I have often heard people say something like “I have accepted their apology but I will never forgive them”. Forgiveness is a hard thing to do. But it is at the core of our faith and at the core of our relationship with Jesus. Forgiveness is so vital that I want to tackle it in a multi-part series, starting today with “what is forgiveness?”
Then over the next few days I will write on the following:
- Why do I have to forgive according to God?
- What happens if I just cannot forgive?
- Will God still forgive me if I don’t forgive others?
- I have forgiven, but it doesn’t feel like I have
Each of these is an aspect of forgiveness that needs to be dealt with and it would be unfair to the topic to throw it all into one pot in a short message. So let’s start with “What is forgiveness?”
First of all let’s look at a dictionary definition.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, this is what forgiveness means:
- to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)
- to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)
- to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)
It is interesting that there are three angles to the definition- namely, people, things and money. In many ways that is what trips Christians up in 99% of cases. First of all people! The definition says to stop feeling anger towards someone for doing something wrong – to stop blaming them. I am not sure if I totally agree with the definition, because I do think one can still blame someone and forgive them, but in a sense where the blame is holding onto hurt, I would go along with Webster.
We need to get to a place where we stop feeling angry with someone for that they did. This is especially common in the church. In my church we have just been through a terrible time where so much blame has been passed around as to who did what to whom and who hurt whom. Blaming others is never going to solve the problem. When we understand Christ’s requirement of us to forgive, we have to forgive others. Staying mad or angry makes it impossible to forgive. We have to let the anger go. When we let go of the anger, we can start to heal. Jesus understands about being offended and being hurt, because you and I are responsible for sending Jesus to the cross.
It takes an act of the will to forgive! You cannot wait for the anger to go away. If you just wait for it to go away naturally, you may wait for 50 years and never get over it. Anger which is not dealt with becomes bitterness, and bitterness makes you sick. The second thing is we have to forgive the person for what they did. Once again, it is an act of the will. We decide to forgive and to let go of the anger. The heart will catch up with the head later.
And finally we can forgive others who owe us money. This is the easiest because we just have to do it. Jesus told a number of parables about letting people off for what they owe. In fact the Bible gives some great wisdom for Christians. If you want to lend or help someone out financially, do it with no strings attached. If they pay you back, great. If they don’t it was a gift. When you lend money to other Christians it can affect your faith and their faith. Forgive them and set them free.