BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR FORGIVENESS & RECONCILIATION
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
The word Sovereign means - Possessing supreme power, unlimited wisdom, and absolute authority.
Daniel 4:35, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him ‘What have You done?’”
Psalm 139:1-4, “…You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all.”
Psalm 139:1-18 teaches that God knows each of us intimately. All of our days were fashioned or created by Him. Before you knew God, or accepted Him as Lord and Savior He knew you and predestined all the days of your life. God gave you and others the gift of freewill. He chose you that you might follow Him, and gave you the freedom to reject Him.
God has given mankind freedom to do good and freedom to do evil. Therefore, the reality is that God’s children live in a fallen world and are often touched by the evil around them. If God shielded His children from all evil, allowing only good, the unsaved would only be motivated to turn to Him for the guarantee of an easy life. In fact, this is the very argument that began the historic showdown in heaven between God and Satan in the life of Job.
Satan said to God,
Job 1:9-11, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
God then allowed Satan to bring evil upon Job through the loss of his possessions, his children, and finally his health. God is a loving Father and does not bring evil into our lives, however for His purpose and for our ultimate good, He allows us to be touched by evil. The outcome of Job’s suffering was trust and intimacy with God.
Job did not understand why God was allowing him to suffer (God had declared in Job 2:3 that Job was a righteous man), therefore Job asked God, “Why?” For several chapters Job agonizes over this question, seeking a satisfactory answer. God never answers the question, instead He directs Job’s attention to His power and glory, which is displayed in His creation. Job is satisfied with a newfound understanding of the greatness of God. When we suffer we, like Job, want an explanation. “Why, why, why?” One of the many lessons we learn from Job is that “Why?” is the wrong question. We should instead ask God, “What?”
- What are You trying to teach me?
- What is Your will for me in this season of suffering?
James 1:13,14, “…God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
Job 42:1-6, “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ’I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but not my eye sees You...’”
- This being true, what part of your life is beyond God’s power, wisdom, or authority?
- What day or circumstance has touched you that God did not know beforehand?
Ephesians 1:11, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”
- How should you respond to life’s disappointments, difficulties, suffering, and trials?
We can choose to either harbor bitterness toward parents who disappointed us, a spouse who deserted us, friends who failed us, or a drunk driver who killed a loved-one, or we can place our faith in a sovereign God.
When we come to Christ, we trust Him with our eternal destiny. We must also trust Him with our past and present circumstances. He alone can comfort and strengthen us in and through our trials. He alone can bring good out of bad. Our obedience to God’s Word will give us peace, and bring praise, honor, and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read the following verses and write out in your own words what it is saying to you.
1 Peter 1:3-7, “…In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
TRIALS AND TRIBULATION
GOD’S WORD TEACHES THAT TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS ARE PART OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation’ but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Just as the refiner places the crude gold into the crucible, and administers heat in order to bring the dross to the surface, God places His beloved children in the crucible of suffering in order to refine us, and transform us into the image of our Redeemer.
Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”
If we trust Him our very lives will permeate with the love, hope, and confidence of Jesus Christ. Those around us will see the righteousness of Jesus Christ being worked out in us.
Romans 8:28, 29, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…”
God did not say some things, but all things. The key is faith. If we choose to believe God’s promises and trust Him in all of our trials and tribulations, we will be victorious and God will be glorified in our life.
2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”
- Are you willing to trust God with the pain that others have caused in your life?
- Are you willing to allow God to transform your life through your trials?
“…to those who love God”, means those who have received Him as Lord and trust Him with their past, present, and future; to trust His instructions, His Word, in how to live and deal with life’s trials.
- Are you willing to trust God in how to deal with your hurts and trials in your life?
“There are times, says Jesus, when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but trust Him. God will appear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unnatural Father, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not. Keep the notion of the mind of God behind all things strong and growing. Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it, therefore you can rest in perfect confidence in Him.”
