LEARNING TO FORGIVE OTHERS
by Roger D. Campbell
We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people who make choices that sometimes offend or hurt others. When a person has lived long enough, then he knows from personal experience what it means both to ask for forgiveness, as well as be asked by someone else to forgive them. It may be something minor, or it could be a major mistake, but seeking forgiveness and accepting the apology of other people are a part of life.
Are you a person that is willing to forgive those who have mistreated you? Young people and adults alike often struggle with the challenge of forgiving wrongdoers. Friends, family members, teammates, neighbors, and even members of the Lord’s church have to deal with words and/or actions that bring harm to their relationships. I have witnessed people say to one that wronged them or one of their loved ones, “I hope you burn in hell.” How tragic.
As children of the living God, we all need to learn to forgive others. Before proceeding any further, let us be clear that we understand the following realities. Being willing to forgive others is: (1) not a sign of weakness on the part of the one that forgives; (2) not an endorsement of the mistakes that the forgiven person has made; (3) not a guarantee that the ones doing the forgiving are saved in God’s sight; (4) not something that only a particular group of Christians is expected to do.
Do I have a heart that appreciates the forgiveness that I have received from God? If so, then I will be willing to forgive those who sin against me. If I do not appreciate the fact that God has forgiven me, a weak and unworthy servant, then I will refuse stubbornly and proudly to grant forgiveness to those who have wronged me in some way. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another; and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12,13). Read our Lord’s masterful message about an ungrateful servant whose lord forgave his debt, but he himself was unwilling to do the same for a fellow servant (Matthew 18:21-34). In the end of that story, what words did the unforgiving servant hear from his master? “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (18:33). Who is not able to comprehend those words and the point that Jesus was making?!
Am I willing to make Jesus the pattern or model which I will imitate? It is easy to claim that we want to be like Him in every aspect of life, but are we really willing to do so? The Bible says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Jesus had a heart that was willing to forgive others, even those who hated Him. We all recall the words that He spoke as His body endured the torture of crucifixion: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Joseph, the son of Jacob, showed a similar spirit when he refused to despise and take revenge against his brothers who sold him into slavery (Genesis 45:5-8).
Do I show love and compassion for others? I have no right to demand that a person “come crawling” to me to beg my forgiveness. I have no right to threaten a person with words like, “I will never forget what you have done, and I will make sure that everyone I know finds out what you did.”
Look, some human deeds are evil from beginning to end, and some actions or words have consequences that cannot be removed. But, on our part, we must show compassion and mercy. The Master said,
“Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). How does that apply to forgiving others? “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another; even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). We know this truth: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
If I want to please God, I must develop and maintain the habit of forgiving others. It is not optional. First, there is the Lord’s charge to every member of the church to forgive one another. Second, there is the reality that if I am not willing to forgive others, then my heavenly Father will not be willing to forgive me. Simply put, that translates into this: our willingness to forgive others is a condition of God forgiving us. Does the Bible really teach such a message? Listen to Jesus: “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).
Brother or sister, are you still holding a grudge against a person that has asked for your forgiveness?
If so, you need to let it go and forgive that person this very day! That is what Christians do. You will be the one that is blessed for showing the right attitude and putting out of your heart the bitterness that makes you miserable. Sincerely, from the heart, forgive that penitent person with no conditions attached (Matthew 18:35).
No one said that it is easy. Imitating Jesus and His forgiving spirit is difficult. It is challenging to forgive those who have harmed us intentionally or who have mistreated us over and over again. We may never be able to discard or overcome our emotions completely, but we must trust in the Lord and find the courage to do what we know is the right thing to do. Yes, we need to learn to forgive others.
Note: The above article is extracted from the TRUTH, a monthly periodical dated March 2012.
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