We will look at the meaning of forgiveness and the biblical definition of forgiveness. And how we need to forgive to move forward.
Let's start by looking at the definition of forgiveness. It is essentially the act of pardoning an offender. In the Bible, the Greek word for forgiveness means "to let go," for example, when someone does not demand payment for a debt.
Jesus used this comparison in his parable of the unmerciful slave (Matthew 18:23-35) as well as when he taught his followers to pray, "Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is in debt to us" (Luke 11:4).
We need to ACKNOWLEDGE THE HURT as a first step to forgiveness and healing. Have you ever been hurt by something someone said or did? I bet there isn't one person who has not experienced any hurt.
Let me tell you something really important if you do not forgive those past hurts; then you are not the best version of yourself.
I want to give you a visual of what I am talking about. Years ago, in my early teens, I played ice hockey with a bunch of guys from school, and back in those days, girls wore skates with those picks at the front to brake with. Well, I am acting all cool that I am playing hockey when that stupid pick gets stuck in a divot in the ice out of nowhere. The result was not pretty. I fell flat on my face and ended up ripping the muscles and tendons in my ankle. I never did physio or strengthening exercises. For years, well into adulthood, that ankle would ache or give out when it was least expected. So, think of it as hurt from your past. You've done nothing to heal it. Our souls are just like that.
There you are, minding your own business, having a great day, and then you hear one thing and go from really happy to sad. Or you hear someone's name mentioned, and your day is ruined. You read some comment on social media or a post or hear about an event, and you suddenly lose it; you have been triggered and don't realize it.
Because these are triggers – this type of reaction tells you that you have a past hurt and it hasn't been processed correctly. It still hurts; the comment wasn't what ruined your day or week but a trigger, a reminder from the past, and it still hurts today.
Recently I was reading Genesis 45, the story of Joseph coming face-to-face with his brothers. The same brothers who captured him and sold him into slavery. Yup, those brothers.
Let's look at Genesis 45:1-2 "Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, "Make everyone go out from me." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it."
Imagine all the pent-up emotions that Joseph had. He wept so loud that the Egyptians and the neighbors heard him cry out. In verse 4, Joseph acknowledges what was done to him by his brothers. He says to them I am your brother whom you sold.
The first part of forgiveness is acknowledging the hurt. You need to face the hurt and feel the pain to forgive it.
So, now that you've acknowledged the hurt, the next step is to SURRENDER YOUR RIGHT TO HURT.
WHAT!?! You heard me right. You have to give up the right to punish.
As children, when someone pulls your pigtails or pushes you, your first reaction is doing tit for tat. But the Bible clearly tells us that it is not our place to hurt the other person or punish someone for their wrongdoing.
Let's look at Romans 12:17 & 19: "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
How much clearer can it be?
You cannot say you forgive someone but continuously use the past as leverage; that is not forgiving. You must let go of the feeling of righteous punishment. We aren't the judge, jury, and executioner.
You need to hand it over to God and give up the right to punish the wrongs inflicted.
Forgiveness is about FREEDOM – your freedom – you working through the layers to achieve freedom. It is a process.
Forgiveness is not justifying their actions or letting them off the hook. And forgiveness is not a guarantee of reconciliation or doing life together. Forgiveness is for us. Forgiveness is allowing our Heavenly Father to heal us layer by layer. Healing day by day. Ensuring that the hurts from back then don't continue to hurt you today. That is what forgiveness is. Forgiveness sets you FREE!
So we first acknowledge the hurt, then surrender the right to punish, and now this is the tough one. You NEED TO PRAY FOR THEM!!!
Yes, that's right, you need to pray for them. And, I don't mean you pray… "Lord, you know what so-and-so- did…." or "Lord, I pray that you take away…" or something like this… "God, you know what they need…."
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," -Matthew 5:43-44
I have tried to do this in the past, and it went something like this: "God, would you… I can't say their name."And I walk away from the prayer
I believe that Jesus told us to pray for those who hurt us, not for their benefit but for our own! You and me!
Why do I say this? Because that hurt turns to anger, and that anger turns to bitterness and a hardened heart and then starts to change how you live. It changes all kinds of issues, anxiety and depression. Your energy is wasted on these feelings and emotions.