My Utmost for His Highest Oswald Chambers
THE COST OF UNFORGIVENESS
The word forgive means literally, to give away. When a debt is forgiven, the rights to payment are given away. If someone injures me and I forgive them, I give away the freedom to continue being angry and resentful towards the one who wronged me. This includes breaking of the strongholds of many emotional and psychological problems that can stem from these hurts. To trust God and forgive others is giving our hurts to God to take away from us. The word pardon is derived from the Latin word, perdonare, meaning to grant freely. True forgiveness is undeserved, unmerited, and free. It is not just or fair. In the Scriptures, to forget means, to let go from one’s power.
When we refuse to grant forgiveness, choosing rather to maintain our right to demand payment for wrongs done to us, we must be willing to absorb the cost incurred by that choice. Forgiveness is free, however unforgiveness carries with it a costly price tag. Unwillingness to forgive produces many negative consequences for us, the most common one is resentment. Resentment means, to feel again. Resentment clings to the past, reliving it over and over. Resentment, like picking a scab, prohibits our wounds from healing.
Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
- In Hebrews 12:15 we learn that bitterness, like a deep root, takes a firm hold in the human heart, then grows, and produces fruit. However, rather than nourish others, this fruit is bitter, causes trouble, and defiles ourselves and others.
- Most of us do not readily admit that we have been harboring unforgiveness. However, Ephesians 4:31 teaches that there is undeniable evidence in an individual’s life that the bitter tree of resentment is growing within their heart.
Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Wrath – An outburst of a strong, vengeful anger or indignation, seeking retribution.
Anger – A state of mind marked by fretfulness and reacting to life’s challenges with frustration.
Evil speaking – Unkind words, verbal abuse against someone, clamor/slander, wounding someone’s reputation by evil reports, backbiting, insult and defamation.
Malice – Hateful feelings that we nurture in our hearts. A desire to see another suffer and/or to separate ourselves from that person, not wanting to work toward reconciliation.
Ask yourself, “Are any of these common in my life?”
• Pride • Self-righteous • Self-pity • Emotional disturbances • Anxiety, tension & stress • Health problems • Eating Disorders • An unhealthy sense of self-confidence • Lack of trust in relationships • Lack of intimacy in marriage • Sexual Dysfunction • Judgmental & critical of others • Ultra-sensitive & easily offended • Absence of peace & joy • Broken fellowship with Jesus • Afraid to lead as a husband • Afraid to follow as a wife
Besides the before mentioned devastation that results from unforgiveness, we are indebted to forgive because:
GOD COMMANDS IT
Obedience to God the Father is not optional. If we pick and choose when we will and will not obey God’s commands, we will live unfruitful, ineffective, and spiritually barren lives.
Luke 6:35,36, “But love your enemies, and do good…and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying. If you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
IN FORGIVING, WE RESEMBLE JESUS, AND BEAR THE FAMILY LIKENESS
The term Christian means little Christ. As Christians, we are called to carry the name of Christ to a lost world. We must be willing to bear His image; to be like Him. Christ demonstrated forgiveness. He came to this earth to bring forgiveness to the guilty. He gave the commission to the church to continue proclaiming forgiveness. We must, if we are to rightly bear His name, forgive those who have offended us!
Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ ”
1 John 2:6, “…the one who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He
IT IS THE ONLY MEANS OF BREAKING THE CYCLE OF BLAME, PAIN, AND MANY STRONGHOLDS
Forgiveness offers the way out; an antidote to be healed! It does not settle all questions of blame and fairness, often evading those questions altogether. It does allow a relationship to start over, to begin anew, if applicable.
This truth is demonstrated in the life of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-45. Though he was mistreated, betrayed, abandoned by his brothers, and sold into slavery, he refused to allow the root of bitterness to take hold of his life. Shortly before being reunited with his brothers, he testified of the healing work that God had done in his life during the years of separation, as demonstrated in the naming of his sons.
In Genesis 41:51,52 we read:
“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble in all my father’s household.”
“He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction…”
To forget in this sense does not mean to cease to remember, but to let go, to cease to let the hurtful things control your present life. Joseph’s fruitfulness was directly related to his putting his trust in God’s sovereignty and forgiving others. Remember that resentment means to feel again. Joseph chose to trust God with his past.
