Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a “conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve forgiveness. It doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.”
The question I have had, particularly when someone has seriously injured me and caused lasting damage is, “If I forgive them, does this mean I’m acknowledging what they did as being, O.K.”
We so often hold onto the anger, hatred, and bitterness toward those who have offended. These feelings of resentment become who we are, they influence how we react toward them or others who might offend and we feel justified…
So what happens when we allow our past to determine our present? Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15 Now, when I first read this, I thought it sounded a lot like salvation by works. I know that we are saved by grace alone as it says in Ephesians 2:8, so what is Jesus saying here? What we are seeing is the process of a heart that is turned toward God.
If we can’t forgive others, the bitterness, hatred, anger and resentment is what fills our heart and there is simply no room for the love of God. When Jesus was asked, “what is the greatest commandment of all?”, Jesus answered in Mark 12:30-31 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment, and the second, like it is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This love, for God, is expressed in part by the way we treat others….not how they treat us.
Ouch, this is a hard one for me. I want to see vengeance, I want others to know just how much they hurt me by making them feel equally as bad. Unfortunately, we are never really able to accomplish this. By tearing down others, to justify our pain, we only serve to damage ourselves further. When I inflict pain on others, I withdraw deeper into the hateful, vengeful bitterness that I’m trying to relieve. I dig deeper into the pit of despair I’m trying to get out of.
So what is hatred? In God’s eyes, it is SIN. 1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When we hate, we break God’s moral law which says “You shall not kill.”
So what is our recourse? The only solution is forgiveness. If we understood the magnitude of God’s forgiveness shown us, we would understand how minor our forgiveness is comparative to others offenses. Jesus illustrates this point in Matthew 18:21-35. Sin separates us from fellowship with God, sin leads us down a path of unrighteousness, sin tarnishes the image of Christ we are commanded to represent to the world.
To forgive others begins in the heart. The Lord looks upon the heart, He makes that abundantly clear throughout the Word of God and when we forgive others, He is pleased with us and draws near.
How many times do we forgive? Jesus said, 70 x 7…seven, representing completion multiplied times seventy represents a forgiveness for eternity. This measure is the one God has granted us, it looks like one casting it as far as the east is from the west in Psalm 103:12. Forgiveness looks like no longer remembering the harm that’s been done as in Isaiah 43:25. Forgiveness is being pardoned for something you don’t deserve being pardoned for, casting it behind your back, moving on…it represents true power, character and love.
Forgiveness represents Jesus.
Just as Jesus has rescued us from our offense and the result is peace, so we make peace with our brother, whether they deserve it or not, because it is the least we can do. We then move on in peace with God and allow Him to heal us and let His vengeance be the recourse for the evil that has been done.