Forgiveness - How to do it

People who hurt us in the past or wronged us cause a bitter root to grow like a weed and it can rapidly consume us.  The emotions from past hurt and abuse can cause anger, bitterness, rage, and a desire for revenge.  Cutting weeds in the natural is only a temporary fix, you have to dig out the root to make the weeds stop growing or coming back.  Get to the root of the pain to heal the wound.

Forgiveness is supernatural.  Not something we can do in our own strength. We are called to love our enemies, but naturally we want justice and revenge.  The Holy Spirit can help us choose to forgive even if the desire or feeling to forgive is not there.  We can still remove the “toxic” person from our lives and not put up with their bad behavior. Forgiving them does not make it okay to continue to get hurt by them. Forgiving them and loving them with Christ’s love does not mean we have to be friends with them again.  Forgiving them gives you the power instead of letting the pain of unforgiveness take over you.

Jesus taught about taking revenge in Matthew 5:38-41, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.

He continues with an even harder challenge:

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

How can Jesus ask us to be “perfect”? Sounds impossible, right?!

 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

If we look at more of Chapter 6, we will see he says this right after teaching the disciples how to pray.

“Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation but rescue us from the evil one.  If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The good news comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 that says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”

We are a new creation in Christ when we believe and are baptized. He wants His children to help bring more people into relationship with Him.  We were enemies of God at one time. We needed our sins to be forgiven. When we forgive and accept forgiveness, we are made clean and new in Christ.  We have the responsibility and the privilege to lead others to freedom and forgiveness through faith in Christ.  Bitterness and unforgiveness in our lives would hinder the mission we are called to do as ambassadors of reconciliation for Christ.

We Are God’s Ambassadors (also in 2 Corinthians 5:11, 14-15, 18-21)

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too…. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us.  Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

Isn’t this powerful! Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Below is a section from my chapter on forgiveness in a workbook I wrote for teens dealing with their parents’ divorce.

 “Ask the Holy Spirit to help you by bringing people to your mind and make a list the names of people you need to forgive.  Write “myself” at the bottom of your list if you need to forgive yourself. 

Also write down, “thoughts against God” on your list.  Obviously, God has never done anything wrong, so He doesn’t need our forgiveness, but we need to let go of our disappointments with our Heavenly Father.  Maybe you prayed for your parents not to get divorced and God didn’t answer your prayer. People hold on to angry thoughts because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. Those feelings of anger or resentment toward God need to be released. 

Sometimes we need to forgive others, sometimes ourselves, and sometimes even God because we blame Him for our circumstances. Write a letter that may or may not be given to anyone. Then tear it up and throw it away.  When you get your feelings out, pray these prayers out loud and let Him heal your heart and set you free from all bitterness and anger.

Dear Heavenly Father, I choose to forgive ____________ for_____________, because it made me feel _____________.

After you have forgiven that person for every painful memory, then pray as follows. 

Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I choose not to hold any of these things against ________ any longer. I thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness toward __________. I ask you to heal my damaged emotions. I now ask you to bless ___________in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If the word “bitterness” does not fit how you feel about that person, then pick a different word that is a better fit for your circumstances.  One girl I met with replaced it with the word, “sadness” and when she was free from the bondage of sadness over her parents’ divorce, a huge weight lifted off her shoulders and her face lit up with a smile I had never seen before.”

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