The topic of forgiveness has been fascinating to research. The first thing I did was to find the Greek word for forgiveness. Aphiemi refers to the act of putting something away or letting it go, to abandon, leave it behind, and be done with it. God’s aphiemi (forgiveness) is complete and total because of Jesus and the cross. He wants us to forgive like He does.
The question is, do we? Are we even capable of that kind of forgiveness? Do we even want to be?
Why do you think it is difficult to forgive those who hurt you?
What is your forgiveness factor? Do you forgive easily? Do you hold on to grudges forever? Do you move on easily? Here’s a little quiz. Each question is worth up to 10 points. If you agree with the statement, give yourself 10 points. If it’s maybe 5 points. If it’s a no way, won’t even consider it, give yourself a 0. Ready?
- I never pray for my enemies.
- When I disagree with someone, I brush them off, unfriend them, turn away, quit loving them, etc..
- I talk about those who have harmed me to others in a negative way.
- I think of ways to get even.
- I’m happy when an enemy fails
- I have an eye for an eye attitude
- I don’t easily forget offenses
- I want all things my way
- I am the one in control.
- I rarely think about how my responses will affect others.
Low scores say you’re an easy forgiver, part of the Forever Forgiven Family. High scores might make you part of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s – still holding on to that grudge. Somewhere between 30 and 70 place you and me in the still working toward perfection category.
Did you know that unforgiveness actually has a physical effect on the body? 61% of all cancer patients have forgiveness issues. John Hopkins Hospital research shows there is an increased risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among other conditions. So, what’s the cure? Forgiveness! It’s as simple as that. Make the choice to forgive. It lowers the risk of a heart attack; improves sleep and cholesterol levels; reduces pain, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and stress. So what are we waiting for?
The Bible is full of verses on forgiveness. Can you think of one or two off the top of your head?
Let’s take a look at Matthew 5:44 – But I (Jesus) tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. As believers we tend to see persecution as something that happens to Believers in other places, missionaries in the dangerous and scary countries of the world… Persecution is and happening in our own towns, cities, and back yards. Our schools, colleges, and universities are hot spots for groups that demean and target students for their beliefs. Please don’t get me started on the separation of church and state and 1st amendment rights. That could take all night. But what does Jesus say to do? Pray. Love them and pray for them.
Pop over to Romans 12 and we’ll start in verse 9. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. We are to be sincere in our love for others and do good to the offender. These are some tough-love words. I’m supposed to be sincere in my love for someone who has called me names, made me look bad, stolen from me. Get real. They don’t deserve it. It has little to do with deserving it and everything to do with our mindset. I know you’ve heard the words – I have to love him/her/them but I don’t have to like them. Yes, you do!! That is so far from the truth that I’ll bet God’s blood pressure goes up each time He hears it. We are to love and that includes every nuance of the word. How do we do that? Turn over to 1Corinthians 13: 4-8
Back in Romans 12, check out verse 14 – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. How do we bless those who have offended us? The verse says do not curse. In other words, don’t speak poorly of or about the one who is offending.
Look ahead to verses 17-19. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the LORD. So, first of all, don’t fight back. If someone says you’re an idiot and you respond you’re a fool that’s repaying evil for evil. You never know who’s listening, they might see both of you in the wrong. It’s not your job to punish them. No eye for an eye. God is in control. Let Him handle it. You know the adage – Let go and let God.
Turn to Proverbs 24:17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls: when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice. We’re not supposed to celebrate our enemy’s failures. We’re not supposed to be any kind of happy when we see their name in the newspaper that they got a ticket for speeding. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with the issue we have with them, but still… We’re not supposed to say they got what they deserved in any circumstance. We’re supposed to be loving, supportive and peaceful as far as it is up to us. If we don’t the next verse (in Proverbs 24) is pretty clear about the outcome… vs. 18 or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn His wrath away from them. The verse doesn’t say where God’s wrath will go but I certainly don’t want it to land on me. Just sayin’…
OK, then, back to the New Testament. Find Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you! I could seriously hear my mother’s voice when I read that. Whether it was my sisters, cousins, or friends tormenting me, bullying me, leaving me out she would say “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It seemed to take a long time before I really understood that if I treated those I was with the same way I wanted to be treated the outcome would be more positive.
I’d love to see some examples from your own lives in the comments.
Let’s go back to Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. In psychology, dwelling on the past, particularly negative events is called ruminating. It’s rarely a good thing and once again sets us up for the medical conditions I talked about earlier. When you find yourself anxious, perhaps unable to sleep because of the need to forgive another person my recommendation is to give it to God and move on. Sometimes this is easier said than done. This is a very human condition and my solution is to start mentally reciting Bible verses I have memorized. Philippians 4:8 is a good one, the 23rd Psalm, The Lord’s Prayer…
What are some of your favorite, memorized verses. Especially those you use over and over.
Then finally pray again. (Notice I sandwiched how to forgive with a prayer on the top and bottom, beginning and end.) If you can’t find the words you want turn to God’s Word. David prayed one of the greatest ever prayers for forgiveness in Psalm 51. Reread 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 if you don’t remember the reason for this prayer.
He so wants every one of us to know we’re forgiven. Do you? We all sin and fall short of His glory but He wants us to come willingly to Him, confess our sin, and know His love and presence. If you’ve never done that and are feeling His tug on your heart pray this simple prayer with me. If you already know Him and want more of Him and recognize that He can and will forgive us of every shortcoming in our lives this prayer is for you, too.
Jesus, hear my prayer, I know I am a sinner and am asking for Your forgiveness. I know You are the only Son of God and want You to come into my heart and lead me. Thank You for loving me so much that You gave Your life to free me.
I rarely write posts this long and want you to know it’s a transcription of a live study I did for Living Hope Free Methodist Church. If you’d rather watch it than read it check it out here. FORGIVENESS
Blessings to you and yours!