Jesus Christ died so that we might be reconciled to God and be forgiven for all of our sins. He commands us to forgive and love others. Forgiveness is necessary and required, but often difficult, especially if the person who needs forgiveness has not asked for it or has hurt you. How do we forgive others? How can we obey God's command of forgiving endlessly and wholeheartedly?
1. Act Immediately
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15, NIV.
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”" Mark 11:25, NIV.
Forgiveness, like love, is a choice and not an emotion. You have to choose to forgive others. You have to actively and boldly forgive. The first step in forgiving: choose to do it immediately. Don't think about it or wait until you "feel" like it; delay plants the seeds of bitterness, jealousy, anger, and resentment into your heart. You have to quickly act, just as we are to flee from sin, we are called to forgive others as Christ forgives us. If we hold onto that hurt/unforgiveness, then it creates a wall between us and God. Even if the person has not repented or shown any sign of remorse for their wrongdoing, for our own peace, we need to forgive them in our hearts and minds. God will deal with them, let us not stumble to sin because of unforgiveness.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9, NIV.
Just as we need to forgive others quickly, we also need to repent of our sins quickly. If we have wronged someone or if someone believes we have wronged them, we need to quickly mend the relationship and seek forgiveness from them before evil arises and our hearts become hardened. Go to God and repent. Just as His examples of praying, daily repent of your sins, even sins you do not know you have committed. As the Bible tells us, even a wrong/evil thought is a sin, therefore let's cleanse our minds and hearts and seek forgiveness from God daily, immediately forgive others, and quickly seeking forgiveness so we can be a blessing and demonstrate God's love in this world.
2. Forgive Continuously and Remind Yourself
"So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”" Luke 17:3-4, NIV.
Notice that this verse mentions "if they repent, forgive them." As mentioned above, we are not commanded to forgive someone who has not repented, but for our own peace, it is advised to forgive them and move on. The Bible also mentions not to associate with fools or you will become a fool, to choose your friends/company wisely. If someone is toxic, then you need to flee from them so you will not stumble or become like them. However, if someone repents we ARE commanded to forgive them no matter how many times they hurt us, as long as they repent, we have to forgive. Just as God forgives us each and every time we repent, we need to demonstrate this to others.
"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." Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV.
It can be difficult, but that is pride rising up, just remind yourself of God's forgiveness and all He does for you. Remind yourself that we are ALL created by God and loved by God and then tell yourself you forgive that person and repeat this anytime you are struggling to forgive them.
3. Meditate on God's Word
"“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 43:25-26, NIV.
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord" Acts 3:19, NIV.
Read God's Word to hear from Him and also gain knowledge and understanding. To meditate on His word means to ponder/pause and think about what you have just read. We are told to study His Word, remember it so that in any situation we have scripture to help us. When we start to focus on what God says and wants, His voice becomes clearer and it guides us to obey Him. If we are reading the Bible we see all the times God shows His love for us and how great He is. This will make it a bit easier to forgive and let go. Also, as mentioned last Monday, prayer is powerful and needs to be a daily habit along with meditating on God's Word.
4. Die to Self and Let God Rule
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:18, NIV.
Just think about your wrongdoings, your sin, God still loves you even when you sin against Him, even when you show no sign of remorse. If God forgives us for all we have done and all we think, how can we not forgive someone He also created and has forgiven? We are not greater than God, therefore we need to humble ourselves and quickly forgive before temptation leads us to sin.
If you need to forgive someone, do it today! Then seek forgiveness from God today asking Him to reveal any sin in your life and to search your heart for any evil. Ask Him to cleanse you and remove the roots of bitterness, anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, hate, and/or pride. Ask Him to fill you with His characteristics so you will demonstrate His nature to others and bring glory and honor to Him. Ask Him to help you forgive others as He forgives you, to love others as He loves, and to be a blessing. Let's plant seeds of good fruit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)!