Last week we talked about how forgiveness is an act of our will and not a feeling. We also learned that forgiveness comes through surrender to God. We must not let bitterness take hold on our lives. If we do, it will severely harm us. Today, we will see some practical steps on how we can forgive others. The main reason we can forgive is because Jesus forgave us!
Forgiveness comes through the following steps:
1. Ask God if you were in any way responsible for the conflict between you and your brother or sister.
If you say, “Yes, I was maybe 5% responsible. He was maybe 95% responsible.” Remember this principle; if I am only 5% responsible for the conflict, I am 100% responsible for my 5%. Now if the truth be known, most times we are not only 5% responsible. The percentage might be much higher than that. There needs to be an openness between you and God about this situation. Just lay it out between you and God. Ask God to show you where you made mistakes, then be willing to go to the person that has offended you and ask for forgiveness for what you have done.
What you are going to read now is very important! When you go and ask for forgiveness, even if you think you are only 5% responsible, do not expect reciprocation. Do not expect that they will say, “Oh, well I was wrong too.” My friend Paul Chappell says, “The foundation of gratitude is the expectation of nothing.” Remember you are going to your friend to make your conscience clear, not to get him or her to apologize to you. Now it would be wonderful if they did, but if they do not your purpose is still fulfilled. You have cleared your conscience of any offence on your part. Once you have confessed to that person, confess to God, and go on with your life.
2. If you did nothing, tell God, “As far as I know, I did nothing to cause this offense.”
I know many people who were molested as children. They did nothing to cause the offense. They were abused, they were mistreated, and because of that, there is bitterness and hurt in their heart. There are spouses that try their best to be loving and children who have tried their best to please their parents but all their work is to no avail. If that is your case, you do not have to punish yourself. If you did nothing, tell God, “As far as I know, I did nothing.” Say this aloud to God. Get alone in your prayer room and then say to Him, “I forgive this person.”
3. Tell God, “I believe that You will use this bad situation in my life for Your glory, if I forgive. So, I forgive that person.”
Call the person’s name out to the Lord and tell God that you will treat that person right and that you refuse to be bitter. Remember love is not a feeling; it is doing what is right. According to Romans 13:10, which says, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.“
4. Forgiveness is a continual event.
Remember when Peter came to Jesus, he asked, “Should I forgive seven times.” Jesus’ response was not seven times but seventy times seven. Forgiveness is replacing thoughts of bitterness with thoughts of grace. You must trust God that He will use this for good, as you respond right. Every time a bad memory comes into your mind, or every time a bitter feeling comes into your heart, take time to thank God right then for His love for you. Thank Him for forgiving you and say out loud, “Lord, thank you for allowing me to forgive this person. I forgive them.”
This will not be a onetime event. There are some people we live with who commit the same offense over and over again. Each time we must say, “Lord, I forgive them, and I believe you are going to use this for good in my life, if I respond right.”
5. Forgiveness is easier when we remember what Jesus did for us.
Jesus Christ went to the cross, suffered, and died to pay the penalty for our sin in our place. It is through His death, burial, and resurrection that we have eternal life. When they took Jesus to the cross, after denying Him, spitting on Him, mocking Him, calling Him a liar, after brutally beating the Lord Jesus Christ, they hung Him on a cross, and His first words were according to Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…,” This is Jesus on the cross. He is suffering. He is dying for our sins. He is looking down at people who are clueless and could care less about His suffering. In fact, the soldiers that were right before Him were gambling for His clothes. Jesus said, I know what I am doing, but they have no clue what they are doing. Then He prayed that God would forgive them. He has forgiven us for everything we have ever done. When we remember what Jesus did for us it makes it easier for us to forgive others.
6. Forgiveness is easier when we remember what a lack of forgiveness will do.
Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”
According to this passage, a lack of forgiveness will hurt me. Not only will it hurt me, it will hurt others. It will defile many. I love my friends, I love my family, I love my church, and I love myself too much to allow bitterness to control me. This world is filled with many wonderful opportunities, and we have a purpose to not only live as Christians but to represent Jesus Christ. I don’t want anything to steal my joy and to keep me from being able to represent Jesus Christ in everything that I say and everything I do. The Bible says that worst of all bitterness will hinder my prayer life. Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”I don’t want anything hindering my walk with God or my prayer life. I need God’s provision daily. I need His protection daily. I need His power to do what He wants me to do. If a lack of forgiveness is going to hinder that, then it is certainly not worth it.
Forgiveness is easier when I remember what a lack of forgiveness will do. God wants me to forgive it is an act of my will. It comes from surrender to God and is a continual event. As Christians, we need to practice the art of forgiveness. Let’s not allow Satan to hinder us from being all that God wants us to be because of an unforgiving spirit. God bless you.