We are commanded to forgive one another, but why is forgiving others more important for us than for others?
ForgivenAnyone that’s had a relationship knows what it feels like to be forgiven and probably what it feels like to forgive someone, but also what it feels like when someone won’t forgive you. I can tell you from experience that un-forgiveness does not feel good. It’s a little like wearing a dog tag supported by a logging chain. It weighs down on a person when they feel like they’ve never been forgiven. A marriage will have a difficult time surviving if the spouses do not forgive one another. If you think it’s okay to live without forgiving someone or being forgiven, try living with your spouse or working for your employer like that. It’s going to make for some tense moments. In some cases, people believe that not even God can forgive them, but I would ask them, “Don’t you think Jesus’ payment was enough?” Or, if they can’t forgive someone, I ask, “Do you realize that Jesus died for us while we were still ungodly, wicked sinners, who were enemies of God” (Rom 5:6-10), so it’s not that “they can’t” but “they won’t.” God has forgiven us infinitely more than we could ever forgive others in a million lifetimes, so we must forgive, and we must also learn to accept forgiveness…even from God. Un-forgiveness ties us to the past which impacts our future.
ForgivingIf you want a great description of forgiveness, it is on the cross, but it’s not for us. As Jesus bled and died in agony on the cross, He prayed to the Father, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 6:23:34a). How could Jesus possibly ask the Father to forgive those who were doing such a horrible thing? Jesus Himself said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). That infers that we forgive those who hate us and persecute us. We must realize that it is the message they hate more than us. God in Christ forgave us, even though not one of us deserved it (Rom 3:10-12). It was only in love (Eph 2:4) that God was moved to act on our behalf, reviving a dead corpse, held captive by the enemy (Eph 2:1-2). There was nothing special about is. We were “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” (Eph 2:3), but God loved us and made the first move (2 Tim 2:25; 1 John 4:19). Let me ask you: “How many of our sins were ahead of us at the cross?” The answer is, “All of them!” God forgave us in Christ so we must forgive others in Christ. It was done in love and we must act in love in forgiving others. Jesus commands that we ask for forgiveness and to pray to God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12).
ForgettingIt’s good to forgive someone for something they did against you, but if you keep bringing it up, it doesn’t sound like you’ve forgotten it at all, and if you’ve not forgotten, maybe that means you’ve never forgiven them for it. I admit that it’s humanly impossible to forget what people have done to us, especially the really hurtful things, but to keep bringing it up in the conversation over and over again, and after you’ve already said you forgave them, sounds like you’re digging up a dead body that’s supposed to be dead and buried. Constant reminders of the past may be indicators that the person’s never really forgiven. Otherwise, why would they keep bringing it up? It doesn’t do anyone any good to bring up past hurts, especially in front of others, because it shows that there’s still a spirit of un-forgiveness present, and it’s still a festering sore that just won’t go away…and just like a sore, if you keep picking at it, it’ll never get better. If someone does that to you, ask them again, “Didn’t you already forgive me for that? Is that still a problem for us?”
Un-ForgivenessSadly, I have had a few funerals where the children or sisters or brothers refuse to attend a memorial service because they were still mad at mom, dad, brother, or sister. Imagine a child not even coming to their own mother’s funeral, and it happens every day! How sad for the rest of the family and friends. I guess they’ll take that bitterness all the way to their grave. I remember a large church in Texas splitting over the board’s choice of carpet in the lobby. One part of the church wanted one color while the other group wanted another. It’s hard to believe that a Spirit-led church with Spirit-led believers could divide a church over the color of carpet. Don’t you think that grieves the Holy Spirit? One side refused to give in or compromise, so they left and started their own church. I’m sure they got the color of carpet they wanted, but that’s a spirit of un-forgiveness at work.
ConclusionThe Apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). Besides, people who learn to forgive live happier and healthier lives because they’re not focused on past hurts but on what the future holds. People that forgive also have better, longer lasting, and more personal relationships. An apology might not change their relationship with you, but it will change you! And, it might even change them…in time, but the people around you will be changed because they won’t be afraid to make mistakes around you. They know you’ll forgive them. Having a person around like that is like having an old comfortable Lazy-boy recliner. People just want to be around people like that. People who forgive others focus on the future. They know that the best is yet to come. They understand that it’s dangerous to drive while you’re looking in rearview mirror. Our church has a saying; “Bury the past…have the funeral.” Forgive and forget, in as much as you can forget, but once something’s forgiven, let it never pass through our lips again, lest we resurrect an old wound, and we might again be found with a spirit of un-forgiveness. Written by: Jack Wellmanis a father and grandfather and a Christian author, freelance writer, and pastor at the Mulvane (KS) Brethren church in Mulvane, Kansas. Graduate work at Moody Bible Institute. His books are inexpensive paperbacks that are theological in nature: “Teaching Children The Gospel/How to Raise Godly Children,“ “Do Babies Go To Heaven?/Why Does God Allow Suffering?,“ “The Great Omission; Reaching the Lost for Christ,” and “Blind Chance or Intelligent Design?, Empirical Methodologies & the Bible.” Read more by him: WCWTK