By Pastora Monique Lopez Ong
You don’t need to forgive them. Who said this? This topic is very relevant nowadays. Even Christians have a problem with forgiveness. When you ask them how they are, they will say they are okay with the Lord, but not with their neighbor. They pray, they worship, belong in a small group and do Bible study. But they still have a lot of issues brewing inside of them. And not just because you are inside a church building means you are exempted. Many have problems inside their household,in the workplace, and even at church. You want God’s forgiveness but you cannot forgive your neighbor.
Matthew 6:9-12 says, “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” It is very clear how you should forgive. It is not one or the other. You forgive as you are forgiven and vice versa. You will feel God’s forgiveness if you know how to forgive. The verse continues, “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.” It is as clear as crystal.
Many people are slaves of the people who have hurt them. And this is where the wrong thinking begins. God has forgiven me and that is all that matters. I am not yet ready to forgive. I am ok if I do not see that person; I will live. But the Bible is clear. If you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive you as well. People will so much baggage are journeying to nowhere. You are carrying the burden of years of unforgiveness, living abnormally. You are sick if you do not forgive. You are sick emotionally, physically and spiritually. Everyone is affected and sometimes becomes your punching bag.
Many people with unforgiveness grow old with it. Your baggage is so heavy even you have a difficult time carrying it. Jesus did not say “I forgive you” and that is it. He said, “Forgive those who have sinned against you.” How in the world can you forgive someone who has done something that seems so unforgivable?
Every time the topic of forgiveness comes up, people’s emotions are very high. You might be saying, “you do not know what I have gone through.” What has your brother done against you that you cannot forgive him? Scars from past hurts are there to stay. It hurts. And the pain is real. You have to acknowledge it. Horrible things might have been done to you. It hurts God that you have to go through it. But the scars are there to stay, and only God can help you get through all the hurt and the pain.
“I cannot forgive as long as he is in my life.” “ He did not even apologize?” Forgive? I will never forget what he did.” Where do you begin? Jesus said it when He taught you how to pray. When He said, “Our Father, in heaven…” The first relationship that needs to be fixed is your relationship with God. That is the vertical relationship with God. Without it, you cannot forgive others. In reality, you are also sinners. So you need to go back to the Lord. But many Christians do otherwise. Because they were also hurt, they turn back from Him. You have to be reconciled to God first. Parents know that good feeling when your child returns to you. God is just like that. Spend time with Him and fix your relationship. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Make it right before you offer anything to God.
An apology is a regretful acceptance of blame, or responsibility for wrongdoing, injury or offense. If you are the aggravated party, you want an apology. The reason why most people cannot forgive is because they have not heard an apology yet. The other party has not admitted that they are at fault. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a conscious and deliberate decision to release or let go of resentment or vengeance towards a person even if they do not deserve it. Reconciliation is the process wherein both parties, the victim and the offender, have a dialogue about what happened, exchange stories, express the hurt, listen to the remorse and begin to re-establish trust. These three things are very different. God is bargaining for forgiveness, but what He really wants is reconciliation.
An apology is good and should be done right away. Shunning away from an apology is pride. And when you apologize right away, anger and guilt is also lessened. But even with an apology, you cannot be assured that an offense will not be repeated. Forgiveness lets go of whatever has hurt you even if the offender has not acknowledged their mistake. If you do not forgive, you will live in bitterness, resentment and hatred; and the wound that does not heal will poison your soul. You will not know it but little by little, it changes you. Reconciliation is restoration of a broken relations when both the offender and the offended choose to look past the offense.
Why do you need to forgive? It is so simple but it is like a dagger that cuts the heart.
The Lord commands you to forgive. Matthew 18:21-22 says, “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.” Forgiveness is not an option. If you are not ready, it is a complete disobedience to God. You become trapped and turn into something you are not supposed to be. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” God gave forgiveness for free. Why are you so stingy about it? You sin everyday and you are forgiven everyday. Why won”t you forgive your neighbor?
So your prayers are not hindered. Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Unforgiveness is a prayer blocker. God wants you to forgive because you get free access to God when you do. Life is difficult when you carry the baggage of unforgiveness. God’s favor is not with you. The intention of God is to bless. He commands you to forgive so that you can live abundantly.
So that you can be set free. Matthew 5:43-46 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” God wants the best in you. When bad things happen, He wants you to go in prayer and not lose your true identity. You are His child. And God’s children forgive.
What does forgiveness do to you? It is not a weakness. Forgiveness is power because you are free. You can sleep soundly at night when you forgive. You are no longer a prisoner of what happened to you. Every time you forgive, you become stronger. You become an overcomer. You become victorious in Christ because you are free. Forgiveness heals and restores. It makes you complete. God picks up all your broken pieces and makes you whole. Unforgiveness is toxic. People are sick because they are emotionally holding grudges. Forgiveness changes you as a person. It will teach you about love. How to love deeper even when it hurts. It teacher you how to let go of the pain in exchange for an abundant life. Forgiveness helps you see your offender in the eyes of God. They are also children of the living God who made a mistake. Forgiveness is motion before emotion. It is obeying God. It is action before your attitude. If you see things the way God sees it, you will forgive.
Many people grow old without maturing. Forgiveness is a tool for maturity. You will grow deeper with God. You cannot do it on your own. But God can hold your hand through it.
How can you forgive? Where do you begin?
Acknowledge the pain.
Process the situation.
Remember God’s forgiveness.
Make the bold move.
Hurt people hurt people. Jesus said it Himself, even at the cross. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you have processed this, come into the presence of God and remember His forgiveness. Remember what you have done. Then remember what Jesus did for you. Your sins might be overwhelming but He forgave them all.