What Does It Mean to Forgive Others?
The freedom of letting go.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Imagine you’re a runner and you’re racing in the Olympics. You have the right shoes, the right shorts, the right shirt. Yet, something is desperately wrong. Locked onto your ankle is a heavy black ball and chain! This weight is very heavy, and with it on, you can’t finish the race. If only you could figure out a way to remove the ball and chain! Sadly, you think you don’t have the key to unlock the chain from your leg.
Then, you are told that you do possess the key to freedom. Quickly, you free yourself, and oh, what freedom! It’s as though that black ball miraculously turns into a big helium balloon. The load is lifted, the balloon is released, and the weight is gone.
In our daily lives, unforgiveness can be a heavy black ball that weighs us down. We can focus on the pain that has been inflicted upon us and desire vengeance for that sin. However, the Bible says we can escape this weight and that the key is forgiveness. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
But why is it sometimes so hard to forgive others? If you have ever been betrayed by a friend, for a time you probably felt powerless to stop the pain. In this moment of pain, unforgiveness provides an illusion of power, which is something we all inherently desire. By refusing to forgive, you feel a sense of power, and by holding on to hatred, you feel infused with strength. And when you retaliate with revenge, you carry out a power play. But this is not how Christ wants us to live. He wants us to forgive.
But how? The key to forgiving others is to rightly understand what forgiveness is.
To forgive means to release your resentment toward your offender
In the New Testament, the Greek verb aphiemi primarily means “to send away” — in other words, “to forgive, send away or release the penalty when someone wrongs you.” This implies that you need to release your right to hear “I’m sorry,” release your right to be bitter, and release your right to get even. The Bible says, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
To forgive is to release your rights regarding the offense
This means that you need to release your right to dwell on the offense, release your right to hold on to the offense, and release your right to keep bringing up the offense. The Bible says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9).
To forgive is to reflect the character of Christ
Just as God extends forgiveness to us in Christ, we are called to forgive others. To forgive is to extend mercy, to give a gift of grace, and to set the offender free. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
You might be asking yourself … What can I do when I don’t feel like forgiving? Whenever you don’t feel like doing something you should do, examine your thoughts. While you can’t control what your offenders do, you can control your thinking about your offenders. God gives us much counsel about what we should sift out from our thinking. Imagine that the Bible is a “thought-sifter” — a tool that helps us sift out the thoughts that should not go into our minds. Evaluate your thoughts about those who offend you. Do your thoughts naturally flow through “the thought-sifter” in the following Scripture passage? “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
If not, catch them before they pass through and sift them out! When you carefully choose what you will dwell on, your emotions will begin to line up, and you will eventually feel like forgiving.
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, thank You for caring about how much my heart has been hurt. You know the pain I have felt because of (list every offense). Right now, I release all that pain into Your hands. Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for me and for extending Your forgiveness to me. As an act of my will, I choose to forgive (name). I refuse all thoughts of revenge. I trust that in Your time and in Your way, You will deal with my offender as You see fit. And Lord, thank You for giving me Your power to forgive so that I can be set free. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.
Who do you currently need to forgive?