or lack of it – who does it really hurt?
I was sitting in Sunday School the other week the subject of forgiveness came up. Someone said, “When you don’t forgive someone, it doesn’t hurt them, it really hurts you” and it stuck with me. If you have faith in God when praying and forgive others, then your life will be fruitful and full. There are various references in the Bible about forgiving others. Here are just a few:
“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent’, you must forgive them.”
Even from the cross, as we approach Easter, Jesus forgave those who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) This is the perfect picture of forgiveness that anyone can give!
OK, so I know you’re thinking “yeah, but He’s GOD”. And that is so true. He came here to show us how to live, how we should treat each other, how we should worship Him, and how we should pray. In the Lord’s Prayer, when His disciples had asked Jesus how they should pray, He told them “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” It is important for us to forgive others.
This reminds me of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Peter had asked Jesus “how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Then He told him this parable (paraphrased):
The master brought the servant in and was going to throw him in jail for not paying a debt he owed him. The man pleaded with the master and the master decided to forgive his debt and let him go. But, what did the man do? He then turned around and found one that owed HIM and demanded he repay the debt he owed him. Not being able to pay, he had the man thrown in jail. The master, after hearing about this, called the servant back in and confronted him. He had forgiven him, but the man did not do likewise to the one that owed him. Therefore, the master threw him in jail.
This is the picture that Jesus wants us to see in our relationship to God and our relationship to others. In this story, God is the Master and we are the servants he forgives. But, if we do not forgive others in the same way, as he gave us His example, he will not forgive us our sins. We are to follow His example and forgive others. The last verse of the passage (35) says, “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Getting back to my original thought, I think about people that have hurt me in my life. If I really think about the incident, in many of the situations, I would be willing to bet that the other person either doesn’t even realize how much they hurt me or doesn’t really care. Either way, the one whose life it is affecting by not forgiving and letting it go is ME. I’m sure they did not spend hours agonizing over the situation like I did. I’m sure they didn’t lose sleep over it either, like I did.
I know that God has a plan for my life and He sometimes uses life lessons to change my attitudes or the direction of my life to follow His path. In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I look back on some of the difficult times in my life and many times I can see how that instance changed the direction of my life an brought me to where I am today. I have to learn to trust God that He knows what is best for me and will guide me on the path He has planned for me. If I can forgive others, the burden is lifted off my shoulders and my life is much happier and peaceful because of it.
I hope that you can do the same with your life – reflect on those bumps in the road and if you look hard enough, you will probably see God’s fingerprints on it.