgiven, it is our duty to forgive others, even if our offense isn't as severe as someone else's. Going through the process of forgiveness means we believe in God. When we forgive others, we fulfill God's calling to forgive others.
2. It Sets Us Free
People often believe forgiveness is about the other person. They believe if we forgive them, we're letting them off the hook for their offense. On the contrary, however, forgiveness is more about us than it is about the other person. Forgiving others sets us free from the emotional bondage unforgiveness has on our hearts. When we forgive, we feel lighter and freer. We can better demonstrate love to others when we have forgiven them.
If you are having difficulty forgiving someone, start with prayer. Declare to God you choose to forgive a person and specifically name the offense. Tell God you are choosing to forgive, even if you don't feel like it. God knows our hearts. He knows when we were doing something willfully and when we were doing it simply out of calling. But God honors us when we choose to forgive, even if it's just that of God's calling to forgive. Forgiveness starts us on the pathway toward healthy relationships. If the relationship is strained due to unforgiveness, our ability to forgive may help in the process of reconciliation. Although the relationship may never be the same as it was before, we can do our part to live in peace with everyone. Mental health issues are on the rise. This is in part due to the unforgiveness we carry in our hearts because we won't confess the sin that weighs it down. By making ourselves clean before God and then choosing to make others clean before him, we experience emotional freedom like never before.
3. It Demonstrates God’s Love
John 15:13 says, “Love has no greater love than this: when we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Christ, who had no sin, chose to take on the sins of the world so we could all experience freedom. When we don't forgive others, it is like saying Christ’s death was for nothing and that there are some offenses that are not worth forgiveness. When we imply this, we imply that Christ's death was meaningless and that Christ didn't know what he was doing when he died on the cross. Although forgiving someone may bring up past pain, it is best to deal with it effectively. It's not good to stuff our feelings or deny that the problem exists. Rather, we demonstrate God's unconditional love to others when we forgive the people in our lives. When we do this, we demonstrate that God loves us, too, and we believe in him and the power of Christ's sacrifice.
4. We Demonstrate the Fruits of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22 gives us an understanding of what the Fruits of the Spirit are: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Forgiveness helps us acknowledge that we have the Holy Spirit living within us. When we forgive, we cultivate these fruits in our lives. Forgiveness demonstrates these fruits because we demonstrate love, peace, gentleness, and kindness in a way that unforgiveness cannot. When we forgive, we pave the way for the Holy Spirit to work more effectively in our lives. When gone unchecked, unforgiveness can hinder our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not work in a heart that's hardened. Forgiveness softens the heart and allows the Holy Spirit to move freely within our lives.
5. It Becomes a Natural Practice
Once we've done the hard act of forgiving once, it makes it easier to forgive more than once. Even if the offense is severe, we will have the tools and spiritual skills necessary to go through the process of true forgiveness. Forgiveness can be tough to detect if we have truly forgiven someone because we often may still feel anger, hurt, or other emotions associated with the offense. If I repeatedly bring up the offense, continue to vent to friends about it, or bubble over with anger or resentment every time I see that person, chances are I have not forgiven them. Every time you feel this emotion, get a journal and write out your feelings. Deal with the hurt that's hidden deep within. A hurt not processed effectively can lead to a host of other physical, emotional, and mental issues.
Take a blank sheet of paper and ask the Lord to reveal any people with whom you still have an offense. Write down their name and the nature of the offense. In your quiet time, speak their names and declare you are choosing to forgive them for the offense today. Ask God to help you not recall or bring it up anymore so you can practice the peace and freedom of forgiveness. Declare that Satan has no foothold in your life and that you will not allow unforgiveness to hinder your relationship with God. When you are finished, you may find you’ve gone deeper in your intimacy with God.
Forgiveness may be one of the most difficult things to live out as a Christian. Yet, when we do so, we show an unbelieving world who God is and his presence in our lives. God chose to use his Son to carry the weight of all the sins of the world. God chose to demonstrate great love to us when he forgave us, and he calls us to do the same. There is nothing we can do that will negate the salvation Christ’s death allows us. We best demonstrate that when we forgive others. Forgiveness not only sets the other person free but releases us from physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental anguish that hinders us from a vibrant relationship with the Lord.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.