A common question people ask is how to forgive someone who has badly hurt you. The first and most important thing to recognize is that forgiveness is not based on our emotions, but it is a willful choice. The choice to forgive empowers you emotionally because by forgiving you are taking back the power from the person who hurt you.
Hebrews 12:14:15 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled”
Everyone in their lifetime is given numerous opportunities to be angry, take offense and remain angry/upset at another person or circumstance. However do we have a right to be angry and take offense? Yes we have every right to be angry when wronged, but before you run of to justify your feats of rage, remember that the Scriptures exhort in Ephesians 4:26 that in the state of anger, do not sin. Next question is “do we have a right to take offense?” Absolutely not!
Anger is simply a feeling that erupts as a result of a grievous act against an individual, and that’s natural because no one was ever created to be taken advantage of. As believers, we are expected to walk in the spirit and not in the realm of the senses. Our feelings are generally sensual, in that feelings are stimulated by one or more of our five senses. So with that in mind, understand that the anger we feel is a product of our perception of a wrong that has been done against us which may be a true perception or a false perception. However the problem now comes when we decide to act contrary to what God’s word says based on this feeling of anger.
Many people attempt to justify themselves while mentally assenting to Ephesians 4:26 by saying “I’m not going to hit them in the face or double cross them or something like that”. So in their minds, they’re not committing a sin, but sin many times is more subtle. Sin by definition simply means to miss the mark. The mark is simply the standard set by God, which is love. The Bible records that Jesus was asked by a scholar of the law what He considered as the most important commandment and Jesus response was “you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…[and] ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). By revelation Romans 13:8 says “…he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” The law was made up of over 600 commandments. The singular act of love is a fulfillment of all 600 commandments. In essence, the purpose of the commandment is love. They were given to Israel in one sense to curb sin, in so doing they will be able to demonstrate love towards God and towards one another, hence Jesus verdict in Mark 12:30-31.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines a picture of the God kind of love which has been poured into the heart of every believer. The attributes of this love are:
4Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].
Any action as a result of anger that is contrary to any of the attributes of love is to miss the mark, which is sin!
Now we get a picture, but how does one get angry without sinning? You do so by acting in light of the love of God; being quick to forgive someone who badly hurt you, and repaying the (genuine or assumed) wrong with good.
Unforgiveness (offense) is a deadly poison that kills very slowly but surely, from the inside out. It forms a callous around the human. So this calloused heart keeps one from expressing the rich attributes of a tender spirit that allows for rich fellowship with God, and with others around. When we feel we’ve been wronged, the devil always capitalizes on this feeling and begins to give numerous reasons why it’s okay for you to be offended, and how you need to protect yourself, not just from the person who has wronged you, but from everyone else. He begins to tell lies, and as you reason with him and agree with him you build up walls that isolate you. You become less sensitive, and eventually he sets you on a steep, downward, slippery slope, oh what a terrible thought. Do we stop to consider the thought that the purported offender has no knowledge of their wrong doing? Even if they did, does their wrong against you warrant that you drink of a deadly poison that is utterly detrimental to your destiny?
Here are a few things the Bible says concerning offense and unforgiveness:
An offended heart is like a walled city: “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” Proverbs 18:19, NIV
When we are wronged by one we consider a brother (a person who we hold dear and close to our heart), if we take to offense, barriers are built up as the dispute prolongs and these barriers formed are more impenetrable than the walls of a well fortified city.
Offense keeps us from receiving from God: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25, NIV
God has made a promise that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This is important because un-confessed sin keeps us at a distance from God, compromising our fellowship with God. From the statement Jesus made in Mark 11:25, it only follows that unforgiveness in a person’s heart sets a barrier between God and the individual, making it impossible for him to receive forgiveness from God. This is an absolutely terrible state to be in. This means such a person is completely exposed to the attacks of the enemy.
Offense leads to deception: “ 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” Matthew 24:10-11
An offended heart is the breeding ground for deception. To hold on to unforgiveness is likened to drinking poison with the most earnest hope that the other person dies. An offended heart is susceptible to the lies of the enemy, who will eventually lead such a person astray to be destroyed.
Learning to forgive someone who badly hurts you
“ 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” Matthew 18:21-22, NIV
Jesus paints a picture of the limitless of the Father which has been given to us also. He says forgiven 7 times is not just enough, but rather 490 times in a day. This is equivalent to a person doing you wrong once every 3 minutes without going to sleep, but yet you are expected to forgive someone who badly hurts you! Phew! I don’t know if the worst sinner on earth is capable of this.
If there is someone who has wronged you that you must forgive now, to do so, pray this simple prayer:
Father in the name of Jesus, I humble myself before your Word, and I by faith release myself of all bitterness against <insert name>, even though I feel wronged, I know I have the capacity to love like you. I forgive <insert name> from the depth of my heart, and by your grace at work in my life I hold nothing against him/her. By your strength, every time the image of the heart comes up, I choose to remember it no more, neither will I take action on it. I am free!
Write today’s date down, and as many times as the devil tries to raise the hurt in your mind, refer back to this date and tell him you have forgiven the person and you have no recollection of the offense. Say it out loud if the environment permits.
Finally remember, your relationship with God is to precious for it to be compromised because of offense. The destiny that lies ahead of you is to glorious to be contaminated by the poisonous ivy of an unforgiving heart. The health of your spirit, soul and body is dependent on the state of your heart. Don’t defile yourself with unforgiveness.