At some point in life we all struggle to forgive, but hanging on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge only cause self-imposed suffering. Ultimately we become both the prisoner and the jailer.
Yesterday a friend told me about a man who was estranged from his father for many years. On the father’s deathbed, he asked his son to come visit — he wanted to make amends. The son refused, saying, “Why should I go see him? He neglected us for all of these years, and now he’s dying and wants to make peace? No way.”
We may not feel like forgiving right after being hurt, but how can we ultimately go the distance as an unforgiving Christian? It seems like living a double life, especially since we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Are they just empty words?
Forgiving Frees Us
Forgiveness doesn’t justify harmful behavior, and it doesn’t mean we’ll continue relating to those who hurt us in the same way, but it does set us free of a huge burden that only God can make right.
Learning to forgive… and not just on the surface, but from the heart, is a transformation that takes place on a soul level. It is a selfless act in line with God’s will. Even Jesus–as He was being crucified–prayed for God to forgive. While soldiers mocked him and gambled for his clothes by throwing dice, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Forgiveness opens our hearts. It frees us from pain we could otherwise carry for years and years. But it isn’t always a solo act. God can help us when we’re struggling to forgive. We just need to ask in faith.
What the Bible Says About Forgiveness
This post won’t give you steps to take to on how to forgive or bullets on how to feel better about it. But it points you where you need to go when you’re struggling. It’s good to struggle with finding our way, especially when it pivots us toward God.
And here’s what He says about forgiveness:
“Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:4)
“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (Mark 11:25)
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
“If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake.” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
“This is what you are to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept.” (Genesis 50:17)
What’s your favorite Bible verse about forgiveness?