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Why is forgiveness so important and vital for every believer? What do Jesus and the Scripture Teach about forgiveness?
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."(Mk 11, 25)
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."(1 Jn 1, 9)
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”." (Mt 18, 21-22)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Lk 6, 37)
There are many places in the Bible where it is stated that forgiveness is first needed for us, those who are angry or hurt. If we do not forgive those who have trespassed against us, we will not be forgiven ourselves. This means that we will be accused of not forgiving. We only make it worse for ourselves by being angry and unwilling to forgive. But when a friend betrays your trust, someone steals from you or hurts your family in any way, it seems so natural to get angry and want revenge for the injustice caused to you.
To desire justice is one thing, but to carry anger in your heart, which in the long run always grows into bitterness and hatred, is another thing altogether. Some psychologists argue that not forgiving can affect you both emotionally and physically. For example, it can cause an increase in blood pressure, depression or other chronic diseases. And what about the harm that can be caused between husband and wife? The Bible reads,"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”(Ef 4, 32) Often, we hear someone who has forgiven has their physical illnesses healed by God. So, unforgiveness and anger that have been held for a long time are like a poison, it harms us physically.
What does it mean to forgive?
Forgiveness is a gift given to anyone that is hurt or has hurt someone. The Greek word in the Bible translates to "forgive", literally means "let go". Jesus himself prayed on the cross to his father: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23, 34). Jesus realised that people do not always understand what they are doing and what consequences it can cause. He prayed to his Father to forgive us, for he loved everyone, even those who had tortured and abused him. The Bible teaches that the foundation of true forgiveness is selfless love because it does not hold hurt. Forgiveness is a choice of free will, it does not relate to how big the guilt is or how hard the situation is, it is also not related to the feelings of a man or the emotional condition at the time.
Is it easy to forgive?
It does not say anywhere in the bible that you should only forgive when it is easy but when it’s hard you don’t. It is a simple fact that we need to forgive to be forgiven. It seems so easy, but in real life, it’s not that easy to do. However, our pain or loss, should not speak louder than Gods divine truth. When we decide to forgive, we do not look at the pain, we simply choose the correct way out. It is always easier for me to forgive when I have poured out my heart to the Lord in prayer. I try to tell God about all my feelings and in the end, I always ask Him to help me forgive my perpetrators because I know that where I am still weak, He is strong.
Is forgiving the same as forgetting and living as if nothing has happened?
No not at all! Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. By forgiving, we do not expect what has been lost to be restored but trust must be rebuilt. If a husband or wife has lost trust in one another, that trust must be restored by taking very specific actions and putting in a conscious effort. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Pat 28, 13). It is not enough to confess your guilt alone; you need to stop making the same mistake. My forgiveness does not mean that I continue to let someone mistreat and exploit me.
Forgiveness does not mean:
- To accept inappropriate behaviour. Those who call evil deeds harmless or justify them are condemned in the Bible (See Isaiah 5, 20).
- Pretend that nothing happened. Although God forgave King David's sins, He did not protect him from the consequences of the sinful behavior. The consequences of David’s sins was Gods will and are remembered to this day (see 2 Samual 12, 9-13).
- Let people exploit you. For example, if you lend money to someone, but they waste that money and has no way of giving the money back to you; you forgive them and forget the debt, but this does not mean you should borrow the money again in the future (Psalm 37, 21; Also 14, 15; Galatians 6, 7).
- Forgiving made up grievances. It is hard to admit that sometimes the pain and anger that we feel has no foundation. The Bible says, " Don't become angry quickly, because anger is foolish." (Ecclesiastes 7, 9).
We need to forgive almost every day sometimes even a few times. It is no secret that if we do not forgive, we harden our hearts and the state of our heart is important to God. When we close the door to our heart to a person, we also close them to God, and when we forgive, we open our hearts again. Anger and resentment stop us, it prevents us from moving forward, we end up stuck in one place ceasing to mature and rejoice in the things that surround us. When we accept our neighbor as they are with all their faults, it is easier to be more forgiving. If we focus on what others did wrong, it is very easy to forget what they did that was good.. Do we want to be like that? Remember, nobody is perfect, you are not the exception. Let us be sensitive and forgiving spirits, and let God be the judge.