Growing up as a child, I felt as if it was my own fault for the sexual abuse I endured. I put myself down and felt shameful. I will never forget the message God gave me when I returned to Him at the age of 25: I have already forgiven you, My child, you must forgive yourself. These were the exact words I needed to hear as I faced the abuse and emotional pain I endured as a child. I found it easier to forgive those who hurt me than myself. However, God’s words came back to me each time I faced a decision to forgive myself. I thanked God for giving me the words I needed to hear so that I could be released from self-hatred and self-contempt.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14, NIV).
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
To forgive is “to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with; pardon” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary). It is “to cease to feel resentment against an offender” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). It is “a dismissal, release” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).
We are called to diligent forgiveness. Sometimes it is difficult to forgive another person, especially if he or she deeply harmed us. Like myself, it can also be difficult to forgive ourselves. However, God does not ask us to do something that is impossible to do. Forgiveness frees us from the burden of unforgiveness.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV).
Read Matthew 18:21-22. Who came to Jesus?
What did Peter ask?
What was the response of Jesus?
Sometimes, we want to put a limit on the number of times we forgive another person. We may become frustrated with the person. However, Jesus calls us to forgive countlessly.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV).
Read Matthew 5:43-44. What did Jesus say in the beginning?
However, who does He say we must love?
Who are we to pray for?
Jesus turned the world upside-down in His life on earth. What made since to the disciples Jesus challenged. We are called to love our enemies and pray for them. This will give us a peace that passes all understanding instead of the pain of unforgiveness.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).
Read Mark 11:25. What must we do first before praying?
What will our Father in Heaven do for us?
It is difficult to pray when we hold unforgiveness in our hearts. However, when we forgive others, we are set free. God will then forgive us our sins.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV).
Read 1 Peter 4:8. What are we to do to each other?
What does love cover?
Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins. Love leads us to forgiveness. When we forgive others, we act in love.
YOUR HEART’S DESIRE
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). God forgave us our sins through Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. We must be kind and compassionate to one another. When we forgive others, we will be set free from the bondage of unforgiveness.
Name a time when you found it difficult to forgive another person.
How did God convict you of your unforgiveness?
What Scripture spoke to you during this time?
How did you feel when you forgave the person?
How did that renew your fellowship with God and the other person?
We must be diligent in forgiveness. Unforgiveness weight heavily upon our spirits. However, that burden is lifted when we choose to forgive others.
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to forgive promptly. Do not allow unforgiveness to remain in my spirit. I choose to have fellowship with you this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
NUGGETS OF WISDOM
Forgiveness is the key to happiness. Author unknown
I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. C.S. Lewis
Forgiveness is all-powerful. Forgiveness heals all ills. Catherine Ponder
Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The more a man knows, the more he forgives. Catherine the Great