Have you ever treated the act of forgiveness in the same way you would an ‘all you can eat buffet’—picking and choosing what sounds good to you in the moment?
But in order for true forgiveness to take place within our heart, we must choose all the biblical pieces of God’s command, not just the ones that make sense to us or sound good in the moment.
1. Forgiveness is not an emotion or feeling—it is an active choice we make, preceded by love.
When a person hurts us, it is highly likely that we do not feel like forgiving them; therefore, we tend to hang on to the hurt as we wait for a feeling to come.
We can save ourselves the sleepless nights of bondage when we quit waiting and just choose. Do you think God felt some deep emotion to forgive us when He sacrificed His perfect, sinless Son to die on our behalf? It seems here that God is feeling a gamut of other emotions, but forgiveness sure isn’t one of them . . .
Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins and did not destroy them all. Many times he held back his anger and did not unleash his fury! For he remembered that they were merely mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns.” (Psalm 78:38–39)
God chose to forgive us despite how he felt about us, and we are commanded to do the same toward others.
God also commands us to love—first!
And while a feeling may accompany love, love is not so much a feeling as it is a response to the Holy Spirit. Genuine love is fueled by our Spirit and is contingent upon the need of the recipient.
We may utter the words “I forgive you” to another person, but unless those words stem from a pure choice to love that person first, they are meaningless.
True forgiveness can never be granted unless it flows solely through the channel of love first!
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:10–11)
2. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the one who hurt us, and everything to do with our response to what Jesus did for us.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to forgiving other people is the feeling that they need to express remorse or repentance before we can in turn forgive. What someone did to you may very well be horrible, wrong, unjust, and cruel. And yes, I am sure they do need to be sorrowful, ask forgiveness, and repent.
However, forgiveness does not begin with the other person—it begins with you and God ! Forgiveness is far more about your response to Jesus than it is about the repentance of the person who hurt you.
True forgiveness is all about believing the blood of Jesus Christ is a sufficient payment, not only for everything you have done wrong, but also for everything your offender has done wrong.
Repentance isn’t the necessary prerequisite to forgiveness. Jesus’ blood is.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:23–25)
3. Extending true forgiveness means we drop it!
Have you ever said that you have forgiven someone and yet continued to reminisce in your mind the “hows” and “whys” of the incident? Or perhaps continued to bring up their name in conversation with your friends, or cyberstalked them on facebook?
When we go over the “play-by-play” in our minds of why someone hurt us or talk about it openly with our spouse or friends, then, most assuredly, we have not truly forgiven the one who hurt us, and now we are the ones in bondage, not them.
When we truly forgive, we choose to release the one who hurt us from our grasp; we pardon their offense, even if they don’t deserve it. This doesn’t mean we have to forget it—but it does mean we no longer dwell on it.
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)