Forgiveness means we grant release to an offending person or situation. It does not mean minimizing the event or pretending it did not happen. We are all born into a sinful world with imperfect parents and siblings. All of us are damaged, some more than others, and we are not denying that we are hurt if we forgive.
1. Then came Peter to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times." Matthew 18:21-22
2. So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." Luke 17:3-4
In forgiving we are not saying that what the person did was all right or that we approve of it. Forgiving means we don't hold resentment, bitterness, grudges, or plans for retaliation. Forgiveness does not involve fairness or whether we feel like it or not. Jesus spoke forgiveness over the people that were executing him on the cross, leaving us with no excuse about forgiving others.
3. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34a
4. You have heard that it was said, “Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous Matthew 5:43-45
If we do not forgive, God will not forgive us, so this issue is very serious.
5. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that our Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:25-26
6. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:12,14-15
7. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:37-38
8. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesias 4:31-32
9. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (millions of dollars) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (a few dollars). He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on You?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18:23-35
We usually have the sense that the person that caused the problems needs to make things right, but they probably cannot. Hurting people hurt people, so they were probably in a lot of pain themselves. Only God can fix such problems and heal our hearts. Forgiveness does not necessarily change the other person, but it frees us from the negative emotions and thoughts that continue to affect us, even if we are not in the situation anymore. Forgiving benefits the forgiver more than the one forgiven. Un-forgiveness is one of the major causes of illness. Reconciliation may still not be possible. We need to remember that our problems are not really with people, but with the demons influencing the people.
10. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
We must start with a decision to forgive. Then we need to ask God to help us forgive. It usually is a process, and sometimes a long one, which leads to our forgiving from our hearts.
11. And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm and the caterpillar and the palmerworm . . . . Joel 2:25
We usually also need to forgive ourselves. Everyone has regrets about their past and wish they had said or done things differently. First we need to repent sincerely and individually for any of the ways that we have hurt others or ourselves and sinned against the Lord. Then we need to ask for forgiveness and cleansing. Then since God has forgiven us, we need to forgive ourselves.
12. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
It may sound odd at first, but a lot of people need to forgive God. They may question why God allowed certain things to happen to them, or blame Him because they occurred, because He could have prevented them from happening.
13. A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the people that you need to forgive and for what. You probably need to be specific.
Prayer: Father, I choose to forgive __________ for _________. I ask You to help me do that. I choose not to hold these things against him any more, and I ask for forgiveness and cleansing for holding any un-forgiveness toward him. Please set me free from the bondage of any anger, bitterness or un-forgiveness toward him, and I ask You to bless him. I apply the blood of Jesus and the peace of God to my heart to heal any wounds that are there because of what happened. Thank You so much for helping me do this. In Jesus’ name. Amen.