Forgive is one of the most powerful words and verbs in the English language. The power lies behind the act of not holding a grudge against another person, but to release resentment against the individual and to pardon him/her for the wrong they did.
When we hold on to bitterness and refuse to forgive others, it kills us. Physically holding grudges and carrying resentment towards others increases stress and inflicts damage to the body. Emotionally, we can become calloused, cynical, and hard-hearted towards others when we refuse to forgive. Spiritually, the refusal to forgive others is disobedience towards God at best and an indication of a lack of relationship with Him at worse.
Jesus displayed the ultimate act of forgiveness by sacrificing Himself so pay the debt for sin we owe to God the Father. He also said much about forgiveness. Jesus said, “But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” Matthew 6:15 (CSB)
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 (CSB)
When we refuse to forgive others, we are claiming that the wrong done against us is greater than the sins we committed for which Christ died. We place ourselves above God when we refuse to forgive.
Think about it. If God, who is infinitely holy, was willing to send Christ Jesus to become a sacrifice so that we might obtain forgiveness of sins, how much more should we sinful human beings be willing to forgive each other.
How do we do it? What are some tips on forgiving others?
First, apart from experiencing the forgiveness of God through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, we cannot forgive others like God in Christ forgave us. We must first experience His forgiveness before we have the God-given capacity to forgive from a posture of unconditional love.
Second, we need to always be mindful of our own sin. When we remind ourselves of our sin and our sinful nature, it humbles us and helps us to see that we sin just like the folks who sin against us.
Third, we must focus upon Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If Christ was willing to become a perfect sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness, we cannot withhold forgiveness towards someone who has offended us.
Fourth, through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we need to exercise kindness and gentleness towards people around us. Christ is our example. He was even kind to people who persecuted Him.
Fifth, we need tell people about the good news of forgiveness found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They should hear the story about how Christ paid the ransom for our freedom from sin. We must communicate how he paid the debt for our sin, purchasing our forgiveness through His shed blood.
You see, living and forgiving are tied together. If we’ve really experienced the abundant life Christ provides, we’ll be ready to forgive others because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives making us more like Jesus. Forgiveness is a sign that we’ve experienced eternal life in Christ.
If we want to live like Jesus, we will forgive. Live to forgive and forgive to live.