Forgiveness: The most radical choice

Of the many parts of life we cannot escape, being hurt at the hands of another person is especially painful. The reality of inviting other people into our lives is that we will get hurt and we will hurt others. 

We will be selfish. We will not always agree. We will have loose tongues and careless words. We can even be deeply damaged by strangers. Sadly, our lives can be wrecked by the actions of others. 

It is easy to turn our backs on painful seasons and never address the other person or the hurt, but this will leave us trapped. The Lord wants us to grow. He wants us to thrive. And because He wants the best for us, He asks us to forgive.

Locking Ourselves in Prison

Forgiveness is canceling a debt; it is starting clean. When debts are canceled, we say they have been forgiven, meaning freedom from any further payments. When we do not forgive others for wrongs committed against us, we place ourselves in our own prison of hurt, demanding payment — justice — before we move on. In doing so, we are limiting our ability to be free and to continue to grow.

When we do not forgive others for wrongs committed against us, we place ourselves in our own prison of hurt, demanding payment — justice — before we move on. 

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

The best way to get rid of bitterness, rage, and anger? Be kind and compassionate. Forgive as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison of resentment.

But What About...

There is deep, deep hurt in the world. There are egregious crimes and life-altering abuses rendered from the sinful actions of others. Some people have been so deeply injured that forgiveness seems far-fetched and unfair. How could we ever forgive someone who has painfully changed the course of a life?

Scripture describes these wrongs as evil. Evil is the driving force behind abuse — in whatever form the abuse takes. Fortunately, we do not have to beat back evil alone.

Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

The Lord sees our indescribable hurt. He knows the evil committed against us. It is His to avenge and repay. And in His complete power and sovereignty, He can combat evil more fully than we can. We can trust a good Father who stands up for His kids.

Our hearts will not be healed by meeting evil with evil. We do whatever we can to live in peace. If your life is in imminent danger, do what is needed to be safe, then work on the long-term challenge of healing. Forgiveness is the ultimate way the Lord brings restoration to our lives.

Forgiveness is not easy. Many times, forgiveness is one of the hardest choices in our lives.

Forgiveness Is a Choice 

Forgiveness is a choice. Rather than originating with our shifting emotions, our decision to forgive reflects trust that what God wants is best for us. We will not always feel like forgiving someone who has hurt us, especially if the hurt is deep and lasting.

Choosing to forgive, even though we have been deeply hurt, is an uncommon way to live and a clear representation of the Gospel. 

Choosing to forgive, even though we have been deeply hurt, is an uncommon way to live and a clear representation of the Gospel. When we choose to forgive, familiar feelings of anger and hurt will often bubble up to the surface. Because this is true, forgiveness is a choice that will need to be made as often as our emotions shift. Forgiveness does not negate hurt. It is not blocking a memory or stuffing down pain. It is not forgetting. It is not saying that the person’s actions against you were OK. Just because we forgive someone does not mean we were unaffected by their actions.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Choosing to forgive, even though we have been deeply hurt, is a radical way to live and a clear representation of the Gospel. Forgiveness draws the world’s attention to the difference in our lives that could only come from a healed heart through the saving work of Jesus. Forgiving others is a way to model what has been done for us through Jesus.

We have been forgiven much. We grow as we do likewise.

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