Two powerful words which I can personally relate to ‘Power’ and ‘Forgiveness’. When I was approached about this topic, many things personal to me flowed through my mind of what I could share, but on reflection I was led to share my Christian journey. Before I pursue this any further, just to forewarn you, I am going to ‘keep it real’; that is who I am and make no apology.
For those who will be pursuing developing a relationship with Christ, do not be put off. Church can be the most peaceful, happiest, and blessed place to be, but it can also be a volatile environment. Just like an hospital setting, you will get all sorts of patients with different sicknesses and conditions. But with the right scalpels, and our dear consultant and specialist, Jesus Christ, if we allow him to work on our hearts and guide us, we will make it. Our time spent in church will help to shape and define us and make us who he wants us to become. It is all a part of the Christian journey and through the process of this journey, we will overcome.
Where should I start? I guess it is best to start from the word of God. What do you think the bible says about forgiveness?
While Jesus does instruct his disciples to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ which symbolises boundlessness and never ending forgiveness. In the gospel of Matthew (18:21-22), in Luke 17:3 he qualifies this teaching, saying, ‘If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.’
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as ‘a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.’
My experiences of life have been spent in church, that is all I know, but that does not mean I have a pain free life. There have been struggles, hurt, pain, betrayals, deception and the list goes on. I have had periods in my life where I found it hard to forgive, not wanting to go back to church, the building but not to the point of being bitter.
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).
I have been hurt so many times by the very said people who were saved, sanctified and should have protected me; making me feel safe and part of the family of Christ. Why are they being like that? How can I sit in church and listen to the hypocrites? The very said people preaching about forgiveness when they were not practicing it. Because of these negative experiences, I had struggled with trusting and building relationships, particularly in church and would often put my guard up and allow people only to come so far. Time is a healer and I have been slowly on the road to recovery.
As a Christian faced with these difficult situations, I took a rather unexpected and unusual approach when I am afforded the opportunity to come in the presence of the perpetrators and still do. You may think I am crazy and that there is no way I would do such a thing. With liberty, humility and a clean heart, I embraced them with love; like the saying goes, ‘kill them with love’. I continued to love them with the authentic love of the Lord whether they responded or not. Sometimes, it is very painful as you are often ignored by just being the better person however with persistence the barriers are frequently broken.
I am not saying it is an easy thing to do; certainly, it is not. Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you. It is impossible to serve God and be forgiven if we do not forgive those who hurt us. The freedom of forgiveness, joy, and peace in my heart, provided me with peace and love which hopefully will infect others in a positive way.
Forgiveness is ‘infectious’, the more you practice it, the better you become it!
God through his words constantly reminded me that I have no choice in the matter. He already died on Calvary for me when it was undeserved, made atonement for me and reconciled me to himself so that I can have abundant life. Paul, the apostle in his wisdom in 2nd Corinthians 2:10 admonished us that whosoever Christ forgave we should not hold animosity towards them. Neither the offence nor offended was identified in Corinthians by Paul; some commentators said it could have been Paul himself who was the offended, but it did not really matter. What matters to Paul is the way we handle situations when we are offended. At the very beginning I quoted the scripture in Matthew 18, forgiving ‘seventy times seven’, metaphorically speaking it is a lot of forgiveness. But if we are truly saved, this is not a request it is a lifestyle.
So, watch yourselves. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent forgive them’. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent’, you MUST forgive them. If we truly children of God, forgiveness, is authentic without any grudge.
Jesus’ blood is the only way we can be forgiven, we need to humble ourselves to the cross realising that through obedience Christ gave his all to bring us back to himself.
Pretence of forgiveness doesn’t wash with God; we know ourselves, but God knows us better. Be true and forgive from a pure place, otherwise, the cracks will appear and our own words will come back to torment and condemn us. Be reminded of the story of the king in Matthew 18:33-35, whatever you desire for yourself the same will be a release for others. When we forgive, we have tremendous peace and joy in our minds and hearts, and it makes us whole. Unforgiveness on the other hand brings bitterness, hatred, restlessness in our spirits, resentment and much more. It makes you an ‘ugly’ individual from the inside out.
Joyce Meyer in one of her books says that ‘when you forgive you are, helping yourself more than the other person.’ In my words you are releasing them to God so that he can do only what he can do and set you on your Journey to Freedom. The forgiveness that God gives, takes away our offenses and hurts. He wipes the slate clean and forgets our transgressions, ‘and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more’ (Hebrews 8:12). What a wonderful freedom we can experience when God forgives our sins and we can forgive our fellowmen? You too can experience this in your heart and life. Come to the Lord today!
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)
Positive psychology uses forgiveness as one of its main principles when counselling individuals, and this is from a worldly perspective. The tenets they use comes from the word of God moreover, us who knows who God is.
The idea of forgiveness is not unique to Christianity. In fact, it is ubiquitous to the human condition. Dr. Randy Kamen a psychologist and educator states, that ‘Forgiveness means letting go of the suffering of the past and be willing to move ahead which will provide greater potential for inner freedom. There are many health benefits to forgiveness; lower heart rate, high-blood pressure, cancer, reduction of fatigue and restfulness.’
Be reminded by 1st Corinthians 6:19 which states ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own’. Since we are not our own and have been brought with a special price, we must not harbour things which defile our temple.
Forgiveness is not about being intellectual, or a changing of one’s mind. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart that converts us to a new life. Through this power of the Holy Spirit we have faith to trust God so we can lay down our own will and forgive others. ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Paul Baloche composed the song, ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’ which is also a prayer; a prayer that Christ will open the eyes of our heart so we can really see the things that need to be changed. This song was based on Ephesians 1:18, ‘The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what the hope of his calling is, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints’.
When our hearts and minds are opened then we will have a spiritual paradigm shift in our mindset, which will then overflow in our behaviours and attitudes to forgive and be forgiven. Ephesians 1:7 states ‘In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’.
In summary God sent his son on earth to forgive me and made a propitiation for my sins. His forgiveness did not discriminate but covers all sins which had filled me with shame. Our messiah’s forgiveness was extended to all. Our Saviour shows no favouritism but extends the freedom from sin to all. Be reminded ‘And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors’. I thank God for the blood of Jesus which has purged me, washed away all my guilt and stains, forgave me and set me on my way rejoicing in the Freedom of Forgiveness he has afforded me.
Lorna Allen (Wolverhampton, UK)