When the word forgiveness comes across your path, who is the first person you think of?
Is it someone you already forgave? Or is it someone you have no idea how to? Or most commonly, is it someone you have no plan on forgiving anytime soon?
Forgiveness can be tricky, because often times it involves repeating the action over and over again without seeing any real change in the other party.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” Matthew 18:21-22(NIV)
That verse tells me that just because I choose to forgive someone doesn’t mean it’s going to improve the situation.
You need to understand and comes to terms with this concept- forgiveness isn’t so the other person will change. It’s so you will.
And you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Well I’m not the one that needs to change. They are. They’re the one that wronged me.” I know this because I’ve had all those thoughts, too.
Because we think they need to change, we “punish” them in the only ways we know how. We ignore them, shun them, talk poorly of them to other people, and whether we admit it consciously or not- hope that they get what the deserve. This is how grudges are formed and grow.
But the Bible tells us that love doesn’t do any of those things and that above all else, we are to love.
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7(NIV)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8(NIV)
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have a good relationship with the other person or that we all of a sudden like them. Or that they change at all. It means that even though none of that stuff has changed, we choose to release them of the punishment we think they deserve, and instead give them the grace that they didn’t earn.
Because that’s what God does for us- daily, hourly, and minute by minute.
Until the day I no longer require forgiveness, I can not afford to stop giving it.
“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him [drop the issue, let it go], so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions and wrongdoings [against Him and others]. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions.’]” Mark 11:25-26 (AMP)
I need my prayers answered. So if God tells me to “let it go,” before I begin our conversations, then I’m going to assume that my forgiveness of others has a direct link to the effectiveness of my prayers.
Letting it go doesn’t mean that you are accepting the other person’s behavior. It just means that you are allowing God to be your vindicator and trusting that He will bring justice and/or mercy, however He sees fit.
“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.” Psalm 57:2-3(NIV)
This verse says not only does He rebuke, and vindicate. But also sends love and faithfulness. God will handle your opposition different than you can. He will correct with love. He will balance the scales with faithfulness.
Remember that your neighbor, no matter what they’ve done to you, isn’t the enemy. The devil influences and inspires people to do wicked. But at the root of it all- God loves them. He wants good for them. No matter how terrible they’ve been. And maybe you don’t like that. You don’t think they should have forgiveness. From you or from God.
That’s why it’s important we allow God to be the judge. Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the one who hurt you. It just hurts you more. You are hurting you. Holding that grudge is only making it worse. You gotta let that go.
They didn’t earn your forgiveness. They probably didn’t even ask for it. But give it anyway. Because when you let go of that bitterness, it makes room for God to hand you the things you’ve been believing for.
Especially if you’ve been praying and believing for something for a long time now and haven’t seen any change- do a heart check and make sure you aren’t allowing unforgiveness to sit in the spot where your blessing belongs.