July 17, 2012

by Peter Amsterdam

While forgiving is something that needs to be done for the sake of unity, harmony, and brotherhood, the bottom line is that it’s the means for you to get over the hurt and to move on into the future without the events of your past affecting you negatively. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you are saying they weren’t to blame, or that they weren’t wrong. It’s not exonerating them from their actions. It is, however, an important step in your own healing, and without it you may not heal.

You may have things that you’re angry about, things that people have done to you which were wrong. They may have been hurtful or uncaring, they may have caused hardship in your life, but forgiveness is the way to heal—letting go, giving it to the Lord and leaving it in the past. And while you’re in the process of forgiving others, it’s wise to ask the Lord to forgive you for any hurts that you have caused others, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Something else to consider when someone does something that you feel is not right or hurtful is to recognize that people often act a certain way based on something that is going on in their life that you may be unaware of. Someone may do something that seems very selfish, but it isn’t nearly as bad or selfish as you’re assuming. You don’t know the situation they’re in. You don’t know the thought processes that they’re going through. I’ve done that. I’ve wondered why someone acted a certain way or said something that seemed hurtful, and I’ve thought negatively about them. Then later I found out that they had been really sick, or something major had happened in their life or with their kids, and they were really going through it. They were experiencing difficulty, and due to that, they weren’t at the top of their game. The actions that looked selfish to me may have been exactly the right thing for them to have done in their difficult situation. It’s important to be prayerful, to have compassion, and to understand that each person is like a universe and you don’t always know what’s going on in their universe. So it’s wise to not be judgmental.

I’m sure we all try to do our best, and we try to be loving, and we try to be like the Lord, and we try to not hurt people; but the simple fact is that we’re sinners. That’s the whole point of salvation, and that’s why Jesus came—because no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we don’t want to hurt people, no matter how perfect we want to be, no matter how much we want to live in love, we can’t always, because we are human, we are sinners. There’s no one who could do it all right except Jesus. He’s the only one who ever did it all right, and that’s why He came, because He’s the only one who could.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.[1]

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[2]

You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin.[3]

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.[4]

The Lord has forgiven our sins. We all sin, we sin every day, but we are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Even those who we feel have hurt us or done wrong to us are forgiven by the Lord, and if He has forgiven them, then it makes sense that we should forgive them too. Forgiving others is part of being a Christian. If we want to be Christlike, then we need to forgive those who have wronged us. We all need to forgive, and we all need forgiveness. And I think when you remember the “I need forgiveness” side, it makes it easier to forgive others for the things that they’ve done to you.

If you have deep hurt, and I know that some of you do, today is a good day to let it go. Today is a good day to forgive. Today is also a good day to ask for forgiveness. I’m sure none of us want others to be thinking back on things we’ve done or said that have hurt them. I’m sure you hope they have forgiven you. And if you want that, then it stands to reason that the person who may have done something similar to you wants the same thing. They want forgiveness, just as you do. The biblical principle is that if you want forgiveness, you need to forgive others.

It’s sometimes hard to forgive when someone’s actions have made things difficult for you on the longer term. I have heard people say, “Some things just aren’t fair. There are people who have done things that benefited themselves at my expense. Now they are in a good situation and I am struggling.” Sadly, this may very well be true. There are situations where it looks like everything is so good for the one who has wronged you, and it’s so bad for you. You may have tried to follow the Lord closely, or you tried to be loving and do the right thing, and you are the one who suffered.

Well, you’re right; it’s not fair right now. But it’s important to understand that God is righteous—He is righteousness. He is also just—He is justice. Justice is in His hands. Righteousness is in His hands. He will work in the lives of those who may have hurt you. Your job is to forgive. Let the Lord be the judge. If something is happening in your life and it doesn’t make any sense, remember it makes sense to God. It comes down to your trust in God. Yes, you may be in a difficult situation. But you don’t see it as God sees it.

We look at everything day by day because we live in time. When something happens to us, that’s our reality. Our focus is on “I lost my job” or “I was going to get a house and somebody else got it.” But remember, God knows the future. He knows the end of the story. He knows what the effects of today’s events will be, even when these events seem very negative to you now. He may know that the bad thing that’s happening to you today will be the thing that brings you to a future opportunity that will make things much better for you. We live in time, and time’s kind of crummy that way, because you actually have to go through your life moment by moment, with no knowledge of what is going to happen ahead. You may be negatively affected by someone else’s sins and might suffer some present hardship because of it. God may know that in the long run that experience will lead to something good later in your life, but right now you don’t know that. When this happens you can either harbor ill will toward the person, which will make all you’re going through even worse, or you can forgive, put it into the Lord’s hands, and move on by faith, knowing that the Lord is just and loving.

