Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. On the contrary, unforgiveness is often our default setting. Afterall, no one teaches a child to hold a grudge. When others hurt us, we want them to learn a lesson and change. However, in most situations, those that hurt us aren’t even aware that they hurt us. Some trauma is caused by war, but other times, trauma is caused by people from our pasts. Either way, letting go of the pain is the path forward.
Consider who you need to forgive and what you need to forgive that person of – including yourself. Write your responses on this week’s worksheet. Then, each morning over the next seven days, start your day by reading aloud one or more of the statements on the worksheet.
We started this week with Peter’s question of forgiveness, with him viewing it as a currency. Jesus responds with the story of the merciless servant (Matthew 18-21-35). The servant didn’t fully comprehend the forgiveness that had been offered him and instead interpreted the master’s forgiveness as an extension, a loan, rather than absolute, and that is how he behaved as he went out to his fellow servant. Like Peter, he was viewing forgiveness economically. He was a forgiven person who was not acting as such. The truth is that he was forgiven, but he did not feel it and was not living it out.
We are all like merciless servant. We have been forgiven, despite our unworthiness and our sin, by the one who has paid our insurmountable debt, and yet forgiveness can elude us, either toward others or ourselves. We described forgiveness as the “mega root”. Two main causes of emotional and spiritual wounds are- the failure to receive, understand, and live out God’s love, and the failure to give it out. Forgiveness is vitally important to God.
Hebrews 12:15 tells us “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled”. Bitter people only hurt themselves. Unforgiven people are unforgiving; and hurt people hurt people. We explained how when the root of bitterness takes hold of a person, it’s like they are covered in paper cuts so that every slight hurts disproportionately, which causes the person to isolate themselves. The unforgiveness is like hugging a cactus; it only hurts yourself. When we choose to let our feelings drive unforgiveness instead of our faith (which demands that we forgive as we have been forgiven), we deny not the offending party but ourselves peace.
Forgiveness is a choice, and the feelings will follow. How to forgive-
1) Decide that you want to forgive. You must decide to accept God’s offer of unconditional forgiveness for yourself and then pass it out to others. Are we showing others that we are forgiven or are we treating them as the unmerciful servant did?
2) Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. You need to decide if reconciliation is an option. If the person continually hurts you, tell them so. Forgive them, regardless of their actions or response to this. But it is not necessary to reconcile with them. They do not have to acknowledge that they hurt you for you to forgive them and free yourself.
3) Say it out loud. Express it. Forgiveness happens in the following order- faith, facts, feelings. It runs to you and then through you. Jesus gave us the example in his final moments – forgive them even if they are not sorry. You choose to forgive because of your trust in the Lord, so let it go. Feelings of freedom will follow.
Finally we demonstrated this plan in action, sharing a personal story of our own bitter roots. We wrote it down, shared it, expressed it, and cut it up. Each participant demonstrated amazing strength and willingness to trust and Christ-like courage in their willingness to forgive.