You’re on your way to the grocery store and you do the usual. You walk in, grab a cart and start the mundane task of collecting items for meals. As you are rounding the corner of the chips and snacks isle, you see them. All of the sudden you are recoiling on the inside and silently pray “God, I hope they didn’t see me!” You switch into stealth mode and start moving about the store as if you are James Bond on a reconnaissance mission! You slowly back up hoping your cart does not have one of those jacked up wheels that makes the screeching noise when you move in a certain direction. Whew! Fortunately it doesn’t! You quickly spin around hurriedly walking the opposite direction……only to turn the corner at the opposite end and come face to face with the one you hoped to avoid! I’m sure we can all relate. Most, if not all, of us have that person in our lives that we just want to avoid and minimize any contact with because we consider any interaction with them painful! This person might be a friend, a coworker, or even a family member! Regardless of who it is or what they’ve done, it reveals something inside of us we must deal with: our unforgiveness
Walking through life with a heart of forgiveness can be extremely challenging, especially if we are unsure of what it truly means to forgive.
There are numerous scriptures that define what forgiveness truly is and I will focus on a couple verses starting with these;
But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
I believe the scripture in Mark answers the ‘What & Why’ we do this and Ephesians tells us the ‘How’. I feel that most of us know this but why does it still seem to be a challenge for us to walk in? I mean forgiveness is Bible/Jesus 101, right? Many people believe a lie and think that forgiveness only benefits the other person—the person who hurt us—when, actually, the main beneficiary is us. As we release our bitterness and anger, we are able to truly forgive and live with real peace and joy. Another reason people choose not to forgive is because they think it’s too hard. Well, that’s a lie too! Learning to love well and have compassion for others, seeing them as the Father does is a great place to start to walk in genuine forgiveness.
Joyce Meyer gives some wonderful advice on how to allow the truth in scripture to become a reality in our lives when it comes to forgiveness. Here are 4 ways to proactively walk in forgiveness.
- Make a Quality Decision
Forgiveness is about more than saying a prayer, like, “Lord, I forgive so-and-so.” It is a serious decision that you make over and over again. It will probably be uncomfortable or even painful, but going through this process will always be worth it in the end.
- Depend on God
Fortunately, God gives us the strength to forgive. We can live with a prayerful mindset and attitude: “Lord, help me not to be offended today. Keep me from unnecessary anger. If I am mad at someone, show me who it is. Give me the grace to forgive them.” (See Ephesians 4:32.) If you’re easily offended or there’s a person in your life that just annoys you, not only do you have to decide to forgive and live in peace, but you are going to have to depend on God for the grace to do it and make it a matter of prayer.
- Understand Your Emotions
One definition of emotion is to “move out.” Emotions provoke psychological changes that give us a desire to do something. For example, when somebody hurts you and you feel pain, the first thing you may want to do is tell them off. You may want to get back at them or just get away from them. But you don’t have to make that choice. Remember, your will gives you the ability to live beyond your feelings! Given time, your emotions will catch up with your decision to forgive.
- Pray for Your Enemies
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus commands us… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This may be the hardest teaching to follow, but we can be assured that it’s ultimately for our benefit.
Lastly, every day we have a choice to overcome evil with good. We can arrive at a new level of joy as we take meaningful action to truly forgive. Forgiveness is empowering and enables many emotional walls to be torn down when it is authentic! It is my prayer that this truth is driven deep into our hearts and becomes part our very being as we are continually being transformed into the likeness of Christ! So be it!
Evangelism Ministry Leader