Unforgiveness imprisons us to the past and locks out all potential for a fruitful life.
During Joseph’s years alone in Egypt, he allowed God to heal his heart, which had been broken by his own brothers. Later, when given the opportunity, Joseph extended love, forgiveness, and grace to his brothers. Joseph speaks to his brothers in Genesis 45:
“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…and to keep you alive by a great deliverance…He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.”
There was no blaming, no explanations demanded, only the voice of mercy and forgiveness. The way was cleared for Joseph and his brothers to be reunited and begin a new relationship.
- Forgiveness loosens the stranglehold of guilt in the offender
Ephesians 2:7 “…in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Joseph’s brothers would have carried their grief to their graves if they did not have an opportunity to ask for forgiveness to Joseph. Forgiveness, undeserved and unearned, can cut the cords and let the oppressive burden of guilt roll away.
If Jesus had not extended kindness and forgiveness to sinners, we would remain in the stranglehold of guilt. He made the first move toward us that made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him.
To reconcile is to restore to friendship or harmony, or to settle or resolve differences. It is the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. Reconciliation implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to and/or separated from one another.
NOTE: there are many cases or situations where reconciliation is not necessary, possible, or even needed. Such as:
- An emotionally or physically abusive parent or ex-spouse.
- A random person that hurt you or a loved one: a rapist, a drunk who hurt or killed a loved one, an old teacher or coach that verbally hurt you, etc.
Reconciliation is to be sought out for family members and other believers in our life. In all of our relationships outside of our immediate family setting, respectful boundaries and maintaining a healthy relationship is important.
Ephesians 4:31,32, “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, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
The Scriptures instruct us to “Let all bitterness… be put away from you… be kind… tenderhearted, forgiving…” It guides us and instructs us in each of these questions.
- How do we put away bitterness?
- How do we reconcile with someone that we have offended?
- How do we repair the hurt we have caused others?
- How do we forgive someone who has offended us?
- How can we change our own feelings about a wrong done?
IF YOU NEED TO BE FORGIVEN
As an act of the will, you must:
1. Confess your sin to God and ask Him to forgive you and, by His Holy Spirit to fill your heart with His love.
Psalm 32:1,3-5, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
- Take a moment right now to cry out to God, asking Him to forgive you and to fill you with His Holy Spirit to strengthen you to obey.
- God alone forgives sins. He forgives and He forgets. By faith, accept God’s absolute forgiveness and cleansing.
“Forgiveness is not an emotion…Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
-Corrie ten Boom
2. If possible, go to those you have wronged, humbly make confession, and ask for their forgiveness.
Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Write out your commitment to obey Matthew 5:23,24.
Write out the names and a brief description of what you are asking forgiveness for.
Six of the most powerful words in the English language,
“I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
If possible, do this face to face. However, due to logistics or possible confrontation, you may have to communicate with the person by telephone or in writing.
Note: Don’t let distractions or other obstacles delay this act of obedience. In our modern society, the telephone system, postal service, emails, and texting can put us in touch with others in a moment or a day or two.
Share your decision with a trustworthy Christian friend, asking them to prayer partner with you and hold you accountable to follow through on your commitment.
Note: If the person you have wronged has passed away, you need simply go to God with your confession.
3. Spend time daily with the Lord in His Word, and in prayer.
One of the many negative consequences of not asking for or giving forgiveness toward others is a hindered relationship with God. Praise the Lord He never leaves us or forsakes us! But our heart is what grows cold and feels separated from God, therefore, affecting our intimacy with Him. I believe this is a consequence God designed within us to motivate us to practice forgiveness in our life.
Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Verbalize your decision to the Lord to spend time with Him daily in prayer, reading of His Word, and meditation.
4. Ponder the meaning of the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for your sins.
Titus 3:3-5, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Take a moment right now and thank Jesus for all that He has done for you, for forgiving you for all of your sins, for His perfect plan of transforming you into His image, and for the gift of His Holy Spirit.
