In today’s world, there is so much conflict. We have division everywhere, and it’s amplified on social media. Our culture seems to believe in the adage, “Don’t get mad, get even.” In this uptight society, the exaltation of vengeance and violence is everywhere you look. It feels like payback is the answer, not forgiveness.
Lest we forget, Jesus asked us to forgive—and to forgive without a motive or an expectation. It feels easy to come to God and say, “Please forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against You.” And just like that, we are forgiven. Jesus doesn’t hold grudges; I don’t think we can either.
However, forgiving someone who has hurt us can be difficult. Usually, many things lead to a situation where forgiveness is needed. It could be a friend, a family member, a colleague or even someone who has just dented our car in the parking lot. But we need to go to the people who have injured us and extend forgiveness. And we need to ask for forgiveness when we are at fault.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us a great example of this: “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT). Forgiven people should be forgiving people. C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Isn’t that the truth?
I can think of times in my own life when I needed to forgive someone who had hurt me. Sometimes it is much more complex than it seems. I didn’t have the most stable childhood in the world. My mom had a little bit of a wild life, and I became a casualty of this. I wished that I could have been in a regular home with a mom and dad who did ordinary things, but it just wasn’t going to be like that.
Over the years, I’ve forgiven my mom, and while it didn’t make an impact on how things were during my growing up years, it helped me put my past behind me. The Apostle Paul said we are to forget “what lies behind” (Philippians 3:13). Doing this has helped me build the kind of life I have now with my wife, Cathe, and our children and grandchildren.
I want you to know something. Forgiveness is not just suggested in Scripture. God Himself commands it. I don’t know about you, but I am not the kind of person who naturally wants to forgive. To be blunt, I am the kind of person who wants to hit back. That is my nature. I don’t defend it, but I recognize it as a sinful aspect of who I am.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior, or dismissing it. It may not even mean reconciliation because that’s not always possible. I’ve said before that “to forgive means I’m surrendering my right to get even.” It means not paying others what they deserve and instead putting the matter in the hands of God. It’s not giving in to that person; it’s getting free from that person.
We’ve been to the moon and back, yet we have problems crossing the street to show forgiveness to a neighbor who may have parked their car too close to our driveway. It’s time to bury the hatchet—and not in the other person’s back! Forgive and forget.
In many ways, forgiveness is the key to all healthy, strong and lasting relationships. You had better learn how to forgive because conflict inevitably will come. Husbands will offend their wives, and wives will offend their husbands. Parents will offend their children. Children will offend their parents. Family members will offend one another. Friends will hurt friends. Co-workers will hurt each other. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it isn’t. But because we are human, we are going to hurt others and be hurt by others. Therefore, we must learn to forgive.
Many articles have been published about the health benefits of forgiveness, including one in Time magazine titled “Should All Be Forgiven?” The article states that “scientists and sociologists have begun to extract forgiveness and the act of forgiving from the confines of the confessional, transforming it into the subject of quantifiable research.” The writer went on to say, “A number of psychotherapists are testifying that there is nothing like it for dissipating anger, mending marriages and banishing depression.”
The world is finally coming around to see the value of what God has been saying all along. It is good to forgive. It is good for you physically. It is necessary for you spiritually. If you are indeed a child of God, it is not optional. You must forgive.
Billy Graham spoke about the topic: “Forgiveness does not come easily to us, especially when someone we have trusted betrays our trust. And yet, if we don’t learn to forgive, we will discover that we can never really rebuild trust. … When God forgives us and purifies us of our sin, He also forgets it. Forgiveness results in God dropping the charges against us. … Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful words in the human vocabulary. How much pain and unhappy consequences could be avoided if we all learned the meaning of this word.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 states: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
We have all been involved in situations where we have done wrong and desired forgiveness. Oddly enough, once we have received God’s forgiveness, it may just be that the person we most need forgiveness from is ourselves.
Forgiveness is good for you; it is what Jesus wants us to do. ©2022 Greg Laurie
Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. The Scripture quotation marked NLT is taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.
Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, with campuses in California and Hawaii. He began his pastoral ministry at age 19 by leading a Bible study of 30 people. He is the author of such books as “Jesus Revolution” and his latest, “Billy Graham: The Man I Knew.”
Photo: Vitaly Manzuk