“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” Proverbs 19:11
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This is easier said than done. At some point most of us struggle to admit error, to shoulder blame, to be charitable, to apologize, to forgive and forget, and to begin over. Yet God wants us to find forgiveness, to be imitators of the forgiveness He extends to us. He wants us to decide to forgive and be the first to forgive. For we were never meant to harbour resentment.
Resentment is negative and poisonous. When we fail to forgive a grievance it diminishes and devours the very core of our being. It sets up a barrier between us and God. It destroys the bridge over which the one who cannot forgive must someday pass. Jesus put it this way, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” Matthew 6:14- 15.
Like me you may have been deeply hurt by someone and believe they deserve to be punished. Even if a number of years have passed, the pain and memory of the offense is as sharp as ever. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Jesus wants you to forgive those who’ve sinned against you. And it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s to your “glory to overlook an offense” Proverbs 19:11. So find forgiveness. Here are three essential steps:
Examine your heart. You can only be in right relationship with others when things are right in you. Finding forgiveness starts on the inside, starts with you – nowhere else. If there is bitterness, anger, or hatred in your heart it must be taken to the foot of the cross and left there. You’ll not find forgiveness while you’re carrying baggage. As long as you wallow in self-pity, yearn for revenge, or hope for some kind of retribution, you’ll be handicapped and unable to live life to the full. David understood this principle. He knew that the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart would only be pleasing in God’s sight (cf. Psalm 19:14) if he asked God to forgive his hidden faults (cf. Psalm 19:12).
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” Ephesians 5:21. Having confessed the hidden faults of your heart you’re ready for the next step. This is where you humble yourself for the sake of Christ by going to the person who’s offended you and doing what needs to be done for reconciliation to take place. One hurdle in this process is realizing that you need to relinquish the right to be right or the right to hurt back. Although this is hard to do don’t forget that your motivation for doing this is because of your reverence for Christ. You forgive because He first forgave you (cf. Ephesians 4:32).
Finally, pray for those who’ve hurt you. Jesus says, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:44. Now you may think that God’s asking a bit much in this text. If you’ve been wounded, it’s not easy to pray for the offender and bless that person. But then God never expects you to do this in your own strength. He doesn’t want you to take yourself by the scruff of the neck and just do it. He wants you to call on Him for help. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and give you His strength and love. For when you trust in Him, He’s promised to never let you down.