Why I Must Forgive
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years thinking about and wrestling through the issue of forgiveness. On the one hand, I know without a doubt that I’m a sinner. I have sinned greatly against God and against others. There have been countless times in my life when I have chosen the path of evil and through my sin brought grievous offense to God and to people around me.
As I’ve wrestled with forgiveness as both the offender and the offended and have examined what the Scriptures have to say about it all, I have come to this simple conclusion:
I must forgive.
To follow Jesus Christ, when others sin against me, requires that I pursue a heart of forgiveness and then be willing to extend that forgiveness to others when they sin against me. There isn’t really another option for a Christ follower.
Here’s why I believe this:
#1: I have been forgiven by God.
It sounds a little cliche, yet it’s a profound truth to reflect upon. The most simple and important reason why I must extend forgiveness to others is because I have received it myself. As far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove my transgressions from me (Psalm 103:12).
This is the incredible grace of God! And because of that grace, I am called to extend forgiveness to others. As the Lord has forgiven me, so also must I forgive (Colossians 3:13). I must be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave me. (Ephesians 4:32). Certainly, this is not an easy task. But it’s pretty straightforward and very important.
#2: There is no assurance of my own forgiveness, if I won’t extend it to others
Jesus said, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, these words:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
He also ended the parable of the unforgiving servant and the consequences the servant experienced as a result with this statement:
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
While I must confess that there are parts of this that I continue to struggle with, it seems clear that there is at the very least a connection between experiencing God’s forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. If I am unwilling to extend grace to others, I can’t be fully condent that I have truly experienced God’s grace in my own heart.
#3: Bitterness will only hurt me
I don’t know who rst said the expression “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. Augustine perhaps? Regardless, it’s something that I’ve often thought about. More signicantly, the writer of Hebrews 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 by it many become deled”.
From experience, I can tell you that to allow bitterness to remain and grow within my heart will only cause trouble in my life and ultimately hurt me. It will lead me away from God and cause my passion for Him to grow cold. The antidote to a bitter heart is forgiveness.
#4: It’s not about me.
I need to remind myself of this often. I am here to be a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). I am here to be an ambassador for Christ, entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). I have been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of Him (Matthew 28:19-20). I have been called to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ who called me out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). At the end of the day, it isn’t about me. It’s about proclaiming Christ and fulfilling His mission.
When I choose the path of forgiveness, I am communicating to the world that my faith is real, that the grace of Jesus Christ is greater than any sin of mine or of others. Choosing to forgive shines the light of Jesus Christ into the darkest places and ultimately brings healing, restoration and reconciliation. And ultimately Jesus Christ is honoured.
That all said, I recognize that forgiveness is a lot easier said than done. It begins with a choice on my part, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the abundant grace that I have experienced. From there, it’s the hard work of not allowing the enemy to regain any ground, but instead pursuing daily a heart of humility.
But no matter how hard it is, I must forgive. Help me, Lord!