Like so many things in life, forgiveness is a difficult process, and sometimes it’s a very long one. Most of us do not find it very easy to let go of those things people have said or done to hurt us. Yet God spends a great deal of time telling us just how important forgiveness is (a quick search on biblegateway.com for the word “forgive” returns 121 results). Without forgiveness, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross means nothing.
In fact, God commands us to forgive others as He has forgiven us: “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” (Matthew 6:14-15). How can we accept God’s forgiveness of our sins if we do not forgive our fellow humans?
Our mission as Christians is not only to follow Christ, but also to imitate him in the way we live. Christ forgives our sins, therefore if we strive to be Christ-like, we must also forgive others.
When someone sins against you in any way—you don’t need me to remind you how many ways people can cause pain—it can be extremely difficult to even begin to work toward forgiveness. So where do we start?
As God is our creator and the author of forgiveness, it makes sense to look to Him for help. Pray. Dig into the scriptures about forgiveness. Seek God’s help at every turn.
Also, you should seek the help of others, those people in your life whose guidance you trust. Sometimes you need an objective person to gain a different perspective and be able to make the choice to forgive.
It takes baby steps. There are times when God will provide immediate healing, but in the majority of cases, it is a process. Forgiveness is something we have to work at, but it starts with one step. Tell God you don’t really feel like it, but you know you need to forgive this person. Being honest with God and wanting to make things right will lead you to the next step. And then another. And another. Until one day you find you no longer hold any harsh feelings against your offender. In fact, you may come to love the person, as God fully desires.
And you will be amazed at the lightness that comes with complete forgiveness. Forgiveness is freedom from the burden of holding a grudge and from the burden of guilt that has been weighing down the other person.
Consider the way author Anne Lamott puts it, “You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”
This post was excerpted from Funny You Should Ask.