As you’ve learned from reading Battle Tested (or will learn once you do), forgiveness is liberating. In fact, forgiveness is so important that God commands us to do so in order to be forgiven of our own sins (Matthew 6:14-15). Although forgiveness is critical, it is not easy. It’s a lot easier to remain upset towards an individual, and resent them, rather than forgive them. Moreover, taking the harder path of forgiveness is necessary.
Forgiving others can be difficult without forgiving ourselves first. Hence, we must start by forgiving ourselves. We all make mistakes, so we can't be too hard on ourselves. Beating ourselves up for locking our keys in the car or forgetting our anniversary up is detrimental. We have to extend grace to ourselves and allow room for failure, as well as growth. Furthermore, we often learn more in faults than we do in success. Success tends to communicate that all is well, so there is no need to improve. Conversely, defeat typically demands self-reflection. Thus, begin by forgiving yourself.
If left unchecked, unforgiveness can leave the door open for bitterness, hate, and even bondage. In the spiritual realm, this gives the devil an entryway to torment you and take you down a dark path. When you refuse or choose not to absolve someone, you’re only doing more damage to yourself. The offender may have moved on, or even forgotten about their trespass. Meanwhile, you’ve been dwelling on it, and the unforgiveness has been weighing you down. The Bible commands us to refrain from anger and to forgive quickly: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).” Anger in itself is not a sin, everyone experiences it, but if channeled the wrong way it can lead to wrongdoing. God simply wants us to mainly exercise love and kindness.
What if an egregious act has been committed? What if my best friend stole $10,000 from me? It doesn’t matter; we must forgive. Now, if the same incident were to continue to happen, and that best friend were to steal from you again, then common sense has to kick in. Maybe you should stop lending to that person, or allowing them access to your funds. Even so, God instructs us to forgive every transgression, no matter the quantity. “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22 KJV)." Here, Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive someone who offends him up to seven times. Jesus answered by saying seventy times seven, or 490 times, meaning there is no limit to how many times you should forgive someone. This may seem illogical, considering people may do some evil things to us, but its a fundamental precept that God expects from his children. Just think of all the misdeeds you've committed against God: disobedience, dishonesty, disloyalty, lustful eyes, drunkenness, or mistreatment of his other children by way of lashing out, cursing someone out, giving someone the finger after they've cut you off, etc. Now imagine if God decided not to show you grace or pardon your sins. You'd be distraught because we commit many more sins against God than others do against us, yet he still forgives us. So we should extend that same grace to others.
When we confess our sins to God, we can be sure he'll forgive us (1 John 1:9). The key is for us to repent, or turn away from our sin. God's grace covers our sin, but that does not mean we should intentionally commit iniquity. Everyone falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), meaning we all sin. Christians just don't do so willfully, and do their best to avoid them. But if we persist in the same sin, and continue asking God for forgiveness, he may no longer view our repentance as genuine and deny his grace from those sins. Although Christ forgives us, that doesn't mean we don't have to pay consequences for our sin. The alternative is actually more correct. God offers his grace and forgives our sins, but we will still face consequences. We can pray and ask God to have grace and mercy with his punishment, but sometimes we must serve the full sentence.
The beauty of God's forgiveness is that there is no sin too atrocious for him to forgive, except blaspheming the Holy Spirit, or attributing works of the Holy Spirit to the devil (Mark 3:29). Besides that sin, God will forgive anyone who comes to him with a repentant heart and a contrite spirit. That goes for the woman who committed adultery, the man who committed armed robbery, and the cashier who committed murder. God can redeem people from any of these malevolent sins, amongst others. There are countless examples in the Bible where God does just that. Moses murdered people but was redeemed and went on to do great things. King David, widely known for killing Goliath, committed murder and adultery. David certainly faced serious consequences for these acts, by way of his offspring suffering and some of them even being killed. What we can learn from David is that he was sincerely remorseful for his actions and repented to God. Accordingly, God still honored his covenant with David, which was the promise that Jesus Christ would come from his bloodline and establish an eternal kingdom. He also remained faithful to God and understood that his hardship was a result of his own wrongdoing.
It took me a while to internalize and consistently apply the forgiveness principle. But once I did, I felt more free than I ever had. Now I practice forgiveness constantly, and make a conscious effort to forgive those who hurt me, as soon as possible. That's because I want to remain free from the chains of unforgiveness that I was bound by for far too long. So this blog stems from the Bible, as well as decades of experience. Consequently, I implore you to exercise forgiveness as often as you can. I also want the Lord to continue forgiving me when I fall short. Lastly, I don't want unforgiveness to create any distance between me and God. So, go out there and love one another, and be quick to forgive! God bless.
*All scriptures are in the King James Version.