Matthew 6:14-15 (New International Version, ©2011)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I put my name down to write on forgiveness for this devotional because, to be completely honest, it is the most challenging aspect of following Jesus that I struggle with. I think the idea of God forgiving me (that He would release me of the debts or wrongs I have committed against Him) through sending His son to pay the penalty I deserved is more easily acceptable than the act of extending it to others.
For some reason when I first read these two verses these questions came to mind, “If I don’t forgive those who have hurt me, will God really not forgive me?” “Will He take away my salvation, or ‘unforgive’ me?” What questions for God do you in regards to forgiveness?
The more I pondered (ha! ponder, that’s a funny word) and sat with the those questions and others as they came up, the more I realized that those were an indication of where my heart is at and ultimately not the best questions to ask. It’s as if I caught myself thinking, “I know I’ve been forgiven and that feels great, but it seems impossible to forgive some people in my life, God can’t expect me to do that.”
I’m essentially desiring to somehow go around forgiving people who’ve hurt me. What if I sat with God and asked Him to help me experience His power at work in my life in a new, fresh way today by trusting Him to help me do this? Believing that He won’t leave me alone to do this, but will go with me and walk me through the pain of it all. Could those desires lead me to take steps towards forgiving these people in my life that have caused me pain? I say take steps towards forgiving others because I believe it’s a process, that is often painful to do and one that has no quick fix or simple button to hit.
I firmly believe forgiveness is NOT...
Looking the other way when we’ve been wronged
Not pretending that evil is not evil
Condoning what a person has done
The same as trust. (We can forgive but we may not be able to trust and in some cases shouldn’t trust those who have hurt us.)
Forgiveness is the willingness to bear the pain, sorrow, and suffering that the failures and sins of another person causes us. It’s substitutional, Christ substituted his life for ours, bearing God’s wrath for our sins. Suffering is what forgiveness costs: for us to suffer in the place of another. Each we time I forgive experientially, we know a little more of His suffering.” (Philippians 3:10)
What’s interesting to observe is the section in verse 12 (forgive us our debts) on prayer to his verses 14-15 where He wants us to be constantly reminded of our identity as people who have been forgiven.
Take 10 minutes and pause while you’re on your break at work or sitting in rush hour traffic and ask God to reveal the cost He personally paid to forgive you of the mess your life has created. Ask Him to help you feel His forgiveness on your behalf. Then ask Him to give you His heart for those people who have wronged you and for the courage to take steps towards forgiving them. Call a close friend or someone you trust to pray for you as you process all this with God.
Forgiveness, I’ve learned, is something that you have to first receive in order to give, just like any other gift. You can’t give something you don’t have. Perhaps today is the day you receive God’s work on your behalf and your life begins to reflect His forgiveness.