When I was a child we attended a Methodist church. Each week I remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
The Lord’s Prayer is found in two places within the Bible. Matthew 6 is a little longer than Luke 11. But neither actually have the last line (For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever).
I would dare say that many of you reading this remember the Lord’s Prayer from your childhood. Or perhaps you heard of it later in life, if you didn’t attend church as a youngster. Still, most of us are familiar with it. Yet many of us struggle with something touched on within this prayer – forgiveness.
When Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, He went on to say in verses 14 and 15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgiveness is actually something we are commanded to do in the Bible. And there are many verses, besides these, that talk about the subject of forgiveness. Yet, we still struggle. We might even be tempted to breeze over verses such as these because they don’t align with our self-seeking nature.
Why is forgiveness so difficult?
Well, for one thing, when there is an action that requires forgiveness, there is also a boatload of pain that goes with it. When someone hurts us, the cut might go very deep. It can be a challenge to heal that wound. I am not minimizing any pain that someone else caused you. I agree that on our own we might struggle to heal from this pain. But the good news is that we can heal with the strength of the Holy Spirit living inside of us.
Another reason why forgiveness is an issue is because we believe it equates to letting the other person off the hook. We think we are essentially saying that what they did was okay. But that is not the case. When we forgive, we are freeing ourselves from carrying a heaven burden. We are allowing ourselves to move forward with newfound peace.
Unfortunately, when it comes to forgiveness (and so many other areas of our lives), our pride gets in the way. We want to hold a grudge against someone out of principle. But holding a tight fist around our painful encounters will only cause bitterness and resentment to fester deep inside. In the long run, we are truly only hurting ourselves.
Why should we forgive?
As I mentioned earlier, forgiveness is a command from the Lord. Jesus talked about forgiveness many times in the gospels. And He says that we are to keep forgiving, even when another person continues to offend us. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This is a tough pill to swallow for our flesh. But it is possible. If it were not possible, then God wouldn’t instruct us to do it. We have to be willing to forgive out of reverence for God.
We should also forgive because we have been forgiven. While it might be true that the person who hurt you doesn’t deserve forgiveness, it’s also true that you and I don’t deserve forgiveness either. Yet God is so quick to extend grace and mercy to us when we humble ourselves before Him. It says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a gift we have been given! We are happy to accept it when it’s extended towards ourselves. But when it’s extended to someone who hurt us, then it’s a different story. When dealing with forgiveness, remember how much your Heavenly Father has forgiven you.
And as I touched on earlier, holding onto unforgiving feelings only hurts us. It causes us to harbor acidic emotions inside of us, which will affect our relationships, our character, our actions, and many other areas. Who really wants to live like that? No one. We all want to live in peace. Peace is possible and peace is beautiful. This is a journey mainly between you and God. You might not necessarily reconcile with the other person. But you still can move forward.
As Lysa TerKeurst says in her book Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, “For me to move forward, for me to see beyond this current darkness, is between me and the Lord. I don’t need to wait on others to do anything or place blame or shame that won’t do anyone any good. I simply must obey whatever God is asking of me right now. God has given me a new way to walk. And God has given me a new way to see. It’s forgiveness. And it is beautiful.”
If you are struggling to forgive, I hope this post helped you to take a step in the right direction. Remember the reasons why forgiveness is so important. And prayerfully seek the Lord’s help in extending forgiveness on your road to healing. In the long run, you will be happy to finally have peace in your heart again.
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas