…as we forgive others

…as we forgive others

By Seth Osborn

I’ve never thought of forgiveness as an especially difficult thing to do. Someone does something wrong, they realize it, they say they’re sorry, and the people that were harmed forgive them.

Yes, there are times where the offending party does something particularly awful (some of these cases involving illegal acts), and forgiveness can be very difficult. We should still forgive them—and we can with God’s help—but it will be hard.

Outside of those, though, forgiveness shouldn’t be too hard, right? You may need some time away to gather your thoughts (for short periods; preferably not stretching into days and beyond). You should be able to bring yourself to forgive this person if they’re genuinely repentant for what they did, just as God and probably countless other people have forgiven you.

If you look at it this way and allow God to help you when you’re struggling a bit, then I find forgiveness to be a pretty simple thing to grasp.

Let’s crack open the Bible and look at some verses on the topic. Ephesians 4:31-32 has a command for us: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” There it is, right there! God forgave us, so we shouldn’t be stingy with our own forgiveness, even if it means forgiving the same person multiple times.

Matthew 18:22 shows us that when asked if there was a limit to how many times we should forgive the same person (seven times?), Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This wasn’t to say that the 78th time we need to forgive someone it’s okay if we don’t! Jesus was trying to get the point across that you should forgive so many times that you lose count, then keep forgiving past that.

But wait… Do you notice something in those verses that contradicts my notion of forgiveness? I’ll give you a hint: here are the verses from Ephesians rewritten to fit my earlier formula. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. But you only have to do this if the person that you’re forgiving is sorry about what they did.”

People won’t always be sorry. And even if they are sorry, they might not always make that known. Some people might not even realize they’ve done anything to hurt you. We still need to forgive.

The second and third situations are pretty simple to resolve. If this is a serious issue, bring it up with them. Don’t attack them for what they did, but get to a point where you’re able to keep yourself collected and talk to them about it. Explain how you were hurt by what they did, and they’ll probably apologize. I realize this is easier said than done for some of us (like me), but it’s not as difficult as forgiving someone who’s not apologetic. Not by a long shot.

Here’s my advice: Pray. Not for them to realize their own error, but for you to be able to forgive them regardless of whether or not they feel guilty about what they did. If they did do something wrong, it’s their issue. Your only concern should be letting go of all of the negative feelings you hold toward them.

It’s hard to do this on our own. Sometimes it’s hard even when they do ask for forgiveness, so really the only thing to do here is let God help you (which is really a good plan for everything in life). Letting go of anger will let you be happier and feel free. And, most importantly, it’s what God wants you to do.

Again, it will be tough. But it will also be worth it.

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