Last week, we looked at why we forgive others. It is not because they deserve it, they apologized, or because the issue no longer matters. We forgive because God first forgave us. Colossians 3:13 states it clearly: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
This statement also helps us to begin to understand how we are to handle forgiveness.
In order to understand what God wants us to do, we have to understand the forgiveness He has given us. Let us consider four truths about how the Lord forgave us:
- He initiated the act of forgiveness, without our apology or regret (Romans 5:8)
- He forgave us completely, 100%, no looking back (Psalm 103:12)
- He sacrificed himself in order to secure the forgiveness and fix the relationship (Ephesians 1:3-10)
- He does not force a new relationship on us, but does offer it to us (John 3:16-18)
This is how we also forgive.
Our forgiveness should be offered even if the other person does not apologize or regret what they have done. The relationship may not be realistically restored in this way, but our forgiveness cannot be dependent on them.
Our forgiveness must be given wholeheartedly. This requires the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! This does not mean that we’re suddenly happy about the offense or that we forget it ever happened. But it does mean that we no longer dwell on it or hold it against them.
Our forgiveness will require sacrifice on our part. First and foremost, we must sacrifice our pride! We may need to sacrifice our anger and our claim on the other person for the offense. Hopefully, the other person will indeed apologize and make restitution, as Zacchaeus did in the gospel of Luke (see Luke 19). But we cannot rely on this before offering forgiveness.
Our forgiveness offers the opportunity for relationship. Restoration in the relationship is now possible, but it certainly not guaranteed. The other person typically does need to offer something for restoration to occur, including confession, apology, and restitution, where possible. Sometimes, of course, continuing the relationship would be unwise and unhealthy, such as in the case of abuse or violence.
Ultimately, we forgive because Christ forgave us, and we forgive as He forgave us. This is certainly not something we can do in our own strength and wisdom, but only happen through reliance on God himself. We cannot rush into the statement “I forgive you,” but must take time to allow the Spirit to work in our hearts.
Come back next week and we’ll tackle the subject of how we can forgive ourselves.