"Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you."
- Ephesians 4:32 MSG
Of all the verses in the Bible that talk about forgiveness, I think the one that convicts me the most is Ephesians 4:32 (MSG): "Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you." The fact that Christians have been forgiven for all of their sins through the blood of Christ should be enough reason for us to forgive those who hurt or offend us. But what does it mean to walk in the kind of forgiveness the Bible calls us to? It means to surrender three things.
First, we must give up a general feeling of resentment. This toxic attitude is often called "free-floating hostility." It's a "mad at the world" mindset that causes someone to take his frustrations out on the people around him--even those who have nothing to do with the circumstance or event that stirred up the resentment in the first place. People like this are not very pleasant to be around. They tend to be very negative and angry. And they are quick to criticize others, even for the most minor infraction. But this is not God's way. Jesus told His disciples: "Be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]. Judge not...and you will not be judged; do not condemn...and you will not be condemned; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released." (Luke 6:36-37 AMP) In other words, when we are hard on people, instead of being merciful toward them, our hardness will most likely have a "boomerang" effect, and come back to haunt us somewhere down the line. (v. 37 MSG) On the other hand, when we plant seeds of mercy everywhere we go, we will eventually reap a harvest of mercy when we need it most. The Message Bible sums it up this way, "Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier."
Secondly, walking in forgiveness means that we must give up our hostility toward a particular individual. In Mark 11, where Jesus teaches on mountain-moving prayer, He says: "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." (v. 25 AMP) If we are holding a grudge against someone, the Master says that we must "let it go," if we want our prayers to get ready answers. Holding unforgiveness in our hearts stifles our fellowship with the Lord. I decided a long time ago that it's simply not worth being resentful toward anyone, because my prayers and my relationship with God are just too important to me. When you make the same decision, you will see the Lord moving mountains on your behalf when you pray.
Thirdly, we must give up the idea of retaliation. The apostle Peter describes exactly how we should respond when we are hurt or offended: "Never return evil for evil or insult for insult…but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection…]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God--that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection]." (1 Peter 3:9 AMP) If these sound like impossible demands, remember that God would never ask us to do something that we were not able to do in the power of His Spirit. Our part is to make the decision to forgive, and God’s part is to supply us with the power to do so. As we obey, we will reap the “blessing, welfare, happiness and protection” that Scripture promises. Who is God calling YOU to forgive today?
Prayer: Lord, teach me the right way to forgive. Cleanse me of all bitterness, resentment, and strife, and give me a heart like Yours that forgives "quickly and thoroughly." (Ephesians 4:32 MSG) Thank You that as I sow seeds of love, kindness, and mercy, I will make an eternal impact on a watching world!
- J. M. Farro