Locations & Times

Devotional: Forgiveness

April 07, 2023

Do you hold grudges or have trouble forgiving someone who has offended you? The offense could be emotional or physical, or maybe it feels like a violation of some kind. On the other hand, have you ever experienced a lack of forgiveness yourself? It can be devastating to a relationship, or one’s emotional health!

The purpose of Jesus’ mission was to come into the world to save us from our sins. He died so that our sins could be forgiven.

Why then, in this modern age, do we tend to cancel people when they offend us when really, we need to forgive them? Can you think of a relationship you have or had that was cut off due to the lack of forgiveness from either yourself or the other person? I don’t know of a single person, or a single family, that doesn’t have an estranged relationship within it.

Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22 how many times he should he forgive someone. Seven times? Jesus tells Peter, not seven times, but 70 times seven. If you do the math, that’s 490 times, all to the same person! That’s a lot of forgiveness!

Mark 11:25 says, "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." This seems to tell us that the inability to forgive interferes with our relationship with Christ, to the point He asks us to stop praying and forgive first!

Why and how, then, do we forgive?

The following ideas come from Timothy Keller, a pastor and author of the book "Forgive." Keller says we don’t forgive because modern culture teaches us that our primary concern is to demand respect and affirmation of our own identity. Rather than seeing people as mistaken, they are now regarded as evil or heretics.

When we don’t forgive others, we become like them — creating an endless cycle of unforgiveness. When we don’t forgive, we allow the other party to continue to control us through our own bitterness and anger.

There are four steps to forgiveness:

Forgiveness starts with getting at the truth — exposing what is true and uncovering what is false and what is only half-true.

Next, work to learn about the other person’s vulnerabilities. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their history and where their perspectives come from.

Third, cancel the debt. Forgiveness is part of the suffering we do for Christ because we absorb the consequences of the offense. This is similar to what Jesus did for us on the cross, only with much less gravity.

Finally, let it go. Choose not to be offended. This is the stage when the relationship is repaired. The results of this stage can be life-changing. Either the relationship is restored or it continues to break down.

I know these steps are easy to say and hard to do, and the steps may need to be repeated many times. Some relationships should be terminated, but forgiveness is still possible.

Forgiveness and asking for forgiveness certainly require humility. Jesus was a man of great humility. If we are followers of Jesus and made in his image to be in relationship with him and others, shouldn’t we aspire to heal the relationships he gave us by forgiving others and by asking for forgiveness as often as we need it?

My prayer for us is that we don't let bitterness and anger control us. Instead, we learn to follow Jesus' example of how to forgive.

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