Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Proverbial Sunrise- Forgiveness

By Mary Fairchild, About.com

It is not uncommon for Christians to have questions about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not come easy for most of us. Our natural instinct is to recoil in self-protection when we've been injured. We don't naturally overflow with mercy, grace and forgiveness when we've been wronged.

Is forgiveness a conscious choice, a physical act involving the will, or is it a feeling, an emotional state of being? The Bible offers insight and answers to these, and many more common questions about forgiveness. We'll take a look at the most common questions, and find out what the Bible says about forgiveness.

Is forgiveness a conscious choice, or an emotional state?

I believe forgiveness is a choice we make through a decision of our will, motivated by obedience to God and His command to forgive.

The Bible instructs us to forgive, as the Lord forgave us:

    Colossians 3:13
    Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

How do we forgive when we don't feel like it? How do we translate the decision to forgive into a change of heart?

We forgive by faith, out of obedience. Since forgiveness goes against our nature, we must forgive by faith, whether we feel like it, or not. We must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done, so that the forgiveness will be complete.

I believe God honors our commitment to obey Him and our desire to please Him when we choose to forgive. He completes the work in His time. We must continue to forgive (our job), by faith, until the work of forgiveness (the Lord's job), is done in our hearts.

    Philippians 1:6
    And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

How will we know if we have truly forgiven?

Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said, "Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you."

We will know the work of forgiveness is complete when we experience the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.

Most times, however, forgiveness is a slow process.

    Matthew 18:21-22
    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
This answer by Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is not easy for us. It's not a one-time choice, and then we automatically live in a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness may require a lifetime of forgiving, but it is important to the Lord. We must continue forgiving, until the matter is settled in our heart.

What if the person we need to forgive is not a believer?

I have found that prayer is one of the best ways to break down the wall of un-forgiveness in my heart. When I begin to pray for the person who has wronged me, God begins to give me new eyes to see that person and a new heart to care for that person. As I pray I begin to see that person as God sees them, and I realize that person is precious to the Lord. I also see myself in a new light, just as guilty of sin and failure as the other person. I too am in need of forgiveness. If God did not withhold His forgiveness from me, why should I withhold my forgiveness from another?

Is it okay to feel anger and want justice for the person we need to forgive?

This question presents another reason to pray for the person we need to forgive. We can pray for God to deal with the injustices, for God to judge the person's life, and then we can leave that prayer at the altar. We no longer have to carry the anger. Although it is normal for us to feel anger toward sin and injustice, it is not our job to judge the other person in their sin.
    Luke 6:37
    Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Why must we forgive?

The best reason to forgive is because Jesus commanded us to forgive. We learn from Scripture, if we don't forgive, neither will we be forgiven:
    Matthew 6:14-16
    For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We also forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered:
    Mark 11:25
    And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
In summary and in closing, we forgive out of obedience to the Lord. It is a choice, a decision we make. However, as we do this "forgiving," we discover the command is in place for our own good, and we receive the reward of our forgiveness - freedom.


IRENE said...

It is true that by not forgiving we carry the anger inside us that makes us sick in our hearts, minds and bodies. ANd if we want to please God, we know we have to forgive. It is not automatic, and it is not done once and for all. It helps to remember that we may get up once we fall down the unforgiving path. I have also found out that anger and un-forgiving feelings creap up when I neglect taking care of my soul, by praying and reading faith-related material. When I feel whole and connected to God, I stay largely unharmed. Thank you again, and many times...
Happy Autumn to you and your blog, too!

luvmy4sons said...

Good stuff here today sister! I have missed you. Back to posting...not as often...but today got me started again. Hugs. Hope you are well. Making a few rounds to such sweet sisters in Christ, like you! Blessings!

Laureen said...

Big Amen!!!Thanks for sharing

Oh Sew Good said...

I don't have as much trouble forgiving someone as I do when someone I have asked to forgive me chooses not to. I don't ask just once either. So let me ask you what you think? Should we keep asking or do we let it/them go?

RCUBEs said...

Forgiving is hard as it happened to me when a person hurt me so bad. But it is possible when we really choose to do so because we know that it is the right thing to do and that's what the Lord wants. Corrie Ten Boom was right because I felt so light, like my chains that dragged me were cut off as soon as I uttered my prayer to forgive that person and let God handle that. Thank you for this post. Blessings.

Samantha said...

Amen. Beautiful post, thank you for these words dear Denise.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

That verse from Matthew 6:14-16 is a huge motivation to forgive.

I am often ashamed at how often I find forgiveness so difficult -- yet I've been forgiven for far worse things because of Christ's work on the cross.

Karen said...

Amen...enjoyed this post! I love the quote by Corrie Ten Boom...

Seeking Grace on the Narrow Path said...

Forgiving others is a liberating experience. Corrie Ten Boom is right on target.
As Jesus forgave the people who cruified HIM we also must forgive those that wound us. Thank God for those who have forgiven me and thank God for those that I have forgiven.
I love you, my friend.

Peggy said...

Amen & blessings Denise! Very comprehensive! Great questions & answers! I read this from Mary last week on "forgiveness" at About.com.
They have many areas of good information.

Your link did not work to go there so here's another one in case anyone's interested:

I LOVE YOU & your new fall look! Your "scare bear" is precious but I know that Shortybear is not filled with any scare because she's filled by the Holy Spirit & a Prayer Warrior that tramples the enemy & any fear or scare tactic & Denise is victorious over all in Jesus' Name! Praying for Vicki & you both,
sending love & hugs. Bless you sis!

Beth in NC said...

I went through a very long journey with the Lord where forgiveness was involved. I finally saw the wickedness of my own heart. God used the book Bait of Satan by John Bevere to help me through the process too.

If we don't forgive others, God can't forgive us.

Thanks for sharing Denise!

Pam D said...

What a beautiful post, dear one. I think it is one of the most important things that we must learn, next to letting go of fear and worrying. All of those are things which eat away at the heart like acid. Apart from salvation, the greatest gift I've found in the Bible is the gift of peace, found in submission to God's perfect will. And it is SO much more peaceful to forgive than to carry the burden of a grudge. Thank you for always making things so clear to me. Love you, my sister...

Serendipity said...

A great post and reminder! Hope you're having a good week so far.

P/s: I love the new look on your blog!

Sweet Blessings said...

Denise- I didn't know about.com had stuff like this. It was a perfect post. In reading your comments, I am so thankful that you are sharing and ministering to others! I appreciate you! Amanda:)

Shelby said...

Denise, this is a GREAT AWESOME TRULY FANTABULOUS post that i needed more than you know. I'm glad I just got to read it today; I don't think I was ready a couple of days ago.

Anders Branderud said...

I want to comment about forgiveness.

(le-havdil) How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His kipur (Hebrew word in the Bible meaning: wiping of (a transgression of the Creator’s instructions)) is outlined in the Bible ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Messiah).

Read it here: http://www.netzarim.co.il

Have a nice day!
Anders Branderud