So why exactly is forgiveness important? Why must we forgive someone else when they have wronged us?
Sally is walking down the street when a classmate, Beth, pushes her from behind. Sally ends up scraping her knee while Beth laughs and runs past. Sally, as a result, begins to look for opportunities to get even with Beth. "She has hurt me," Sally says to herself, "so I must hurt her back." As the moments and days go by Sally is pondering, looking for the opportunity to "get even"...
Now maybe you aren't Sally. Maybe your hurt is much greater than just a scraped knee. The cycle is the same though I believe.
Someone hurts you either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Whether they know it or not you are in pain. So the natural side wants to "get even". An eye for an eye as even the Law of Moses states. "That will make me feel better," we tell ourselves, "so let me figure out a way to get even."
You see, when we get hurt, we become bound to the one(s) that hurt us. It is a form of bondage. Our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings are held captive by the action that caused us pain as well as the people that hurt us and the vengeance that we so desire. It all keeps us caged in the cycle. It is a bondage that we MUST break free from.
You see this is not only a form of bondage that you become involved in by seeking to "get even", one could almost say that wanting to take vengeance yourself on those who hurt you is a form of idolatry. Really idolatry is something we worship that takes the place of God in our lives and it is a very easy way to allow Satan a foothold in our lives. So by not forgiving you are really inviting many harmful things into your life. I believe this is one reason why many people who eventually do "get even" in such situations really don't find satisfaction in such actions. They remain bitter and angry, it doesn't set them free. Only Christ can do that!
Galatians 5:1 NIV
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Yes, I know the context of Galatians 5:1 is to the Law and those who professed Jesus but wanted to revert back to Law worship. But the truth is wide and broad. Jesus died for us to SET US FREE! He did not die for us to want us to be held captive by sin (and yes, vengeance is a sin) and it's destructiveness in our lives.
John 8:32, 36
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
When the Israelites were leaving Egypt and became stranded at the Red Sea Moses told them, "These Egyptians you will NEVER see again." Now the Egyptians, as a symbol, were worldliness and even sin. The Israelites had been held captive by them for over 400 years. When God delivered them, he never intended for them to go back into bondage. He doesn't intend or even want us to go back into bondage either. Whether it's bondage to legalism, pornography, pride, anger, etc. We are to be free! Not slaves to sin and the harm it causes us and others.
How can we be the source of "living water" (John 7:38) when in bitterness and anger we want to destroy and cause harm? Christ died to set you free! So be free and forgive! Forgiveness releases you from the bondage that others bring you into by letting go of the hurt caused and working towards the life God ordained for you!
"I, even I [Yahweh], am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."
This is the hard part about forgiveness! Totally letting go of the hurt caused us and not remembering it. Forgiveness is not saying, "I forgive you." then gossiping about said person or still seeking revenge.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
When Jesus forgave you, he didn't just forgive some of your sins. He didn't put them on a 50 year waiting list and expect for you to pay for them later on. NO! He forgave ALL of your sins! He will NEVER hold you responsible for them once he has pardoned you from them.
You see the hard part of forgiveness is just that. Forgetting the hurt and letting it go! Give it to God your Father and allow him to handle the situation.
Romans 12:17, 19
Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
The Father will bring about justice if you allow him too. Give it to him!
Another hard thing about forgiveness is it costs someone something! It does. Jesus gave his life for us to be able to be forgiven. Now, most likely you will not have to die to bring about forgiveness, but the idea is that forgiveness isn't free. It usually comes at the cost of our pride. Pride is consumed with "I".
I love how the English language illustrates this truth.
What is the center letter of the word "pride"?
I is, exactly!
Pride is consumed with "I". All about me. What I want. How I want it. Me Me ME... It also is a form of idolatry and a dangerous one too. People can be so wrapped up in pride and not even know it. Pride is a very difficult thing to be released from and very welcoming to the influence of the flesh and even unclean spirits. Be wary of your pride.
Now, what is the opposite of pride?
What is so wonderful about "humility"?
It puts the "U" before "I".
A humble person places others before themselves!
Jesus was the "poster child" of humility. Everything he did was for others.
He humbled himself by taking on our form. (Philippians 2:5-11)
He humbled himself by becoming sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
He humbled himself by becoming a servant to all. (Matthew 20:28; John 13:3-5)
He humbled himself by dying on the cross for us! (Hebrews 5:8 )
He gave so others could live.
You see, when you forgive others who have hurt you just as the Lord forgave you, you place the gift of life in their hands. What I mean is you break the cycle.
How many times have we eventually got even with others just to see them turn around and return the bill? Then the cycle just repeats. Relationships are busted. Enemies are made. Lives are ruined because our pride demands we get even and not forgive.
When others who have wronged us see we choose forgiveness over vengeance, you give them something they may not have had access to before. Remember, vengeance brings destruction. Forgiveness brings life. When you forgive others, you allow God to come into the relationship and will see life come to them and you.
"Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13
"I, even I [Yahweh], am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 43:25
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
100% That is what God wants. He doesn't want half hearted worship. He doesn't want fake praise. Yes it is very possible to worship God in vain.
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.
Many in the church do not know this! Worship is not always acceptable to God. Neither is our profession of love.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
God as a spirit, eternal and omnipresent, demands that our worship be honest and constant. It is not something that we just turn on when around a religious crowd and turn off when out mixing it up in the world. God wants us to be true to him as he is true to us.
Loving him with 100% of our hearts, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30) is not an impossible task. Neither is it improbable. He gives us his Spirit to do within us what we could not do ourselves.
15"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."
lives within us (Ephesians 1:13-14, 5:18; Galatians 5:16-25)
will be with us (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8 )
We can do all things through the Spirit as we walk with him (Philippians 4:13; Galatians 5:22-23). The love we have for God is only an outflow of this relationship, this "walk" with the Spirit.
In John 15, Jesus said, "4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." This love relationship with the Father as he desires is only possible as we abide in Christ through the Spirit. It is my belief that "walking with the Spirit" as described in Galatians 5:16-25 by Paul is the same concept and idea that Jesus described in John 15 as recorded by John. The abundant fruit Jesus promised those who abide in him is an abundance of:
The most prominent of which is: LOVE.
Now we could be here for years dissecting and discussing what the scriptures state about love and its implications and applications to our lives. I will keep this brief to avoid such a run-off. I will post some prominent passages about love and then give a couple thoughts.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.c Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 John 3:17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Let me close with this thought:
Jesus said (Matthew 25:31-46) that our actions towards others would be a direct application to our actions towards him.
Our love for God is directly correlated to our love for others. We cannot... CANNOT say we love God if we live in bitterness and strife with those around us (1 John 4:20-21), especially those who need our forgiveness. At one time we were enemies of God because of sin. Dead and without hope. But he was compassionate towards us. Full of love and wanting to reconcile us to himself. So he paid the price so that we could be forgiven. Now he expects us to do the same with others.
Forgiveness is one of the ultimate acts of love towards another. Instead of getting even, you write their actions off. You pay the price so that peace can reign.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
100% love is only possible through forgiveness. Simple math dictates that with even 1% of envy or bitterness you cannot love 100%. 100-1=99 hardly 100... So pray for the love and compassion to forgive even the worst of offenders and begin to grow in that 100% love for God and by extension others as well.
be filled with the Spirit
The Spirit produces love in the lives of those who have him and are full of him. As I previously discussed and will try not to rehash, it is impossible to be 100% love with even 1% bitterness or anger. It is impossible to be full of the Spirit [who produces love] and at the same time harboring anger or desiring vengeance.
Let's look at one story in the Bible that I think illustrates this concept of forgiveness and being full of the Spirit.
In Acts 18 we read about the Apostle Paul on one of his missionary journeys in the city of Corinth. As he is ministering in the city, the Jews became violent and wanted to make an example of Paul as they often did. The ringleader of the group was the synagogue leaders, a man named Sosthenes (Acts 18:17). When the proconsul Gallio refused to judge Paul for the religious disagreement, the Jews who had wanted to harm Paul instead brought punishment upon Sosthenes.
Now what does this have to do with forgiveness?
We all know Paul to be a man of great faith and love. He wrote in many passages about the need of forgiveness and living in peace (Colossians 3:13; Romans 12:9-21; etc).
1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes...
Now Paul wrote this letter after the events of Acts 18, once he left city. It is entirely possible this Sosthenes spoken of as "our brother" in 1 Corinthians 1:1 is another believer with the same name, but I like to think it is the same man.
You can see it now. Once the crowd had taken their vengeance out upon Sosthenes in front of the proconsul and Paul as described in Acts 18, Paul walks over to the beaten and battered man, helps him to his feet and takes care of him. Almost a form of a "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37) where Sosthenes is beaten badly and Paul, the man that he had just tried to inflict harm upon, brings him back to health. Through this act of forgiveness by the Apostle, Sosthenes experiences the love of Christ and comes into the faith, a brother to us all.
Being full of the Spirit means you walk in love at all times. Especially when it is inconvenient.
27 "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven...
Ask the Father through Jesus to fill you with his Spirit. Walk in love at all times. Be the light of the world you were destined to be by forgiving offenses, even when it hurts to do so.
be filled with the Spirit
So in conclusion and to borrow from my Facebook post:
Why is forgiveness important? When someone hurts us, we become bound to them. In order to break that bondage and live the free life Christ offers we must forgive to free ourselves. God wants us to be full of His Spirit and that is not possible when we harbor bitterness and resent over past offenses. Let them go and forgive! We are to be fully consumed in love for God, as Mark 12:30 says "Love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, strength." Well you can't love God 100% if you have even 1% of hate or vengeance in you. Forgive others and let God's peace reign in your heart and mind! Colossians 3:13 - Forgive as Jesus forgives you! Matthew 6:14-15 - If you don't forgive, the Father will not forgive you! PLEASE for your sake, forgive those who have wronged you!