Written by Evi Idoghor
It is much easier to navigate life without bumps and bruises along the way, however, it is impossible that these bumps and bruises don't happen because we live in a fallen world. No one is perfect—we all differ in personalities, backgrounds, and upbringings, hence, offenses are bound to occur and reoccur. So we must learn to forgive.
Forgiveness I believe is easier to do, when someone steps on your toes by mistake, forgets to ask your permission for something, or unintentionally leaves you out on a project that you would have loved to be a part of. When the person apologizes, it is easy for you to say “it's ok," or “it’s no big deal," even if you might be a little bit disappointed.
Well, today I am not talking about the little things, but the big things. Can you forgive when someone steals from you, slanders you, or unimaginably betrays you? What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Is there a limit to forgiveness? After the defaulter is forgiven, is it safe for the relationship to be restored? Is forgiveness even important? Let's talk about it!
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." —Lewis B. Smedes
What is forgiveness?
To forgive means to stop being resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake (according to Google). Yes, forgiveness is essential because as Christians, the gospel hinges on forgiveness. Christ died as the atonement for our sins. There is a saying that goes "If you can’t forgive, then you don’t know how much you’ve been forgiven of.”
In the Bible, one day Peter came up to Jesus asking "How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus responded saying "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Here Jesus was trying to get Peter to understand that it was impossible for people not to offend you, and each time an offense comes, we must be willing to forgive.
Now, that doesn't mean we become doormats for people to walk on, or maintain an unhealthy friendship; we can forgive, but keep certain relationships at arm’s length.
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Jesus Christ
Why it is important to forgive
It is important to forgive because we have all sinned and are in need of forgiveness from God. If we are not willing to extend mercy to others, why should God forgive us? It doesn't work that way. God has called us to live in unity and harmony; He gives us things freely and expects that we extend such grace to others.
This takes me to the parable of the unforgiving servant in the Bible. The servant owed his master; let’s say $100,000 and the master required his payment. When the servant couldn’t come up with the money, the master ordered for the servant to be sold, together with his family, in order for his payment to be made. I can imagine the terror the servant felt, if you’ve ever been in debt, then you can understand his feeling.
You know like when the creditors start calling you for their money, you start thinking—why did I borrow money in the first place? The servant pleaded with the master to have mercy on him and give him time to make the payment, and the master heeded his request and took it a step further to forgive his debt altogether. Then this servant went and found another servant who owed him like $100 and started harassing him for the money owed to him.
The servant asked for mercy as well and time to pay up. But this unforgiving servant refused and ordered for his fellow servant to be thrown in prison until he paid up. You will think he needed the $100 to pay the $100,000 he once owed. The mercy that the master extended to him, he refused to extend it to others.
So when others got wind of it, they were disappointed and went to tell the master what was going on. The master, furious on hearing this, ordered for the unforgiving servant to be thrown in prison and tortured until he paid the last penny.
This story also serves as an illustration of the debt God forgave us through the sacrifice of Jesus. The debt we owed God could never be repaid by any of us. But He freely forgave us when we did not even ask for it (The $100,000 debt). Now, there is nothing anyone can do to us in this life that can be compared to what we did to God when we were sinners.
The offense that our fellow humans can commit against us (The $100 debt) pales in comparison to what we did to God (The $100,000 debt). Therefore we must forgive. God doesn't require us to do things He hasn't first done for us. He called us to forgive because He first forgave us our trespasses against Him when we became believers. In that same light, we have to forgive others, and not carry anything to heart.
However, be wise in all your dealings, I can't stress this enough. Just because you have forgiven someone, doesn't mean the person should occupy a position in your life. Some people see it as opportunities to keep hurting you, such relationships are not worthy of reconciliation—at least not immediately. Some people sometimes show you who they are, and you should believe them. It is very okay to love from afar; there is no need for toxicity in your life.
Most importantly, it is very crucial that we forgive so our prayers won't go unanswered by God. Jesus in Mark 11 said when we pray, and we have anything against anyone, we should forgive so God too can forgive us our sins.
If God hasn't forgiven us our sins, our prayers often go unanswered, and we don't need that. We need no barriers between God and us when we commune with Him; we need an open line of communication.
Forgiveness Shouldn’t be Forced
Another point I would like to make is that people should allow others time to grieve their hurt/pain, and not force them to forgive a person who hurt them, until some form of healing takes place.
A friend of mine once betrayed me, and it took me a while to fully forgive. Although apologies were never given (and that made it all the more excruciating), I had to render forgiveness so I could move forward with my life.
Hating that said friend wasn't going to do me any good, also, withholding forgiveness from them was only going to hinder my relationship with Christ. So, I had to look past the offense. However, I will be the first to tell you that the process wasn’t a walk in the park—I was bitter, livid, hurt, sad; the whole nine, I experienced emotions that I had never experienced prior to the incidence.
I prayed to God to help me—friends within the church community trivialized my pain, as if to say I wasn’t justified in feeling the things I felt at the time. Then I slapper a bandaid on the wound, without creating the proper environment for healing to take place and fell flat on my face, until God stepped in.
It took me about eight months to be in the same room with the person who hurt me and not feel any animosity towards them. During that eight-month period, God took me on a journey of repentance, healing, and growth, which made me arrive at the conclusion that the $100 debt the person owed me paled in comparison to the $100,000 debt I owed God all the while—it made forgiveness much more easier.
So, if you are in a place where you find it difficult to forgive someone who hurt you, I totally understand, and God can help you get to a place of healing and forgiveness, just as He did for me.
I hope through this short post, I have been able to open the closed hearts of people who need to forgive those who have hurt them in such a deep way. Just know that God's grace is sufficient for you, remember that you can do it, even if it takes time. You will feel so much freer when you let go of that hurt and pain.
I understand that for some, it may be a parent who left, a spouse who cheated, and a friend who betrayed your trust, or a prodigal child. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can forgive and overcome that hurt and move forward with life.
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