Forgiving others when it’s difficult

In Blog, My Year by Anthony Knight

Weekend recap-

If you were away from us at The Journey Church this past weekend here is what you missed:
As we enter our eleventh week of our MY YEAR series, we will be preaching over the 12
spiritual formation markers that we want our church to abide by. The eleventh spiritual formation
we talked about this past weekend was:

An abnormally compassionate heart of mercy, grace, and forgiveness toward others

No exemptions for forgiving

As a Christian, we all know in our minds everyone who hurts us deserves to be forgiven. Jesus
is clear when He tells us in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your
Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither
will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Our minds will say yes to this verse,but our hearts may
say no when we truly experience pain people may cause us.

If you live in this world long enough, you will experience either betrayal, abandonment, abuse,
or you will be falsely accused. You may be outcasted, threatened, or attacked. You may
experience a lost of a close one or family member through a tragic accident because of
someone being careless. Experiencing these horrible events in life is where the heart starts to
reject the notion of “everyone deserves forgiveness.” The pain we may feel will scream to us,
“you can never forgive them for what they did to you,” but we must. The only way to truly do this
is by looking vertically at God and the cross instead of looking horizontally at the person who
hurt you. We must remember the sins that we experience from others will never measure up to
the sins we have committed to God. If God did not pour His wrath on us, we must never pour
our wrath on others. God forgiving us leaves no room for exemption in forgiving others.

Forgiven people forgives people

A great parable that captures the importance of forgiving others is found in Matthew 18:21-35.
This parable is about a servant who has been forgiven a huge sum of money and that same
servant turns around and punishes someone else for not paying him. He received forgiveness
for a huge debt when he owed money, but did not grant forgiveness to a man that owed him a
small debt. This man was called wicked and thrown into jail and Jesus quotes these words, “So
also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your
heart.” Jesus says it is wicked to not forgive someone when you have been forgiven.

How to forgive

There are many questions concerning forgiveness that may spark concerns in a believers heart.
These questions may be:

  • Should I forgive even if they don’t recognize their wrongdoing?
  • Should I forgive if the person makes empty promises to change?
  • Does forgiveness mean I have to have a relationship with them and act as if nothing has
    happened?
  • By forgiving them am I making them feel excused or letting them get away with it?

For the first two questions the answer must always be yes, but the last two questions are
different. Regardless if people recognize their wrongs or not, we must forgive. Forgiveness has
little to do with them and much to do with us. When we hold on to bitterness and hatred to
someone for the harm they have caused, we are only hurting ourselves. Our heart and flesh can
be so blinded by the pain they have caused, we may think to ourselves by hating them we are
causing them to suffer. We naturally want to seek vengeance to those who harm us and the way
to do that first is to hate them. Thoughts will plague our minds saying, “he doesn’t even
recognize the pain he has caused or she has told me time after time she will change and
nothing has.” While we think these thoughts we have will destroy our offender, in reality, it is
destroying us. Each thought we have of hatred and bitterness is like poison to the mind and
heart. We must cling on to the cliche, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Each empty promise and
blindness to the pain they have caused you must never lead to hating a person.

Forgiveness does not equal best friends

When you forgive someone for stealing from your home, it does not mean you have to let them
stay the night again. When you forgive your co worker who lies on you and gets you fired, it
does not mean you have to invite them over for dinner. It may be wise to keep a healthy distance from
those who have deeply scared us. It would not be wise to open ourselves up to vulnerability to
be taking advantage of. When we realize forgiveness is more about us than our offender then it
makes more sense. Not all relationship have to be restored if the scars are too deep. But
everyone must be forgiven. There are consequences to people’s actions and those
consequences may get in the way of certain relationships but it should never get in the way of
forgiving.

Give it to God

When we forgive those who hurt us, we are not letting them off the hook. We are not letting
them get away with the harm they have done because God promises to vindicate His children.
God fights our battles and He wants us to trust Him to. Vengeance is mine says the Lord
(Romans 12:19). Never feel like the evil people commit to you is outside of your Father’s care.
He sees each tear and each measure of pain people cause you. Justice will be served so we
must trust our just Father to vindicate us.

**Warning**

Since our God is just, it means He will also judge His children who cannot let go of hatred and
forgiveness. I do not believe this means He will take away our salvation, but I do believe He will
discipline His children who do not do what He asks of us.
Here are 6 practical steps to make sure we obedient to the command of forgiving others.
Forgiven people forgives people. How can we who have experienced the sweet taste of grace
and forgiveness be to bitter to give it to others? That must never be so for His children so please
meditate on these steps.

1. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily- grace and forgiveness is the heart of the cross (Col. 3:13)
2. Take each poisonous thought of hatred and bitterness captive (2 Cor. 10:5)
3. Forgive daily- the deeper the scar the more times you will have to forgive. It is not a one time
thing.
4. Place healthy boundaries when needed
5. Seek justice where appropriate- not a sin to desire justice
6. Allow God to be your ultimate vindicator- justice will come, maybe not on this earth but it will
in the New Earth. (Rom. 12:19)