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TO FORGIVE OR NOT TO FORGIVE ! IT’S YOUR CHOICE
Henri Nouwen defines forgiveness as “ love practiced among people who love poorly.”
Someone has said that forgiveness is the bread of daily life. Whenever people who care for each other live closely together, forgiveness becomes the most needed ingredient of their lives. Caring people need forgiveness more that people who don’t care. People who love each other, and who stumble over each other’s feet, must eat the bread of forgiveness together.
Loving each other is mentioned a great deal in Christian circles, but forgiving each other seems not to be mentioned too often. Peter was quite honest when he wanted to know from Jesus as to how often he should forgive his brother.
Imagine with me that I have a piece of paper in my hand. There are two sides to this piece of paper. However, when I fold the paper in half I have four sides. Now the piece of paper represents one concept, namely FORGIVENESS. The four sides represent four sides of forgiveness.
l. Experiencing God’s forgiveness
In a real sense, the need for forgiveness involves the suffering of the innocent.
In 1 John 1:9, it says; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (K.J.V.)
According to the above verse, God is the offended one and we are the offenders. Nevertheless, God took the initiative to provide and extend forgiveness to us. Thereby, He has extended forgiveness to us even before we recognized our need for it. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, by repenting of our sins and, by faith, receiving Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we will continue to need God’s forgiveness when we sin. Recognizing our daily need for God’s forgiveness, which cost Him His only Son, we will then learn how to apply the next side of forgiveness.
2. Learning how to regularly forgive yourselves
It is surprising how many followers of Christ really struggle with forgiving themselves. Forgiving yourself does not mean excusing yourself for the wrong you have done but, rather, by faith accepting God’s forgiveness and then forgiving yourself. Failing to forgive ourselves implies we still need to punish ourselves for the sins God has forgiven and forgotten. Learning to live in God’s forgiveness daily will enable us to learn to forgive ourselves and move on to greater effectiveness in serving our Lord and relating to others.
3. Experiencing the forgiveness of others
To be honest with ourselves we soon realize that we need the forgiveness of others on a regular basis. It has been somewhat surprising to me when I realized the need to ask others for forgiveness, how that actually builds credit with them when they realize I’m taking my life seriously and want to continue to be an integral person, both with them and with my Savior. It is advisable when we seek the forgiveness of others that we pay specific attention to defining the exact wrong we have done before asking them for forgiveness. Mutual forgiveness strengthens our relationship with one another and is a positive testimony to non-believers.
4. Learning to forgive others
Personally, this is one area in which I have had some very serious struggles. Upon further reflection, I discovered the real need to follow through on the first three sides of forgiveness and then learn to forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to follow through on genuinely forgiving others as, in Christ, God has forgiven us. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV Version).
Years after her experience in a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom found herself standing face to face with one of the most cruel and heartless German guards she had met while in the camps. This man had humiliated and degraded both her and her sister, staring at them and visually “raping” them as they stood in the delousing showers.
Now he stood before her with an outstretched hand, asking:
‘Will you forgive me?’ Corrie said; ‘I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, ‘Jesus, help me!’ ‘ Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arm and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each others hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment! 1
When we forgive we set a prisoner free—ourselves.
Forgiveness is an attitude that we must continually nurture in order for it to be effective. Every time we hold a grudge or hard feelings toward God, or others, we are undermining the forgiving attitude that Christ demonstrated and made possible.
Let’s not only be strong on the GOLDEN Rule but, also, on the GRACE Rule, for Christ our Savior’s sake, and for others.
The following steps will help in the process of forgiving others
l. Acknowledge and own the pain. You must acknowledge you have been hurt by someone and it is creating pain in you. Don’t merely say to the offender; “Oh, that’s ok, I will forgive you.”
2. Releasing your rights, which means, don’t hold a grudge or hatred toward the offender.
3. Desiring reconciliation. That doesn’t mean you excuse the offender, but you want to work toward reconciliation, which takes time.
4. Rebuilding the relationship, which can be quite difficult. Again, it takes time and understanding.
5. Choose one act of kindness that you can extend to the offender in sincerity.
After forgiveness remember:
l. Never to bring it up again.
2. Don’t talk to others about it.
3. Don’t dwell on it yourself.
1 Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place (Washington Depot: Chosen Books, 1971), 215-216.
Dear Reader :
Scripture taken from the King James Bible and The NIV
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.