When we come face to face with our sin and realize that Jesus forgives us completely for every wrongdoing—every time—we are amazed and grateful. But when it comes to extending that kind of forgiveness to someone who has wronged us? We hesitate. We have a tendency to hold onto the pain someone’s actions or words caused us. We believe we are letting them off the hook when we offer them forgiveness. Our minds want us to cast blame, put that person on trial, and hold a grudge against them. We’ve believed the lie that showing forgiveness is a weakness, that it gives the one who hurt us more power, and that they are certainly undeserving of any mercy. But forgiveness has little to do with the person who wrongs us, and everything to do with our own heart. God asks us to forgive for our benefit–not the other person’s. There are clear reminders throughout Scripture that our sin is fully forgiven through Jesus and part of our calling as a Christ follower is to forgive those who wrong us. This is perhaps one of the most difficult expectations God has for His children. Like most of Jesus’ teachings, it is unnatural and countercultural. But it is not impossible.
There was a season in my life when unforgiveness towards someone who hurt me began to fester and grow into anger and resentment, hatred and distrust. So I adopted this prayer: “Father, help me forgive ________.” That was it. I prayed this single prayer over and over again until God began to soften my heart and my resentment subsided. I can still acknowledge the painful situation, but the thought of this person doesn’t dredge up blood-boiling emotions anymore.
It may take time to fully forgive, but God is patient. He’ll walk with you through every moment as you practice forgiveness, no matter how long it takes. First and foremost, He wants you to know that “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9). Your perfect, holy Savior has fully forgiven every single one of your mistakes. Let that truth gently push you toward extending forgiveness to others.
What does the Bible have to say about forgiveness? Here are a few verses:
Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Mark 11:25: And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Matthew 6:15: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Luke 6:37: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Matthew 18:20-21: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Colossians 3:13: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Thank you for being “faithful and just to forgive my sins” (1 John 1:9). I am undeserving of your mercy and grace. Right now, I feel hurt/angry/devastated by the pain _________ caused me. Please help me show him/her the same kind of forgiveness you have shown me. Take away my resentment and anger toward this person. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10, 12).
I ask these things in Jesus’ name.