Leave these things in His all-knowing, all-loving hands. Forgive and move on. Let go of the things that bother you about other people, because they just hold you back. Those things keep you anchored to emotional hurts. They keep you anchored to the past, when God wants to move in your life today and in the future.

When you forgive, in a sense you are saying, “Lord, I take all this hurt and what this person did to me, and I put it into Your hands—into Your righteous hands, into Your just hands. I trust that You will work in this person’s life as You see fit, and I will trust that You know what’s best.” You are also saying, “I let it go. I no longer want it to be part of my life. I no longer want this to affect me. I truly forgive this person for what they have done. It’s over. I give it to You.” Then it’s in God’s hands and you leave it there. Once you’ve given it to the Lord, He can begin to heal the hurt in your heart and make things right for you, even if the other person isn’t sorry and everything isn’t perfectly resolved.

You don’t know how the Lord is going to work in someone else’s life, and maybe from your perspective, you’ll never know that He did. But the Lord has His ways. It’s not your concern anymore, it’s God’s. But if you don't let it go, it remains your problem and it affects you negatively. So I ask that you let any hurts go, no matter who hurt you, no matter what they did.

If you have somebody you want to forgive, please, as we pray, give that to the Lord. Let it go. Holding on to it won’t do you any good spiritually, and it will continue to hurt you throughout your life. It will also hurt the unity of the body.

I think it would also be good if each of us would take a little time of private prayer to ask the Lord to forgive us for the things that we’ve done to others, because we have all done something. We need to both forgive and to ask forgiveness.

(Prayer:) Lord, we all know that we are sinners in need of You and Your forgiveness. We know that we’ve hurt others and need their forgiveness. We also need to forgive those who have hurt us, who have sinned against us. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There’s none righteous, no, not one.

Things have happened to each of us that have hurt us, and that we have to forgive people for. It can seem so unfair that somebody has done something to us that has affected our life so much, and then they just go on and their life continues and perhaps they even prosper. It looks like everything is going well for them. It looks like they’re being blessed—and we’re not. And that’s just so hard to understand. That just seems so unfair. But Jesus, You are God. You are just. You are righteous. It may not seem fair, it may not even be fair right now, but You see the long term. You know what’s ahead in life. You know what needs to be done in their life, in each of our lives. So we’re just going to have to trust You and Your righteousness and Your justice and Your love and Your mercy.

Those people who hurt us are also Your children and they need Your love and Your forgiveness. They need Your grace. And maybe in some cases they also need Your justice, but that’s up to You. They are in Your hands. So we pray that You will help us to put them into Your hands and to trust You, that You will work in their lives in the way that will bring them to an understanding or to learn whatever it is that they need to learn.

Lord, we give those things to You. We pray that You help us to forgive, and we pray that You help us to be forgiven, and that You forgive us for the hurts that we’ve caused.

We ask for Your blessing as we take communion; we ask that You heal physically any of those who need healing, and that You heal spiritually, mentally, and emotionally any who need healing in these areas, as they partake.

While we are partaking of Your body and Your blood, we also pray for Your Spirit to fill each of us, as it did when Your disciples were together on the Day of Pentecost and Your Spirit fell so strongly on everyone—that infilling of You that brought forth fruit; that brought forth witnessing fruit, mission fruit.

Help each of us to walk in Your light and shine Your light on others. Help each of us to love You, to live You, to preach You, to teach You in the way that we can, in the way that You show us. We pray that You will take away any condemnation or feelings of failure, or feelings of discouragement or lack of faith. Help each one to trust You, to know that You love them, that even if things aren’t going exactly as they would want them, You’re there. Your hand is on their life, and they are not alone. You are there with them, and You will always be there. You will never leave nor forsake them, because You love them. None of us have to earn Your love, Jesus. You just love us because You love us, because we are who we are—Your creation.

Help us to accept Your love, to realize that we don't have to earn it; we already have it. And help us, in that knowledge, to feel free to do what You show us to do, to move with the wind of Your Spirit wherever You lead us. We pray that You lead us to places where we can help others, where we can bring them to You, because that is the call and the commission to us who are disciples. So help us to do that, Lord. Help us to follow You, to follow Your Spirit, to let Your Spirit dwell within us and shine through us, so that our lives can be such that others see You in us and glorify You.

Help us to know that You love us, that You forgive us. Help us to love one another and forgive one another, in Jesus’ name.

For more on the topic of forgiveness, please see the following series of articles, also on Directors’ Corner:

A Scary Thought

The Other Side of the Equation

Forgiveness and Salvation

[1] 1 Timothy 1:15 ESV.

[2] Romans 5:7–8 ESV.

[3] 1 John 3:5 ESV.

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB.