Jesus models for us a life of forgiveness – and calls those who follow Him to live the same way. While some of the wrong done to us may never be forgotten, our attitude towards it may need to change – not only for harmonious living, but also for our own spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being.
Part of Jesus’ radical teaching was to forgive not just friends, but also enemies – which may be very different to the expectations of those around us. He also curtailed what could be required in compensation (“an eye for an eye”) – rather than revenge. Forgiveness does not validate wrong-doing – but it does let go of the compulsion to demand admissions or apologies from others. God, Who is Justice, is the arbiter.
“Letting go” isn’t easy, and we may need help from the Holy Spirit and from other Jesus-followers to do this. This is part of the privilege of being Church. The model prayer that Jesus taught asks that God forgive us in the same way that we forgive those who have wronged us – a profound reminder of the importance of this discipline.
“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4 32, The Message.
Forgiveness is rather like peeling an onion – each stage may uncover another “layer” to address next.
- We might not realise our greater need to forgive parents, children, friends, enemies, churches, pastors or employers – until God’s light illuminates that relationship.
- So ask God to show you if there’s someone you need to forgive and specifically what for
- The observations of those who know us best – and the welcomed insights that the Spirit brings – may help. It may be that something “buried” for years will take a while to unearth.
- Forgiveness needs to come from the heart, not just the head. It’s important to recognise and name the hurt(s) caused to you. Don’t rush this.
- As you declare forgiveness – before God, or with a friend – remember that you are making decisions of your will, whatever your feelings are.
- Releasing the person to God’s justice and grace enables you no longer to hold anything against them - so you can pray blessing over them!