Our freedom and peace depend upon choosing forgiveness. Yet, we search for reasons to justify anger or bitterness. We try to convince ourselves that the Lord must have meant something else when He taught: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).)
Instead of shirking the obvious, let’s take on our responsibility. Instead of “cringing under every criticism, smarting under each slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred” let’s give up the fight. (A. W. Tozer)
Let’s consider 3 good reasons to forgive.
1. Appropriating forgiveness unblocks your relationship with your heavenly Father and others. Jesus said, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15) Do you realize harboring unforgiveness makes it difficult to accept God’s love and forgiveness? Extend forgiveness and enjoy the fullness of God’s lavish love and overflowing mercy.
2. Forgiveness releases us from physical, mental and emotional complications. Jesus teaches the parable of the unmerciful servant. (Matthew 18: 21-35). The master showed his servant mercy, forgiving his debts which amounted to ten thousand denarii or about a million dollars today. That same forgiven servant then went about trying to collect a debt of a hundred denarii (ten thousand dollars) that someone owed him. His master grew furious. “Shouldn't you have pity and mercy on your fellow servant as I had pity and mercy on you?” The master turned his servant “over to the torturer, the jailers, till he should pay all that he owed.” A refusal to forgive is linked to torment. It puts us in physical, mental and emotional danger.
Unforgiveness is burdensome and too heavy to bear. That’s why medical research reports people pent-up with bitterness and inner hostility show a propensity for high blood pressure, impaired immune function, muscle spasms, hormonal changes, memory loss, increased heart attacks. Naturally, not every ache or pain is unforgiveness related! Medical help should not be completely ignored. However, our great Physician often provides the remedy of forgiveness. With our willingness to forgive, He heals, restores vigor and puts the sparkle back into life.
3. Freely we have received forgiveness, freely we forgive. By the atoning blood of Jesus, God has chosen not to remember our sins. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:2). God has “cast all our sins behind His back” (Isaiah 38:17), not because we deserve it or have earned the right to be forgiven but because forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. Is God’s forgiveness flooding your heart and my heart, inspiring more love for God and others? “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Do you sometimes wonder if you have truly forgiven? I side with this statement. “Forgiveness is complete when you are at peace whenever you think of your offender.”
*Does forgiveness mean remaining in an abusive relationship? Address this question in prayer and with a qualified counselor. Dr. Bill Maier, Focus on the Family’s counselor says, “Find a supportive counselor who can help you develop a plan to confront the abuse and protect yourself.” Focus on the Family’s counseling department refers licensed Christian therapists to anyone dealing with abuse.
Focus on the Family recommends the following books: Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse by Susan titus Osborn; Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them: Breaking the Cycle of Physical and Emotional Abuse by Paul Hegstrom.