We need to be obedient to our heavenly Father; we need to pray for them and ask our heavenly Father to bless them today. That doesn't mean they are off the hook for what they have done, but that is not for us to deal with. For us, it is to forgive them and pray for them.
You cannot kneel in front of our Heavenly Father, pray for someone, and hold a grudge. You can try, but it is not possible.
I pray for them to seek repentance of the Father and that grace be shown to them as it has been shown to me. Each time you pray for them, it gets easier.
I have a small green patch at the back of my home, and I tried to plant a few things this past year. Well, the first time I put my spade into the ground, it hit rocks. Ouch… I moved what I could and tried again; it was a bit easier, removed a few more stones, and kept digging. Each layer I dug down got softer until the area was ready for planting. Each pass of the spade softens the ground, and each time we pray, our hearts are softened and healed; when our hearts are softened and ready for planting, we allow joy and peace to grow within us.
Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
To be able to forgive, we have to do it the way God has told us to! We pray for and bless them, not speak badly about them. Speak well of them. You may not want to or feel like it, but you obey God. We don't go by our feelings but by faith!
Tough stuff. It is hard not to tell everyone what so-and-so did to you.
We've acknowledged, surrendered, and prayed; now, we have to BE OPEN TO RECONCILIATION.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." -Romans 12:18
This verse has confused and frustrated me. Okay, let me see if I got this right. Not only was I hurt, but I had to forgive those that hurt me; I've not been able to get even, and then I've had to pray for them. Why, Lord, do I have to reconcile with them? Why can't I keep them far away from me? More like out of my life.
Well, here is what I've come to see. Forgiveness is what I do for myself. I have control over that. But to have fellowship takes two or more people. Fellowship can be mended when there is true repentance, none of this; I'm sorry if you got hurt… I'm sorry you misunderstood what I said…
To know what real forgiveness and reconciliation look like, read Genesis 45 through 50; you will see how Joseph forgave his brothers and how Joseph's brothers threw themselves at his feet. They acknowledged what they had done wrong and asked for his forgiveness. That is what a genuine apology looks like.
A genuine apology says: I was wrong, I am sorry, and will you forgive me? Joseph's story is about true repentance. With true repentance comes change. There has to be respect, trust, and honor.
There will be times when reconciliation or fellowship will not be possible because of safety issues, but that does not mean we do not forgive. The general theme in the Bible is reconciliation and fellowship, but even the Bible acknowledges that there will be times when it is not possible.
"But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." -Titus 3:9-11
"Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth," -2 Timothy 2:23-25
Stop and move on when it is harming you more than it is doing you good. You have got to have forgiveness for your future and your freedom.
Forgiving is difficult for us; we are not wired to forgive; we need to PRAY FOR DIVINE STRENGTH, HEALING, AND FREEDOM.
You can't do it alone. If you could, you would've done it by now. You wouldn't be struggling with this pain in your life. You would have moved on by now.
I need the power of the holy spirit in life, in my heart and soul, helping me walk through these steps to forgiveness and healing.
I need the power of God to get me there.
Jesus was teaching his disciples and followers how to pray. We call it the Lord's prayer, but Jesus knew how hard it was to forgive; he says, "Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is in debt to us" Jesus knew how hard it was to forgive; he knew betrayal.
Forgiving is so difficult that the Lord tells us to pray for this daily. Pray for this every day; it's needed.
I want to leave you with four verses:
2 Corinthians 13:1 - "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."
2 Corinthians 12:9 - "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Matthew 19:26 - "But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Philippians 2:9-10 - "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,"
I want to leave you with this prayer from Rick Warran:
Father, only you understand how much I've been hurt by this person. I don't want to carry the pain for another second. I don't want to be a bitter person. But I need your grace and the power of the cross to release my hurt and to forgive those who've hurt me. This is the turning point. First, I need to experience your forgiveness. You know all the ways I've hurt others, and I'm so sorry for my sins. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I accept your grace and forgiveness, and I need it daily. Today I'm turning to you, and I'm choosing to forgive the way you have forgiven me. Every time the memory comes back, I'll forgive that person again until the pain is gone. Heal my heart with your grace. In Jesus' name. Amen.