Freedom in Forgiveness

cheering woman open arms at sunrise beach
For a long time I practiced “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” I became a master at holding a grudge. But holding onto my grudge was destructive.

In middle school, a friend of mine decided she didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I can’t quite explain what that felt like to have that happen at such an impressionable age. That was the first real friendship I lost. I was hurt and confused. Over time, I let my hurt grow into bitterness.

The correct response would have been for me to forgive my old friend, but it was difficult for me to do. For a long time I practiced “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” I became a master at holding a grudge against this person. I held onto my grudge with a tight grip. But holding onto my grudge was destructive. Eventually I found, truly forgiving her was the only thing that would bring me freedom.

I often question why it is difficult for me to forgive others when Christ has forgiven me of my sins. Ultimately, I believe when I struggle to forgive others, it comes down to a heart issue.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells Peter the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive a brother that sins against him. Peter’s initial guess is seven times. However, Jesus challenges Peter by saying, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, Jesus wants us to always forgive others without limitation. Jesus ends the parable by saying that if we fail to forgive others, then God will treat us like the master treated the unforgiving servant in verses 34-35.

This concept of relentless forgiveness seems foreign in our American culture. I can’t count the number of movies I have seen that glamorize and condone revenge. However, revenge is opposite to what the Bible teaches. Rather, the Bible tells us that we are not to take revenge against others, because vengeance is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19). Because vengeance is the Lord’s, I believe as followers of Christ we must also forgive those who haven’t asked us for forgiveness.

When I am hurt by someone else, I find that the best way to heal is to forgive them. Many times I think I can brush off things that bother me, but there are rare times when I can’t. When I find that I am really struggling to forgive a person, I realize that I can’t just “let it go.” Instead, I have to address my stubborn heart by praying and reading God’s Word. And trust me: When I am upset, that’s the last thing I want to do. Fortunately, God uses time with Him to soften my heart and remind me that He has shown me the greatest form of forgiveness, so it is imperative that I forgive others.

What is really beautiful about God’s forgiveness is painted in Psalm 103:10-12, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” God shows no bitterness toward us when we repent. He wipes us clean. He doesn’t require us to make sacrifices for our sins, because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-14). He simply forgives.

If you are hurting today from past scars and struggling to forgive those who have wronged you, take it to God. He is the only One who can truly heal our wounds and change our hearts (Psalm 147:3).

Who do you need to forgive today? Or perhaps, who do you need to ask for forgiveness?

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