The Word of God emphatically gives instruction repeatedly to forgive and I do not suppose we could emphasize enough how crucial it is to totally forgive. There is a story about a man and his daughter buried in rubble after a bomb’s blast in Northern Ireland, and this man held his daughter’s hand as she died. Later he was asked about his feelings towards the bombers and did he hold anything against them? His reply was “I shall forgive them tonight and every night. God forgave them, for they don’t know what they do.”
Most of us are not going to have to forgive someone for killing our children. But when we refuse to forgive from the heart, un-forgiveness has the same devastating effect. Letting go of wrongs and injustices caused by others through prayer is difficult. Most often I hear comments like this “I forgive you but I won’t forget.” Or “I forgive you as a person but I will continue to pray that you get set free.” Friends, that is not true forgiveness. When we forgive someone we are not trying to prove a point to them or ourselves. We are simply letting go of the hurt, injustice, anger, resentment, and bitterness we feel we have experienced at their hands. The Greek meaning of forgive is to “let go” and “keep it no longer”. The act of letting go, of forgiveness, is processed through prayer again and again. Letting go and allowing God to heal our wounds brings peace to our minds which surpasses understanding. It may not make sense to let things go because we want to protect or explain ourselves to other people but His peace comes in like a flood when we let go because our consciences become clean. God has His best for us and in order to experience more in Him we must learn to let go of hurt caused by people.
We would like forgiveness to be a one-time deal, but often, depending on the hurt, we must forgive over and over and over again, as the Bible says, seventy times seven, and just as the man needed to forgive the bombers night after night. As a leader in the body of Christ we have to make unpopular decisions at times which people take personally. People have expectations of leaders and when we do not meet those expectations or when we handle situations differently than they would, ridicule, disappointment, and finger pointing have become the norm. With modern technology giving people access to one another twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, people can share their opinions and bring accusation anytime they like, and I might add, it is usually in the night hours we receive the most accusatory and hate-filled messages. I have discovered electronic mail can be a tremendous tool in the body of Christ but also a tremendous weapon to harm and destroy. But it is at these times we get to exercise faith and walk the road of forgiveness, a blessed road to take.
Forgiving people over and over is a necessary action in order to even exist as a child of God. Sometimes the accusations are hate-filled and so far from the truth we find ourselves disheartened, discouraged, and paralyzed. But friends, if we truly desire God’s best for our lives, we must know and embrace a greater understanding of what it means to pray for those who have hurt us, work towards peace with them, and let go of what they have done to us.
Working towards peace does not necessarily mean the relationship will be restored, reconciliation reached, or sin overlooked. Forgiving someone does not mean everything is suddenly made right in a situation or in a relationship, but what it does mean is that you are made right before God. He releases a deep love for the person who hurt you through forgiveness. He brings conviction of your own imperfections, and a desire for the best He has for you and the person who has hurt you. It is an amazing transaction and we get a great return for our “letting go”. The natural tendency in us as human beings is to stir things up when injustices come to us – we want to fight, argue, shout back, defend ourselves and loved ones, share our perception of truth. Oftentimes we need to simply calm down, be silent, and let the peace of God reign.
Allowing the peace of God to rule and reign in our hearts, lives, situations, and relationships carries a far better reward than bringing conflict. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers”. We are not to be instigators to conflict but we are to pursue peace while standing on the firm truth of God, while fighting injustices, and hating sin. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:2 to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Obviously it is possible to live this way in the midst of a world filled with hatred, abuse, and injustice. We must daily examine how we can live a peaceable existence, not through avoiding conflict, neglecting to tell the truth, or never confronting or disagreeing with one another. But the key is through forgiveness, letting go.
I am not a fan of clichés because we often throw them out there as truths but do not live them. We have heard “Let Go and Let God”. True forgiveness means letting go of all the sin coming against us at the hands of another person, letting go of all the effects of that sin, and letting God bring healing, restoration, and anything else He wants to do in our lives. Letting go and letting God is not a phrase letting us off the hook, or allowing us to sit back and let God handle everything. It requires action on our part on both sides – by forgiving others, and by cooperating with God as we let Him reign as Lord of our lives. Forgiveness is life! Un-forgiveness is death! Let us forgive as we have been forgiven!