3 Tips for Living a Life Full of Forgiveness

5 Mins read

From the time that you’re born, forgiving people is hard. If you grew up with siblings, you may have clear memories of your parents telling you to “hug and make up” or forcing you to apologize to each other.

Our instinct not only tells us not to apologize to others, but it also tells us not to forgive others when they apologize to us. However, God’s Word tells us to go against that instinct. But how can you live a life of forgiveness?

Matthew 18:21-22 (TPT)
Later Peter approached Jesus and said, “How many times do I have to forgive my fellow believer who keeps offending me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven times, Peter, but seventy times seven times!”

We aren’t sure who Peter was angry with when he approached Jesus with this question, but someone had clearly ruffled Peter’s feathers. In Biblical times, the number 7 was a sign of completion.

Even going back to the Book of Genesis, God completed the creation of the world in six days and on the seventh day, He rested because everything was complete (Genesis 2:2-3). Peter truly believed that if he forgave the same person seven times in a day, he was living in obedience.

Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus told him that seven times wasn’t even close to being the acceptable amount?

If you take Jesus’ response literally, He told Peter that he should be ready to forgive someone up to 490 times. However, we understand that Christ wasn’t putting a cap of 490 on forgiveness. Instead, He was telling Peter about the importance of living a life of forgiveness.

Instead of treating forgiveness like a daily chore, Christ wanted Peter to understand that forgiveness was supposed to be a part of his character. He wants us to understand the same thing.

One of the hardest things that you ever have to do in life is to forgive someone who has mistreated you. Even if the hurt that another person caused you was unintentional and free of malice, forgiving another person who has caused you any type of pain is incredibly difficult.

Unfortunately for us, forgiving others is one of the things that God expects of His people.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you give someone a license to continue to mistreat you. Forgiveness isn’t equivalent to making yourself a doormat that an abusive individual can walk all over. Forgiveness isn’t about freeing the person who has wronged you from consequences. Instead, it’s about freeing yourself from the bitterness associated with holding onto the pain of your past.

How do you make forgiveness a lifestyle?

In a culture that tells us to look out only for ourselves, and when forgiving someone seems like the hardest thing in the world to do in a single situation, how do we make it a natural part of our character? In order to defy our natural reaction to being offended or hurt by another person, it’s important that we remember three key principles.

Remember That It’s Not an Option

Luke 17:2-4 (TPT)
It would be better for him to have a heavy boulder tied around his neck and be hurled into hte deepest sea than to face the punishment of betraying one of my dear ones! So be alert to your brother’s condition, and if you see him going in the wrong direction, cry out and correct him. If there is true repentance on his part, forgive him. No matter how many times in one day your brother sins against you and says, ‘I’m sorry; I am changing; forgive me,’ you need to forgive him each and every time.

Before we look at what Jesus said in these verses, let’s examine what he didn’t say. He didn’t tell the disciples that they should forgive others when it was convenient for them. He didn’t tell His followers that they should extend forgiveness when they felt like the other person truly deserved it.

Instead, Christ told His people that every time a person apologized for his or her wrongdoing, they should be ready to forgive them.

It may sound too simplistic, but one of the best ways to ensure that forgiveness is a natural part of your life, remember that it’s not optional. Christ didn’t tell His people to occasionally forgive.

Instead, it was a commandment. If you ask someone to name some commandments, you’ll probably hear about the importance of not killing, stealing, worshiping false gods, lying about your neighbor, and committing adultery. We don’t hesitate to keep those commandments, but when it comes to forgiving others, we have a much harder time.

However, part of being a true disciple of Christ is extending forgiveness to the people in our lives who have wronged us. It won’t always be easy, but it’s a commandment of Christ.

Remember That It’s the Key to Our Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15 (TPT)
“And when you pray, make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you.”

One of the most simplistic principles to understand is the law of cause and effect. It essentially states that if you do X then Y will happen. If you start taking in fewer calories every day, you will lose weight. If you commit to going to the gym regularly, you will get in better shape. If you start saving money, you’ll have more money in your savings account.

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus talks about forgiveness as a form of cause and effect. If you forgive other people, then God will forgive you. However, if you withhold forgiveness from others, God will withhold the forgiveness that you need. That’s a scary proposition.

On our best day, we have to have God’s forgiveness. It’s not because we intentionally sin, but as long as we are in our fleshly bodies, we are prone to give into the temptations that are common to humanity. In order to receive the forgiveness that we need, we must extend forgiveness to others.

Remember That We Are Products of Forgiveness

Luke 6:37 (TPT)
Jesus said, “Forsake the habit of criticizing and judging others, and then you will not be criticized and judged in return. Don’t look at others and pronounce them guilty, and you will not experience guilty accusations yourself. Forgive over and over and you will be forgiven over and over.

Finally, when you remember that you are a product of undeserved forgiveness, it’s much easier to offer undeserved forgiveness to others. Think of it in a more natural sense.

If you received a wonderful gift that you did nothing to earn, you would be happy to tell other people about it. If someone just randomly gifted you with a large sum of money, you would be eager to tell your friends and family members about it.

God’s forgiveness is worth far more than any gift that you could be offered in this world. As God’s children, we are the product of a forgiveness that we could never earn. There is nothing that you’ve done that makes God forgive you.

He simply does it because He loves you. Since we are supposed to love others in the same way that we love ourselves (Mark 12:31) and love others in the same way that God loves us (John 13:34), forgiveness is the natural byproduct of what we are.

Forgiveness is not meant to be something that we force ourselves into doing from time to time. Instead, it should be just as much a part of who we are as the things we enjoy, the food we like, and the people we love. Forgiveness is a natural result of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

A Closing Prayer:

Father, help me to stop viewing forgiveness as something that I’m obligated to do. I know that it’s a commandment, and that You didn’t place any options on it. However, I want to freely forgive in the same way that You have freely forgiven me. In Christ’s name I ask these things, Amen.

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