IF YOU NEED TO FORGIVE
1. Pray and ask God for the strength to obey and forgive the person or persons.
Matthew 21:21, “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt…if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”
God promised to give us the strength to move mountains. This may be your Mt. Everest!
“Whenever I see myself before God and realize something of what my blessed Lord has done for me at Calvary, I am ready to forgive anybody anything, I cannot withhold it. I do not even want to withhold it.”
—Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
We know that it is God’s will that we forgive others, so we can be confident that if we ask for this strength, it will be granted.
2. Communicate your forgiveness to the person or persons.
1 John 5:14, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
Romans 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
In Matt 22:36-40 the Lord Jesus told us what is the greatest command from Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Jesus Himself said that our love for others is equally as important as our love for Him.
This verse is NOT saying our love for others is to put other peoples desires above Gods. For we are to love Jesus supremely and put His will above anyone else’s including our self.
Matt 5:22 says, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Let’s bring some clarity to these words in this verse. To be “angry with his brother means; treating someone in thought, word or deed in an unloving way. How common is this among believers today to treat their spouse, children, employee, a person in a business deal or even a stranger in an unloving way and excusing their behavior and not seek reconciliation?
The word Raca means to hold someone in contempt, to judge, or believe they are worthless or less than you are in some way. The word ‘fool’ means one who is morally worthless and undeserving of salvation. These are serious charges that many believers are practicing toward others for one reason or another. The Lord says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 “for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s”.
We are to glorify or in other words, reflect, Christ likeness to all, no exception. So any lingering thoughts or behavior toward others that is unloving or un-Christ like, we must not excuse it and repent to both God and the person. This grieves the Lord and has consequences.
That’s why in Matthew 5:23-24 it says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”.
Why do we go to the altar? This is talking about our fellowship with Jesus, our time in prayer, thanksgiving and asking of Him. It is our daily devotion and abiding in Him.
John 15:5-6 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing”. To abide means to dwell with; to live in a constant awareness of being the temple of the Holy Spirit. This includes our prayer and devotion toward Him. And it says IF we do, we will bear much fruit for without His grace we can do NOTHING. So going to the altar means our fellowship with Jesus and our receiving His grace to bear fruit or to obey His will.
When we owe someone forgiveness be it, giving it, or asking for it, this is a prerequisite God says we first must do before we can expect His blessings and grace. He said first go and get things right with those who we were unloving toward and that includes forgiving those who have hurt us.
What are the gifts Matthew 5:23 is talking about when it says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar…”. We know that bringing sacrifices to the temple was a common practice as part of their atoning for their sins. Today, our gifts are our praise, tithes, worship, obedience, and our service to Him. Yet Jesus said these gifts will not be received by Him if you owe a person reconciliation.
I Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Our service and work for Him will not fix this problem.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26-32 we are exhorted to examine our self even before we take communion. It says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
How often do Christians come to church and partake of communion and never first examine their heart to see if they are harboring bitterness and/or have sinned against someone and do not repent or plan on being reconciled with that person/s?
The word reconcile means to make things right; to change ones feelings or perspective toward another or to pay a debt owed.
Romans 13:8 tells us, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
As Christians we have a debt to pay that God Himself has placed upon us that we owe others: to love them in thought, word, and deed. This also includes forgiving those who have hurt us. Today, many Christians are harboring bitterness, resentment, or un-forgiveness toward someone because they have hurt them in some way. Their justification for harboring these feelings is because this person has not yet paid any deserved consequences, nor have they taken any responsibility for what they have done. This is also considered un-loving or being angry with a brother. A fact of life for all Christians is: we will be hurt by others even from those who are supposed to love us. Our parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, pastors, teachers, etc. can hurt us both ignorantly and/or deliberately.
The word forgive is a verb, or an action word. To truly forgive requires you to take action. God is using His Word to speak to you right now, revealing truth for you to obey and act upon.
Edify – To build up, or encourage.
