You can’t forgive like Jesus! In fact, chances are you’re awful at real forgiveness (<— Super discouraging statement). So what does forgiveness take? How do you really do it? Do you really have to forgive everything and/or everyone?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
Real forgiveness can’t be taught it has to be modeled (which is a form of teaching but stick with me). Read all the books you want, but forgiveness is not a philosophy to be learned, it’s not a 10 step program to knuckle down and do, there’s no manual for dummies… you have to look to Jesus.
In death on a Roman cross, my forgiveness was purchased at the cost of the one whose glory had been injured. Jesus Christ nailed my debt to the cross, forgave me of my sin and set me free to rejoice in the gracious gift of life with others who have received the same.
This is what motivates and informs Christian forgiveness.
With this knowledge of God’s work in our lives on the cross, the Holy Spirit prompts us to forgive those who have injured us in order that we would display the great work of God in Christ.
The truth about forgiveness is that it costs… forgiveness assumes pain, it assumes injustice, it assumes stupidity and self-righteousness and so on.
This is why one of the best applications of the concept of “taking up the cross of Christ” (Luke 9:23) and “share in the suffering of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7; 1 Peter 4:12-13) as a call for us to “forgive as Christ forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 4:32)
SO HOW DO WE FORGIVE?
You can’t forgive like Jesus… so how do we go about really forgiving people on our own?
- REALIZE YOU CAN’T – Realize you don’t have the strength or love or mercy to forgive.
- TALK TO GOD – Explain the situation to God… like therapy but prayer.
- ASK GOD TO FORGIVE YOU – Ask God to forgive you for your inability to forgive others.
- FORGIVE THE PERSON BEFORE THE LORD IN PRAYER – Verbalize your forgiveness of the individual(s) to God with an intellectual understanding of what that forgiveness should mean.
- REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE FORGIVEN – Remind yourself each day that you have forgiven the individual(s) before the Lord.
- ALLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT TO HEAL YOU – Allow the Holy Spirit to work on your emotional scars and an emotional forgiveness of the individual(s).
You can’t forgive like Jesus… you forgive in light of Jesus’ forgiveness of you.
KNOWING WE HAVE TRULY FORGIVEN
Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said,
“Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.”
We will know the work of forgiveness is complete when we experience the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.