For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14-15 (AMP)
In my previous discussion on offenses, I made the statement that we could not discuss offenses without including forgiveness. Although I know firsthand the devastation that offenses can wreak, I also know that the only way to be released from the pain is to forgive. Likewise, I am aware that it is difficult to forgive and let go when you are hurting and when you are angry. It is difficult to be around someone who has offended you, and it is difficult to be a blessing to someone who has offended you. This is why we have to forgive by faith. Forgiveness is the key that breaks the cycle of offense.
I believe that a lack of understanding prevents us from forgiving. If there is no understanding, there is usually no action which results in unforgiveness remaining in our hearts. If we understood the benefits of forgiving and also understood how to forgive, we would be willing not only to forgive but to forgive swiftly.
Forgiveness is by faith not by feelings. We forgive because Jesus said to forgive. We forgive because we have been forgiven. “Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].” Colossians 3:13 (AMP). There is a battle because the enemy doesn’t want us to forgive, so he will keep rehearsing the offense in our thoughts, or he may keep bringing the offender in our presence as a reminder of the offense. When this occurs, we should pray. Praying silences the negative thoughts and helps to purge our conscience of the offense.
Forgiveness is for our benefit not the offender. Forgiveness frees us and ensures that our blessings flow. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.” Mark 11:25 (AMP). Regardless, if we receive an apology or not, we must forgive. We have to forgive without expectation from the offender. We have to forgive without expectation of punishment – I know we want God to “get” them, but that is not forgiveness. Jesus said to bless those that persecute you (Matthew 5:44). The best way to bless them is to pray for them – not one of those self-serving prayers where we tell God what we think is wrong with them and how He should fix them – but a genuine, sincere, simple prayer asking God to bless them because only He knows what they truly need.
Forgiveness does not mean that we ignore the lesson learned by the offense. Forgive and proceed with caution. Additionally, forgiveness looks different in various situations. Sometimes we can forgive and carry on as though nothing has happened. Other times, we may forgive but the relationship is irreconcilable. You do what is best for you. The offender does not get to say how your forgiveness should look. That is your decision.
In the context of the scriptures found in Luke 17:1-6, Jesus taught on offenses, forgiveness and faith. He warned us of offending; He taught us that if we are offended, we are to forgive over and over and over again; and He taught us to do this by faith. He also taught us that it only takes a small amount of faith to forgive and remove the offenses in our lives.
How do you know if you have truly forgiven? We will discuss that next time.