There are several words in the bible that people tend to cringe at when they hear them. Forgiveness is one of those words. It is a difficult concept to think about releasing someone who has hurt us. There are some drawbacks to holding onto hurts. These include, but are not limited to, giving our own sense of power away, physical ailments such as high blood pressure or headaches, the enemy can set up strongholds, and God will not forgive us (Mt. 6:14-15). There are also benefits to learning to forgive others and ourselves.
Jesus came to provide a way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins. So this seems to be pretty important to him. We want to be free from the weight of our regrets and mistakes and yet, we struggle with the idea of extending that same release to others. We either want justice or revenge. They should understand the pain they caused us. (MT 18:23-30)
The word ‘forgive’ is thrown around as if it is cheap and easy. What Jesus did on the cross to allow forgiveness to happen was not easy. He did not even want to do it, he said “Father if there is any other way, take this cup from me.” MT 26:39 But he made the hard choice and wants us to do the same. Notice, forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, it will never happen and you will be stuck carrying the burden forever.
Many people have a misperception that forgiveness is a one time action that “let’s perpetrators off the hook” We are not taught that forgiveness is a process. This process starts with identifying the wound. If we are not aware of what is hurting us, it is extremely difficult to seek healing for it. If you go to the doctor for a cut on your hand but show him your foot, he will have a hard time stitching up the cut and it will be unlikely to heal properly. It will possibly become infected and hurt worse.
Next we need to confess anything that has become sin in relation to the memory of the experience. This is where bitterness, anger, revenge, taking things into our own hands, and selfishness needs to be acknowledged. Wait a minute, are saying I have to let go of my feelings of being hurt? What about the other person? If I forgive them, they will get away with hurting me, why do I have to confess?
This is where one of the corrections to the forgiveness myth comes in. Forgiveness is not for “them”, it’s for you. If you confess your sin first, you are making space for the Holy Spirit to fill you and heal your hurt.
If you try to get back at the person who hurt you, that is the only discipline they will receive. If you choose to forgive them, God will say ‘Ok I’ll take it from here.’ His justice and correction are better than anything I could come up with, so I prefer leaving the discipline, or teaching, to him. After acknowledging the hurt and confessing your own sin, you are now ready to release the person into God’s care. Remember, it is for your freedom and health that you are forgiving them. Be specific. Say “I choose to forgive_______ (name of person) for_______ (what they did) in Jesus’ name. I release them in Jesus’ name” The first time is to break enemy strongholds and the second is so that it comes from the heart. (Mt 18:35)
Finally ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, seal you, and make you the person God designed you to be from the beginning. You are a treasure and you bring glory, honor, and pleasure to God when you forgive others. He sings over you. (Zeph 3:17)
Steps of Forgiveness
- Acknowledge hurtful situation
- Confess your sin
- Choose to forgive and release the person who hurt or upset you
- Ask Holy Spirit to fill you
Unforgiveness hurts a lot of people. It removes you from relationship with others, yourself, and with God. Making the choice to forgive those who have wronged you allows God to be bigger than the hurt. He wants to bring you healing and freedom. More than that, he wants you back in relationship with Him. There are many reasons to learn how to forgive. It is possible to gain freedom from the burdens you carry. Forgiving is the vehicle to remove the bricks from your backpack so you no longer have to lug them around with you. Your heavenly father wants to relieve the weight you carry as it is too heavy for you. There is hope.