by Jon Walker
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
Fellowship without forgiveness is impossible.
As believers, we’re called “to settle our relationships with each other.” (2 Corinthians 5:18 MSG) We need to consistently forgive others and receive forgiveness from others, or we’ll “give up in despair.” (2 Corinthians 2:7 CEV)
Whenever we’re hurt by someone, we have a choice to make: Will we focus on retaliation or resolution? The Bible speaks candidly about settling the score: “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV)
In God’s economy, it’s not enough to say we won’t seek revenge; we’re to press into the very heart of forgiveness, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave us. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
The Bible is very clear that forgiveness is not optional for the Christ-follower. God sets this high standard because he knows how much is at stake in your life: Bitterness and unforgiveness are a cancer that eventually will destroy you from the inside out. Forgiveness is the scalpel that removes the tumor.
This doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to immediately forgive and be done with it. As you become more and more Christ-like, that will become possible, but for now you may have to work at forgiving someone who has hurt you in a particularly painful way. In other words, you may forgive this person but soon begin to feel a root of unforgiveness growing in your heart. When this occurs, you can go to King Jesus and ask him to help you with this cycle. He will help you release the offender, and the Holy Spirit will guide you in your effort.
A major point here is that forgiveness is a choice you can make. The power of God, working within you, means you no longer have to remain a slave to unforgiveness or bitterness.
In Colossians, the Apostle Paul provides the basis and motivation for forgiveness: “You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NLT, italics added). When we remember the price Jesus paid to forgive us, how can we not forgive? (Romans 5:8)
· When you forgive, you’re not pretending it didn’t hurt – Forgiveness means you no longer hold the offense against the offender. It means you’ve pardoned the debt, and you’ve intentionally chosen to release the one who hurt you. We’re to love deeply, because “love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)
· Stop right now and talk to God – Have an honest conversation with God about someone you need to forgive. Our heavenly Father knows that it’s not easy to let go of our hurts, but he will give you the grace to forgive.
· Be honest with God – Cry out to God; tell him exactly how you feel. He won’t be surprised or upset by your anger, hurt, insecurity, or bitterness.
© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved.
Jon Walker is a pastor-advocate living in Tennessee and the former pastor of communications at Saddleback Church.© 2007 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.