NOTE: Matthew 5:23-24 also applies to us to forgive others. God’s Word says we owe every person love.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, therefore you must not try to stand alone, but seek the support and accountability of a mature Christian friend, spouse, or prayer partner.
Write out your commitment to forgive the person or persons, and give yourself a date to contact them by, so you won’t let yourself put it off!
Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
In some cases, due to logistics, cost of travel, safety to you, or the ability of the other person to be quiet long enough to let you say what you need to say, a letter, email, text or telephone call may be the best way for you to accomplish this.
KEEP THESE POINTS IN MIND WHEN EITHER SPEAKING OR COMMUNICATING IN WRITING:
- You are doing this out of obedience to your Heavenly Father who loves and cares for you.
He wants you to be free from the bondage and oppression you have been experiencing as a result of unforgiveness.
- You do not have to rehearse every detail or act of the offense against you.
Many times, especially when forgiving parents, they are completely unaware of what they may have done that hurt you. In other cases, it may have been blatant sin against you, for example, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, rape, abandonment by a parent, friend, or spouse, slander spoken against you, etc. In these cases, you can be more specific as to why you need to forgive.
- Do not try to compel others to own up to their offenses.
God has called you to obey, not to be a prosecuting attorney, jury, judge, or to try and make them confess that what they did was wrong!
- Keep it short.
In most cases, due to the high level of emotions, we can find ourselves saying things we did not plan on saying that may undermine the purpose of the meeting, letter, or conversation.
- Finally (if applicable), ask them to forgive you for harboring bitterness toward them.
Remember that what they may have done was wrong and offensive, but bitterness and unforgiveness is equally wrong.
Romans 2:16, “In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Romans 2:1, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
“The degree to which I am able and willing to forgive others is a clear indication of the extend to which I have personally experienced God my Father’s forgiveness for me.”
MAINTAINING YOUR COMMITMENT TO FORGIVE
The person you have forgiven may continue to be a regular part of your life; possibly a parent, father/mother-in-law, a child, or a spouse. When this is the case you may encounter a spiritual and fleshly battle after you have asked for forgiveness or forgiven them.
Galatians 5:22-26, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
The forgiveness experience has changed you, but it does not necessarily change them. God has had a major victory in your life in bringing you to this place of surrender and obedience, however, their position and/or their brash personality may not have changed! They may continue to hold onto bitterness toward you. If this is the case you need to seek God daily for His strength to extend mercy and compassion to them without compromising.
For example, if you forgave a parent for being harsh and unloving, and asked them to forgive you for harboring bitterness, yet the next time you see them, they continue to be harsh and unloving, your flesh may want to react in the way you formerly reacted. God will be faithful to produce His fruit in your life as you surrender to Him moment by moment.
Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
You must keep in mind that your obedience in forgiving was not so that the other person or persons would change. Unless they surrender their lives and experiences to the Lord, they cannot change. Only God can change our hearts and renew our minds, and only if we surrender to Him.
We are involved in a spiritual battle everyday. The enemy, Satan, does not want you to obey God or have victory over sin or hurts. Therefore, he will attack your mind with past memories, evil thoughts, lies, temptations, and condemnation. You must exercise mental self-control and remember what and whom you are battling!
Ephesians 4:26,27, “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give an opportunity to the devil.”
This is the reality in which we live! Satan hates to lose ground in your life. He does not like the idea that he has lost the ability to continue to rob you of God’s peace and joy.
HOW DO I STOP GIVING THE DEVIL OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK HIS DESTRUCTION IN MY LIFE?
- Take each thought that enters your mind and measure them by God’s Word to see if they are from God, from your flesh, or from the enemy.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Philippians 4:8, “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
- Pray in each instance, asking for God’s power to do His will.
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
- Resist and rebuke the devil in the name of Jesus – FIGHT!
Jude 1:9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil…dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
1 Peter 5:6-9, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you…your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…”
2 Corinthians 2:9-11, “… I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
God wants you to be aware of the devil’s devices so that you can have victory. Unforgiveness is one of Satan’s most powerful tactics to keep God’s people in bondage!
