“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” Proverbs 27:19.
The condition of our heart is the key to our life in Christ (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 6:21). God searches our hearts, revealing areas that will block our relationship with Him (1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 8:27).
Three Gifts of Forgiveness
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” Isaiah 43:25 (see also Psalm 103:1-3; Micah 7:19).
The Bible talks about three gifts of forgiveness:
- The forgiveness God gives to us (1 John 1:9; Luke 7:47).
- The forgiveness we give to ourselves (Phil.3:13-14).
- The forgiveness we give to others (Luke 17:3-4).
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” Colossians 3:13 (see also Ephesians 4:32).
These three gifts of forgiveness are important in our lives. We must understand God’s gift of forgiveness to us, through the shed blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:2). But we must also learn to forgive ourselves – which simply means receiving God’s gift of forgiveness and agreeing with it. Now we are obliged to forgive others. If we refuse to forgive others, then unforgiveness will block the daily expression of God’s forgiveness in our lives.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” Matthew 6:14-15 (read also 18:21-35).
Stages of Unforgiveness
- Initial hurt – someone says or does something that wounds our hearts (Psalm 109:22).
- Resentment – if we don’t deal with it straight away, we begin to harbor resentment. Our hearts dwell on the hurt. We are filled with self-pity and a continuing anger against the person who hurt us (Colossians 3:8-10,12-14).
- Retaliation – we get back at that person, usually either by not speaking to them, or by slandering them to others (Romans 12:17-20).
- Bitterness – this is where we allow unforgiveness to defile our hearts (Hebrews 12:15; Ephesians 4:29-32).
Living One Day at a Time
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:34.
Many Christians are either a prisoner of the future (through worry) or a prisoner of the past (through guilt and unforgiveness). God wants to set us free so that we can live each day with Him – a day at a time.
“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” Ephesians 4:26-27.
One simple principle in forgiveness is not to allow feelings of hurt and unforgiveness to enter a second day. Each evening we can get things right with God and with others. One other provision God has made is the communion table. Whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper together, we are instructed to make sure we are not holding anything against a brother or sister (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).
A Continuing Debt
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…” Romans 13:8.
When Jesus died for you, he took the judgment you deserved. You now owe Him a massive debt which you have no ability to repay. But God doesn’t require you to repay it -except in one way: God has transferred this debt to Him onto others around us. We are now indebted to everyone. The only way we repay this continuing debt is by forgiving one another. When we consider how great our debt is to the Lord, is this too big to ask? We now express our love to God by loving others. We cannot be close to God while harboring hatred and unforgiveness.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” 1 John 4:20.
When we forgive others, we acknowledge several things:
- God’s love for us (Matt.18:21-35; Luke 6:36; John 13:34-35; Psalm 103:7-14).
- Our love for God (Luke 7:47; 1 John 4:20).
- Our trust in God’s justice (2 Thessalonians 1:3-7).
- Our faith in God’s plan for us (Romans 8:28).
- Our readiness to suffer abuse (Matt.5:11-12).
- Our enemy is not people (Ephesians 6:12).
- Our secure position in Christ (Col.1:1-4).
If I forgive, will the hurt I feel go away? Probably not immediately. But forgiveness has nothing to do with feelings.Forgiveness is a decision. Forgetting is a process. If we decide not to forgive, the hurt is like an open, festering wound, which is very difficult to heal. When we make the decision to forgive, the hurt is cleaned up, and the healing process is then quick.
Healing the Heart
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” Psa.147:3.
God is able to heal every heart. In fact, this is part of the Gospel message (Isaiah 61:1). But more than that, God wants to use us to minister that healing to others. Only when we have experienced both the personal forgiveness of God and the grace to forgive others can we be used to minister healing to others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.