Forgiving Others in the Church
How can I forgive someone who keeps hurting me?
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Is this true for you? – someone at the church you attend bothers you so much that sometimes you would just rather stay home from church!
Does an “enemy” keep you away from church?
The day before He died, Jesus told His disciples that the most important command He was giving them was to love each other (John 15:12-17). During the whole final evening with them, He was preparing them for life after His death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven (John 13-17). He had kept them together as His disciples for the past three years, and now they needed to know how they could remain together even though they would be spread to different parts of the world. Jesus’ answer was love for one another, which would unite them.
We also need help in loving each other, even when there are disagreements among us in the church. The disciples had missed Jesus’ point so often, argued with one another and hoped to gain advantage over one another. (Luke 22:24-30). Without Him walking with them, would selfishness and bitterness divide them? Not if they listened to what He said. He told His disciples they must always forgive each other, and this is what we, too, must do. We must not allow anger and bitterness to grow. When that happens, we become ineffective witnesses for Him.
How am I to forgive another Christian who hurts me?
Jesus was committing His disciples to one another as an eternal family. This means a few things:
First, it's pretty much impossible to avoid offending others in this life, so we should not pretend we're never offensive. Siblings don't always get along. But they never stop being family. What does it take to maintain peace? You have to go to someone who feels wronged—even if you don't know what you did wrong. Jesus even gave this priority over our worship in Matthew 5:23-24.
Second, because we know we've done things that give others reason to be offended, forgive others. They may not even know what they did wrong. Go to them. Be persistent and patient. (Matthew 18:15-22) Jesus never runs out of forgiveness for us; we have to be the same way.
Why should I forgive, even when they are not sorry?
One of my dear friends was the victim of a conspiracy in her family. Divorced and raising two children on her own had made life a struggle, but then her father and younger sister agreed to bypass her in the inheritance of some family property. It caused her to curse and forsake her family for years. She even emigrated to another country in order to make an irreversible break in her family relationships.
But then, something happened to change her mind. She found Jesus. It was a few years before she reconciled with her family. They didn't recompense her for the lost property or years of hard work. But when God changed her life, He gave her first the desire, then later, the actual power, to forgive. Looking back, she now sees clearly how unforgiveness is really what hurt her and cost her the most. It really wasn't until she released her hold on it that she herself was free.
When Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 that we cannot be forgiven if we do not forgive others, He was telling us two things: 1) not forgiving someone is disobedience to Him, and 2) we cannot see our own need for forgiveness if we keep anger and bitterness in our hearts. In essence, forgiving someone is more about our relationship with Jesus than with that person.
How do we forgive when we do not feel like doing so? Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. We must choose to obey. It may be that we must say to Jesus, “I do not want to forgive because that makes what they did right, and it was not right! But I want to be near You more than I want to keep this anger, so I choose to forgive. Help me, Lord Jesus!” Then, the next time you remember what they did or you see them at church or anywhere else, you can simply say to Jesus, “I have given this to You, I will not take it back.” It will not be long before you realize you are free from the slavery of what this person did. You are free from anger and bitterness. You are free to do or say whatever Jesus asks you to say to them with peace in your heart (Philippians 4:7, and Luke 12:11-12).
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, I have trouble forgiving ___ in my church. I choose to obey You because I need Your peace more than I need proof of being right or even worldly justice. I give this situation into Your hands; help me to leave it with You. Help me also to speak Your words to them so we may be reconciled to each other for the work of Your kingdom.
Who do you need to forgive and reconcile with?