The Reasons to Forgive: Even when it’s Hard and when it’s Not Asked of You

Person thinking about reasons to forgive

Every time I hear the word forgiveness, I hear Don Henley’s song Heart of the Matter in my head, “and my thoughts seem to scatter, but I think it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.” While the song is specifically about a lost love, the thought of forgiveness being the key to moving forward after heartbreak is spot on. When a situation arises and you walk away feeling hurt, and you don’t know what to do, forgiveness is the target. To forgive is, at times, a hard but necessary choice for the growth of our faith and our obedience to our Lord. Without forgiveness from the King, we don’t have salvation, which means no eternity with Him. This is why we are to practice forgiveness every day, as difficult as that might be some days.

Why do we Forgive?

Forgiveness can be tricky; it is a simple concept but sometimes hard to do. We forgive because we were hurt, because someone asked, and because our God has commanded it of us. There are times in our lives when we feel hurt, like a sucker punch right in the heart. Sometimes the other person knows and sometimes they don’t. In either situation, regardless of if they asked for forgiveness, we need to forgive. While I can’t think of a specific verse that says we need to forgive even when someone hasn’t asked for forgiveness, in John 13:15 Jesus said that He is our example, and He forgave while hanging on the cross in Luke 23:34. If Jesus forgave while being crucified without being asked, how come it is so difficult for us to forgive at times? We also forgive when someone asks for forgiveness. In Matthew 17:3-4, Jesus said:

So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.

Sometimes to forgive a person every time they ask is difficult. You may leave a situation feeling hurt again and again, but you still need to forgive. Sometimes, forgiveness isn’t for them as much as it is for you. You have to be able to move forward in your life, to continue to be the person God created you to be. Forgiveness isn’t something we ignore while claiming to be a Christian. The Lord Himself commands us to forgive. We forgive because He first forgave us, also because he will forgive us as we forgive others.

God Tells Us to Forgive

The Lord speaks clearly about forgiveness. God tells us to forgive as He forgives us, that we are to always forgive, and what forgiveness means for those who choose to follow Him. Matthew 6:14 says “for if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” And Colossians 3:13 says to “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Our Lord is our example of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. While He knows that we will never be perfect, He expects us to show grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those who sin against us, because every sin is against Him. He also expects us to forgive as many times as He forgives us.

As a child I watched Veggie Tales, the first one I ever watched was the Grapes of Wrath episode. Junior Asparagus had to forgive the Grape family over and over again because they were mean to him. The verse of the episode was Matthew 18:21-22:

Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven. (KJV)

As the daughter grape pointed out that’s 490 times! This is the hardest part for many of us because if we feel hurt multiple times, the continuing pain can take its toll.

Lucky for us, our sins do not take the same toll on God that sins against us do. Actually, 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” How wonderful is our GOD! What grace He shows us in that not only does He forgive us every time we confess; He purifies us from that unrighteousness. I am so humbled and thankful for a God who loves us so much.

Forgiveness: It’s a Choice

With God commanding His children to forgive, I feel it is important to point out that forgiveness is a choice to be kind and compassionate to those who haven’t been to you. This does not mean that you condone sin, but it is also not holding a grudge. Every time we forgive or not forgive it is because we choose to. When God commands us to forgive as He forgives us, He is doing so knowing that sometimes we may choose to not to. From the very beginning of creation, God gave us the freedom to make choices. Forgiveness isn’t any different, it can’t be forced and it’s not a feeling. It is a choice that reflects our growth in our relationship with God, because God forgave us in Christ, a choice, and asks that we do the same for others.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We choose to forgive and we must be kind and compassionate to those we are forgiving, even in times of pain and trial.

With that said, just because you are choosing to forgive does not mean you condone their choices. Forgiveness does not mean that a person does not serve out the consequences of their actions. God forgave the Israelites yet they still wondered the desert for 40 years. However, experiencing the consequences doesn’t mean that we ‘forgive but don’t forget,’ as I think the saying goes, which sounds an awful lot like holding a grudge. Mark 11:25 tells us that “when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Forgiveness in Summary

The next time a situation arises and you end the interaction feeling hurt, and you don’t know what to, remember: forgiveness is your target. Remember that it’s up to you to choose forgiveness. We forgive when asked for forgiveness and when we’re not. We forgive because the Lord has asked us to and because He forgives us. Remember that forgiveness does not mean you agree with or like the behavior. Forgiveness also means you cannot hold the choice over a person’s head.

Forgiveness is a choice that is important to the development of our faith and obedience to our Lord. God’s forgiveness sets us free, we can share that freedom when we forgive. With that, I will end with lyrics from Matthew West’s song Forgiveness, “It flies in the face of all your pride. It moves away the mad inside. It’s always anger’s own worst enemy… Forgiveness, forgiveness… It’ll clear the bitterness away. It can even set a prisoner free. There is no end to what its power can do. So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace. The prisoner that it really frees is you. Forgiveness, forgiveness.”

Have a blessed day Y’all.

Na’

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Referenced Verses:

John 13:15 – I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.

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