Learning to Forgive Just as God Forgave You
Think about how many times you’ve been wronged this week. Maybe one of your parents disciplined you too harshly. Maybe a teacher embarrassed you in class. Or maybe you even caught your best friend talking about you behind your back.
As much as we hate to admit it, disappointment and hurt from those around us is a regular part of life. It causes distrust, damages our pride and simply feels awful! But allowing ourselves to wallow in self pity and rage with anger will only end up hurting us in the end. As Christians, we’ve been called to a higher responsibility; one that doesn’t come naturally to average people.
Although it’s something we’re taught from childhood, forgiveness is one of life’s greatest challenges. Attempting to overlook and pardon someone’s behavior goes against everything in our nature but in order to be like Christ, we must be willing to abandon that which comes naturally to us.
In Matthew 18, while Jesus is teaching his disciples how to handle conflict, Peter brings up the matter of forgiveness. “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” he says, “Up to seven times?” (vs 21). To the average Jew, Peter’s suggestion seems more than fair. After all, the rabbis had taught that only three pardons were necessary to be considered right in God’s eyes. But Jesus’ response is far from what he expected. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (vs 22). In other words, forgiveness and grace should be unending. To make His point clearer, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master an unfathomably large amount of money. Yet despite his massive losses, the master forgives the debt and lets his servant move on peacefully. However, that same servant was owed a small amount of money from a fellow worker. But unlike his master, he refused to forgive and was ultimately thrown into prison because of his lack of forgiveness.
Although it’s something we’re taught from childhood, forgiveness is one of life’s greatest challenges
If anything, this passage shows us that forgiving others isn’t easy. When we’ve been hurt, our nature tells us to protect our pride and seek justice. But if we pursue this anger, are we really putting all our trust in God? Rather than taking on the role of judging others, we should be letting Him handle the sins of others. All we can do is obey Him by setting aside our pride and offering reconciliation. Allowing God to take control will ultimately bring us peace, erase our bitterness and strengthen our faith. So not only is forgiveness an act of obedience, but it’s a form of healing that will bring us closer to God and His Word.
Not only is forgiveness an act of obedience, but it is a form of healing that will ultimately bring us closer to God and His Word
Besides, who are we to condemn? How would we feel if those we’ve wronged were unable to pardon us? Truly embracing the forgiveness of others should remind us of how much we rely on grace every day! We’re far from perfect. We’re in constant need of forgiveness not only from our peers but ultimately from God Himself. Most of the time, we’re completely unaware of just how often we disappoint Him with our thoughts, words and actions. Yet time after time, no matter how great the offense, God forgives completely and without reservation. There’s nothing we can do that’s beyond his forgiveness. So if God is willing to forgive every sin of ours – great and small – how much more should we be able to forgive our brothers and sisters?
Truly embracing the forgiveness of others should remind us of how much we rely on grace every day!
This idea is repeated throughout the New Testament. In Luke 6:37, Jesus commands, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven”. In the same way, Paul writes to the Colossians, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (3:13).
So next time you find yourself hurt by the actions of others, remember the astounding forgiveness God grants you every day. Take joy in your salvation and share it with others through constant love and unending forgiveness!