“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus said these words in Luke 23: 34 as He hung on the cross, being crucified for sins He didn’t commit. He forgave the thief who was being crucified with Him when he asked for forgiveness. (Luke 23: 39 – 43). Prior to His death, Jesus taught, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (17: 3 – 4). Jesus emphasized two things: 1) forgiveness is mandatory, and 2) it is ongoing.
Acknowledge the hurt
It’s not easy to forgive someone who has hurt you. The hurt, the disappointment, the shock can remain with you for years, affecting you mentally and physically. You don’t want this to happen. If the person is a close friend or relative, it’s even more difficult. Yet, Jesus says we must forgive. But look at what He says first, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; ” In other words, don’t hold your hurt inside and pretend it doesn’t matter. Let them know they hurt you and when they say they are sorry, then you forgive them.
But, you say, what if they never admit their wrong or say they are sorry? Human forgiveness is different from Godly forgiveness. God forgives people when they repent. He knows their heart, we don’t. Therefore, all we can do is forgive them and leave the rest to God. Make a conscious decision to forgive, release the hurt they caused you and forgive them in your heart. You can do that through prayer and counseling.
Forgiveness is ongoing
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” It’s hardly likely that someone would sin against you seven times in a day and come to you for forgiveness, however, our Lord said this to show that we must never refuse to forgive someone no matter how many times he has wronged us. Bear in mind that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. The person must demonstrate a change in his attitude and actions and work at regaining your trust before any attempt at reconciliation can be made.
Have you ever wronged someone, intentionally or otherwise? We may not always be aware of our wrongdoing, but acknowledging our own need for forgiveness can help us empathize with others when they hurt us and reach out to them with forgiveness. In order to REACH forgiveness, you must:
- R – Recall the hurt
- E – Empathize with the person who hurt you
- A – Altruistic gift of forgiveness
- C – Commit to forgive
- H – Hold onto forgiveness
Once you have reached that level of forgiveness toward the other person, you can go one step further. Write a letter of forgiveness but don’t send it.
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