As Jesus continues to teach His disciples how to be Kingdom followers, He broaches the subject of forgiveness. He tells His disciples that offenses will come. It’s inevitable that we will be offended and that we will offend. After all, we live in a fallen sinful world. We expect that we will sin and fall into traps of many kinds; we will also be sinned against and offended by others. These affronts can come in many forms.
We can hurt or be hurt by the words or actions of a trusted friend or relative.
We can tempt others, or others can tempt us to fall into sin.
Those who pretend to care for us may set traps that cause us to fall. Or we are the ones who park a plank where others can trip.
Maybe a family member keeps falling into sin wreaking havoc on the family. You might be the one who keeps sinning creating all kinds of trouble for those who love you.
There are more we can add to this list. As a matter of fact, I want you to add to this list. I want you to think of that one area where the sins of others have hurt you. Who is that person that has been inflicting trouble in your life? Over and over and over?
You are discouraged. You can’t imagine forgiveness at this point in your relationship. You are so irritated right now with this person who has hurt you; you want nothing to do with them. When this person comes to you and says they are sorry, your thought is “Yeah, right? I don’t believe you.” You might be thinking, “You don’t deserve forgiveness. I don’t feel like giving it to you!” “Just go away and don’t bother me anymore,” might be your deepest desire.
You are not alone. The disciples obviously faced the same struggle. And indeed it was a struggle! For they exclaimed, “Increase our faith” after Jesus told them “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17::3).
You might think, it’s going to take a lot of love to forgive this person who has hurt me and cause such mayhem in my life. But I tell you, it won’t only take love to do this. Love certainly plays its part, but love alone will not help you forgive time and time again. It’s going to take faith. Notice that an increase in love was not what the disciples asked Jesus for; it was an increase in faith.
Warren Wiersbe explains why this is so, “Love motivates us to forgive, but faith activates that forgiveness so that God can use it to work blessings in the lives of his people.” He also goes on to say, “Forgiveness is a test of both our faith and our love.”
It takes so much more than love to forgive others who have hurt us countless times. But like I said earlier, love plays its part. Faith and love do work together.
Where faith hopes for what’s unseen, love refuses to keep a record of wrongs.
Where faith believes that God can change the person, love is patient and endures until that change happens.
Faith is confident that God can do the impossible, whereas love rejoices in this truth.
There are people in our life that are impossible to forgive, or who we doubt will ever change. But with God, all things are possible. Their change is not dependent on our abilities to forgive; it is our faith in God’s abilities that will work through our forgiveness that can make the difference.
I encourage you with two ways that can help you when forgiveness is hard:
1.) Never forget that God forgives you. His forgiveness of your sins was/is undeserved. Where much is given, much is required. You must never forget how you have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
George Hebert writes about the consequences of not forgiving others, “He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he must pass.”
This quote is so similar to the very words of Jesus, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
To not forget our misgivings keeps us humble, and this humility makes it easier to pardon others for their wrongdoings.
2.) Pray for those who hurt you. We see a running theme that comes from our Savior, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Again we see Jesus challenging us, “you must forgive more than seven times. You must forgive even if wronged seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).
Additionally, confession and prayer are powerful; “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).
When we sin, confess it; when sinned against, pray for the offender. Our confessions and our prayers bring healing. It’s amazing how cleansing both confession and prayer can be in the life of our relationships!
Our sinful nature places limits on forgiveness. We won’t allow ourselves to cross over those limits if the offense of others is too painful or what we deem is unforgivable. But Jesus calls us to greater faith. He calls us to be Kingdom followers. To be His followers, we must die to our rights and follow Him. Our forgiveness must be without borders. It must go beyond our ability to forgive and allow faith to take us further.
By now you have a person in mind that needs your forgiveness. Who is it? If you are ready to be that Kingdom follower Jesus is asking you to be, pray the following prayer and keep watch for the healing that will come.
Lord, Increase my faith so that your power can work in the life of [name the person] who has hurt me; also work in my heart. Help me to love them with your love and forgive them as you forgive me. Help me, Lord, for this is hard. Give me the awareness of your presence and power in the life of the one I’m choosing to forgive. Give me hope. Show me how to walk in your steps and reject the sinful path I would rather choose. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.