I recently had an encounter with a former acquaintance. I wasn’t quite sure how the interaction would play out since we didn’t exactly end on the best of terms. I was pleasantly surprised because the meeting went better than expected! We talked about current events in our lives, we even discussed a few of the misunderstandings we had between us. As we chatted, I realized the fierce anger I once held in my heart towards this person had cooled.
When people wrong us, we naturally want justice. It’s in us to want people to pay for their misdeeds, we want them to hurt and suffer the same pain we believe they have inflicted upon us. Think of unforgiveness as a brick wall, and the longer we hold on to it we add another layer of brick to it day by day, year by year until are our hearts have become encapsulated by stones.
The truth is we are more like God when we forgive others. Also, harboring anger in our hearts towards another individual robs us of the creative energy, joy and peace that our Savior died for us to experience in our everyday lives.
Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting the offence, nor does it diminish the severity of the offence. Rather, forgiveness is acknowledging that we are fully aware that we too have fallen short of perfection, and it fully acknowledges that only God has the power to fully administer justice. Forgiveness may not always be easy, but it is ALWAYS necessary. More simply, we forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven.
Now, once an offence has been forgiven, it is our responsibility to set up proper boundaries and expectations by clearly articulating to others what behaviors we will and will not tolerate. After all Jesus said to his Disciples “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:6 NIV). After extending the forgiveness we are commanded to be alert, prudent and astute in our judgement; we are to be careful to not carelessly offend others as well.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the love you have shown to us. For while we were still unworthy sinners you sent your only Begotten son to bear in his body the penalty of our sins. Jesus, we are so thankful that you bore the penalties of our sin in our place, so that we through you can stand in the presence of Our Holy Father fully forgiven. Holy Spirt, please reveal to me any hidden malice, or unforgiveness I may still have in my heart towards others. Help me to fully forgive them, just as you have fully forgiven me. Give me your love for them, teach me how to be more like you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
With the aid of the Holy Spirit, list the names of the people you may have not fully forgiven. Write a letter to God about each one. Tell God how they hurt you, and then think about how you have grown past the hurt. Afterwards, pray for them and then pray for yourself. For this exercise I want you to write them on separate sheets of paper as there will be no space given in this section. After you have written the letters and prayed over them, then destroy the letter. This will serve as a physical manifestation and demonstration of your ridding yourself of the offence. Do this as often as you need to.