For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6.14-15, NIV).
If You Want What God Offers, Do What He Asks
If we were honest with ourselves, we might admit that there are some Scriptures we wish the Bible didn’t include. For instance, you might think of the depictions of violence or severe commands God gave the people of Israel as they pursued holiness and a relationship with Him.
Your mind may not, initially, gravitate toward the hard things Jesus asks you to do each day that may not naturally appeal to you—at least not in the way He commands us to do it. One of those commands is the act of forgiveness.
If we look closely at His words, Jesus lays down some conditions for the forgiveness we receive from God. Deep down, we know these guidelines are right. Still, we may have a hard time not rationalizing them away.
Take a look at what Scripture tells us about the who, how, and what of forgiveness. With that in mind, take inventory and look closely at the condition of your heart.
Guidelines for Forgiveness:
What You Have to Do
1. Offer forgiveness no matter the sin. This step in the process can be especially tricky when there are issues of abuse, betrayal, or many other terrible things that may have happened to you. The hard truth is that Jesus doesn’t exclude those things from the list.
2. Offer forgiveness to everyone involved in the sin. Some people may be easier to forgive, especially if they ask for it. Sorry, that’s not one of the prerequisites either. In fact, it’s entirely possible that the ones who offended you will not ask for a reprieve, ever.
3. Completely forgive everyone for every sin. The temptation may be to levy forgiveness for part of an offense, but not all of it. Or, you may think you have forgiven someone, only to find out that you’ve taken back your anger later on. If this is the case, you’ve got more work to do.
What You Don’t Have to Do
Though Jesus is pretty clear about who, how, and for what you have to offer forgiveness, there are some things you don’t have to do. You don’t need to stand by while blatant sin continues. If you are in a situation that’s unsafe or illegal, you’ll need to offer forgiveness, but you don’t have to stay—get help.
You don’t have to give one more chance. Don’t misread that—at MDI our whole aim is to save marriages. But if you’ve been subject to heartache for years without seeing any repentance or change, or if you ask your spouse to make an effort at a resolution and they have no desire to do so, you don’t have to keep subjecting yourself to that pain.
Finally, don’t put yourself in the positions you have in the past when someone wronged you. Don’t enable that person to hurt you. Don’t settle for less than what God wants to alleviate your fear or bolster a damaged self-image. So many things are out of your control, but you can make good choices.
Forgiveness can be an incredibly challenging act. However, Jesus makes it evident it’s an essential part of every relationship you’ll ever have in this life. It’s time to do a fearless survey of the landscape of your life and ensure you’ve let go of the hurts so that nothing holds you back.