Forgiveness – The Sin of Holding Hurts
Forgiveness is an eleven letter word that sometimes makes me take a really deep breath and other times fills me with anxiety. It is a popular subject no matter what your background faith is as Google suggests there are more than one hundred and one million articles on how to forgive someone.
The benefits of forgiveness heraldsÂ through the medical communities and promises many reliefs. The reliefs from stress, anxiety, heart, and blood pressure problems are just a named few. It isn’t as easy though as just declaring the word, it takes a lot of effort on our part to truly issue forgiveness.
There are times thatÂ forgivenessÂ seems easier than others. The issues of following through with it, moving forward and putting it behind us can be overwhelming. But other times we must admit that we like to indulge in the sin of just holding on toÂ it. We don’t like to admit to holding back from forgiveness in this light but the reality is that when we do not forgive and move on, we are sinning. Sometimes in order to forgive we have to be reminded of this and occasionally we need to look at it from a different perspective.
There is a story told of a Sunday school teacher that had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had made her point. She asked the class, “Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?” There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up. “Sin,” he said. And that is where forgiveness comes into play.
When we look at forgiveness from the perspective of a sinner we quickly realize that we not only want forgiveness of our sins but expect it. When we view ourselves from this angle, then what right do we have to hold on to the hurt that another has caused us. Should we not be as willing to forgive and move on with life as we expect to be forgiven, allowing us to go forward also? General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied, “Then sir, I hope you never sin.”
Our focus verse this week is about forgiveness and the expectationsÂ of us. When we stop and look at how to forgive we must look to the instructions given by Jesus. Loving others like Christ is clearly commandedÂ and in order to do that it requires us to provide forgiveness just as we want forgiveness provided for us. Our text this week suggests that we forgive so many times that we simply do not keep track.
Forgiveness is not an easy task as it requires something from us that can sometimes go against our very nature. It is however not only necessary for our health, it is vital for a Christian to make themselves right with God. Â When we can put ourselves in the place of the one we feel who has wronged us, we will see things from the perspective of Christ. We can’t follow the necessary commandment of loving our enemies if we refuse to recognize that people mess up, people sin, and we are people too.
This week’s scripture tells us that we must continue to forgive others no matter the times they falter and not keep track of other’s transgressions. There is no set amount of times of forgiveness. Jesus makes this clear when he tells Peter that issuing forgiveness is not a numbers game and isn’t a set amount. Forgiveness is a continued thing.
“No, not seven times.” Jesus replied. “But seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:22(NLT)
Dropping the Stone and Moving On
When we hold on to the sin of unforgiveness we poison our souls and the more we hold on to it and focus upon it the worse the poison will spread. An unknown author once wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was You. When we offer forgiveness we release the poison from our body allowing us to move on with our life and not stayed trapped in the past tangle of bitterness, hurt, or anger. The biggest reason however that we must issue forgiveness is that we have been forgiven.
We must recognize how important forgiveness is to our personal lives both spiritually and earthly. We are to do our best to practice forgiveness as instructed by Christ. What a world we would have if everyone simply forgave others and moved on – what peace there would be. We cannot of course control the actions of others but we can find peace in our own little world. Peace is the one thing that we so desperately need in order to move forward with our life even when others may have wronged us. We will find this peace through forgiveness as we lay down the anxiety, hurt, and anger we feel as we will no longer allow certain things or people to have an effect on us. We will be more at peace when we live our life faithfully honoring Christ.
This all sounds so simple but in truth forgiveness is one of the hardness things we do. It is hard to get over past hurts and wrongs, truly applying forgiveness to the people who have caused them. We really do not like to forgive because we want others to take responsibility for what they have done to us. We want some type of retribution and resent having to forgive but the truth is none of us deserve to be forgiven but yet we are. Ephesians 4:32 explains to us why this is necessary.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)
When we offer forgiveness to others we are remembering that we too have been forgiven. We are allowing our trust in God to take over because we know that He will handle things as they should be done. Forgiveness makes no sense and there is no reason to forgive unless we understand that we are a forgiven person. When we forgive we become one step closer to being Christ like.
