We all live in situations where we know that to forgive someone is the right thing to do. It’s the ‘bigger person’ thing to do. It’s the God-thing to do. Whether it is an enemy, friend, co-worker, acquaintance, extended family member, immediate family member or even ourselves we just can’t seem to handle forgiving people by whom we have been hurt. The hurt is too great, the wrong done insurmountable, or we are never going to hear ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me’. Emotions have been devastated and we just can’t do it. For one thing it’ll happen again, and then what are we suppose to do?
To the world it’s just a matter of defend, survive and continue on with life while holding a grudge. Most of the time it comes down to self and pride. Yet, for Christians, people who have through faith given their lives to Jesus and had their sins forgiven, the response God expects is entirely different. Still many Christians cry, “I just can’t forgive them.”
We must remember that Christians have been given the Holy Spirit [Colossians 1:27] through which God does the impossible of changing us into the image of Jesus [Romans 8:29]. Since all things are possible with God [Mark 10:27], then He can accomplish this change in the personality and character of our lives. Therefore we must remember that when we “can't” act or react as Jesus would, we really mean we “will not” act or react as Jesus would. It's our flesh not His Spirit that is responding [Galatians 5:16]. When I realize that my flesh is responding to situations in my life I know that it’s me trying to control situations which are beyond me, and I am not walking in the Spirit by faith [Galatians 5:25]. This scares me and motivates me to seek change in myself since I know that I will give an account of my life with Jesus when I see Him face to face [Romans 14:12].
God can do all things through His children by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. We have to learn to give things to our Heavenly Father, take our hands off of them, turn them loose, and leave them alone. This is hard to do especially when it's family members we love and care about. That's why our Father calls us to Himself when we are hurting and need His grace [Hebrews 4:16]. If we are God's children through faith in Jesus Christ, then we must allow Him to take care of things that only He can handle. When we take on God's role in situations it affects us and may even delay His work by causing those involved to build defensive walls in the lives of others. Satan cannot touch our salvation [John 10:28, Romans 8:35-39] for it is God's work not ours and therefore cannot be undone [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We can give up the Spiritual fruit [Galatians 5:22-23] the Holy Spirit has produced in our lives when we allow Satan to side track us into dealing with things we can't handle.
Forgiveness is a characteristic of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In our lives it becomes a barometer of how Christ-like we have become. It lets us know how the sanctification process is progressing. It points to our grieving and even quenching the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We also must remember that it's only our responsibility to offer forgiveness. We cannot hold ourselves responsible for how it is received. This is what Jesus does. He offers forgiveness to all men, but they must repent and accept it.
Unforgiveness affects the lives of those closest to us as well as affecting our own life. So for their sakes as well as our own, we must choose to obey God in the matter of forgiveness. God Himself forgave us of our great sin because we also were “lawbreakers” before God [James 2:10]. Therefore we must forgive others [Matthew 18:21-35].
Loving and forgiving someone does not mean we like what they do nor does it mean that there is no hurt in our lives. It just means that we choose to respond the way God does to honor Him and that we don’t respond the way we want to so our hurts and emotions can be soothed. God’s Word and our life experiences teach us that the only way to be Christ-like in the area of love and forgiveness is to daily, continually apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to our lives. We must stay close to Jesus, which requires us to daily crucify ourselves as Paul did [1 Corinthians 15:31, Galatians 2:20, 6:14]. It is a choice we make to walk with Jesus and to receive the grace and help we need [Hebrews 4:16]. It’s our choice to allow Him to guard and protect our minds and hearts with His peace [Philippians 4:7].
It's not easy to live the way in which Jesus calls us, especially since Satan desires to cause us to stumble in our attempts so that Jesus is dishonored. Jesus told us that the life of a Christian would be this way. We need to give up and then God can accomplish things beyond our ability to comprehend. He is faithful. We can trust Him even when we can't trust ourselves or our own family. We know obeying God works. We must live wholly for Him.
Hugh Folds – Interim Pastor