You May Need to Establish Boundaries.
It is important to know that just because we asked for or gave forgiveness toward a person, it does not give that person the right to treat you with disrespect and/or harshly. Example: If you had a mother that was very harsh or manipulative toward you when you were growing up and she continued after you moved out, got married, etc. After you forgive her, you can set boundaries in your relationship. “Mom, I want a relationship with you but I need to establish some boundaries so I am not being hurt by you.” “Mom, I need you to speak to me in a loving way and I promise to do the same toward you. If either of us say something unkind to each other and we say, ‘that hurt’ and/or ‘I wish not to talk about that subject, we need to apologize and/or stop talking about the subject’. If those boundaries are not respected then I will hang up and we won’t talk for a few days. Mom, the only way we can truly know if we desire to have a relationship is by the way we love and respect each other.”
WHAT IF THE PERSON I NEED TO FORGIVE IS DECEASED? CAN I STILL FORGIVE THEM?
Bitterness in the human heart lives on long after the object of that bitterness has died. It is so important to view forgiveness as a powerful antidote to heal the human soul of many unhealthy human conditions. If a person chooses to trust God and receive this “antidote” God will bring healing and even fill those voids that are in your soul. The death of the offender does not nullify God’s Word. True, biblical forgiveness requires us to take action. We must do more than agree in our minds or hearts that we should forgive. The Bible does not command us to merely feel forgiveness. We must exercise our will and follow through with our actions!
You must begin with confession to the Lord. To confess means to acknowledge or disclose one’s misdeed, fault or sin. It is helpful if you speak your confession out loud and verbalize your forgiveness of the deceased person, in the presence of a trusted friend, spouse, pastor, counselor, etc.
Use the following prayer to help guide you:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and forgiving me for all of my sins. I agree with Your Word that I must forgive this person for the hurt they caused me. I ask You for the strength to obey and speak these words of forgiveness.
I forgive…for…(you may say out loud, if you wish). I ask you to take away my hurts and forgive me for holding onto this for so long. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen”
WHAT IF THE PERSON THAT I AM FORGIVING DOES NOT WANT TO RECONCILE THE RELATIONSHIP?
You must keep in mind that you are only responsible for your part of reconciliation. Regardless of the position the other person takes, you must obey God by asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness. If the other person refuses to grant you forgiveness or if they do not acknowledge their wrong toward you, God will still bless you for your obedience and pour out His peace, grace, and mercy upon your life. You will still experience His freedom from your bondage.
You cannot place any expectations or requirements upon what the other person may say or do, but surrender all to the Lord and trust Him to work in the midst of your circumstances. This is a major inner personal battle that many people face with this act of obedience.
We must not lean on our own understanding, but obey and surrender to God and His will. He has given us spiritual laws to govern, protect, and set us free. His Word gives us understanding and instructions in how to follow these laws. Our flesh, our pride, and fear will keep us from trusting and obeying God in these situations, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome.
Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”
Pray this prayer:
“Lord Jesus, I pray for the strength to trust You in these circumstances. Help me to remember that I am doing this for You. I do not look to… for anything, but place my life in Your hands. I pray for reconciliation with this person, but I know that I can only do my part. I pray for…to surrender to You that You might be glorified. I trust you entirely with the results. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen”
At times it can be awfully hard to forgive. But the truth is…it is harder not to forgive. If we do not forgive, we deny what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Our experience of God’s forgiveness is directly related to our ability to forgive. A readiness to forgive others is part of the indication that we have truly repented, surrendered our life, and received God’s forgiveness. A surrendered heart toward God cannot be a hard heart toward others.
Pride and fear keep us from forgiveness and reconciliation. Refusing to give in, or be broken, insisting on our rights, and defending ourselves are all indications that our selfish pride is ruling our life, rather than the Lord. If fears of ‘what-ifs’ are consuming and controlling you, you need to pray for the faith to trust and obey God. Enemies are very expensive to keep. Matthew 18:21-35 warns that an unforgiving spirit will put us in an emotional prison.
“The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving… When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”