There are four steps to follow for forgiveness, putting you closer to Christ.
- Make theÂ necessaryÂ decisionÂ to forgive. – This may sound obvious but you must make a conscious decision to forgive someone for the particular hurt they have caused. It is the only way to release the anxiety. To simply put it to the back of your mind is not forgiving, it is ignoring the problem. If you ignore the issue it will only lie dormant until something or someone crosses your path again and then all of the anxiety, hurt, and wrong doing will come flooding to the surface. So you must make the upfront decision to forgive, facing what needs to be forgiven.
- Pray for help with the forgiveness. This is a vital second step because you cannot forgive on your own. You must have the Holy Spirit’s help in order to forgive as you are not strong enough to handle this alone. When Christ is in your life, God promises to give you the power to forgive.
- Understand the difference between sharing your story and telling your story. When you share your past experiences you do so in order to help others overcome their anxieties, hurts, and wrongs. When you tell your story you want others to agree with you and support the idea that you have been greatly wronged. You must be aware of the difference for when you tell your story you are telling others that you have not offered forgiveness. Share to help and tell to hurt.
- Continue to pray for those who have wronged you. You must continue to pray not only for the wrong-doer but pray that God will help you understand why they did what they did. This prayer will help you see and understand things from their point-of-view helping you come to terms with the wrong doing. Â By praying this prayer it will allow you to conquer evil by doing good and not allow evil to conquer you. (Romans 12:21)
As these steps of forgiveness will help you move forward and become closer to Christ they have limitations.Â They will not help you forget and neither will they aid in establishing trust with a person who you feel has wronged you. Christ has not commanded you to forget or to trust. If forgetting becomes your goal you may forget the lessons you learned. Trusting someone who has wronged you is another whole lesson.
The issues of trusting others are best said by author, Rose Sweet, who writes, “A lack of trust is sometimes simply recognizing another’s limitations”. It is important that we practice the givenÂ ability to recognize the limitations of others in order not to allow people to do wrong to us repeatedly. We must remember that forgiveness is not about the past, it is about the future. Philosopher Bernard Metzler once said that when we offer forgiveness we do not in any way change the past but we sure do change our future. With forgiveness we are taking one step closer to Christ and He will meet us there when we do.
So we are duly challenged to lay down our hurt and offer forgiveness to others from our past, present, and soon to be future. We should be motivated to do this because God has forgiven us through Christ. This alone should be a powerful motivator to offer forgiveness. And finally we should be comforted in knowing that by offering forgiveness to others we will be fulfilling a loving commandment of Christ and the rewards for that are too great to mention but the reward found immediately here on earth is the reward of peace.
Are you holding tightly to a stone of resentment that is weighing you down? Follow the steps to forgiveness, drop the stone, and move on to a new life filled with the peace of God.
Love in Christ,
The Stone Exercise; Let Go and Let God:
- Find a nice smooth stone or stones whatever is necessary for the wrongs that you are feeling.
- Write the hurt you have experienced on the stone.
- Hold tightly to the stone(s) in your hand and think about the hurt(s) or wrongdoing(s), facing that which you must forgive.
- Pray to God for help with the forgiveness and the ability to release the hurt(s) remembering the cross as you pray.
- Release the stone dropping it down and letting the weight of it along with the anger and hurt disappear.
- You have now dropped the stone, replacing it consciously with forgiveness, so move on, and let God handle the rest.
What are Your Thoughts? Join Us in Discussion
Do you find it hard to forgive? Do you only issue forgiveness depending on the category of hurt you are feeling? Have you recognized how not forgiving has affected your health, what about your heart? Is unforgiveness controlling your life instead of God? Join us inÂ discussion onÂ forgiveness and the difficulty of issuing it or the beauty of releasing the stone.