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When and How to Forgive: One of the Most Difficult Christian Tenets

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Forgiving others for the wrongs they commit against you is not something that comes easily to human beings. Hurt feelings are hurt for a long time, and unless you have brain injury or an age-related memory disorder, you are not likely to forget it ever. What most people don’t realize is that there is a purpose for remembering pain. It is meant to help us avoid such hurt in the future whenever and wherever we can.

However, a basic tenet of Christian faith tells us that we must forgive. No, you don’t have to forget, and it would be impossible to try, but you do have to forgive. This incredible action is one that has to be slowly learned and trained into your being because it goes against every fiber of the human will. Learning when, and how, to forgive requires a strong walk with God and delving into scripture to help you strengthen “the forgiveness muscle.” Let’s see what examples the Bible provides for us to follow.

God Himself as Our Primary Example

Our Heavenly Father should be the very first example we think of when we think of forgiveness. He never wanted to be completely cut off from his creations, but the sin of Adam and Eve made it impossible for something so pure to have a connection to something impure. Still, he created a way for us to ask for his forgiveness for all of our sins and reconnect to him spiritually.

Daniel 9:9 says, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him;…”

For an almighty, omnipotent being who could destroy us all with the blink of his immortal eye to forgive us in the time it takes to say a single prayer is pretty amazing. Christians need to focus on this very fact every time they want to open their mouths or strike with closed fists. If He can forgive us, we can humble ourselves enough to forgive others.

Forgiveness Through Christ Jesus

  • Christ Jesus, the son of God most high, came to the Earth to provide a way for us to be forgiven and enter heaven.
  • Colossians 1:14 tells us that:
  • “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:…”
  • Hence, we are forgiven when we ask Jesus to cleanse us of our sins and apologize for all of our wrongs and turn from evil to walk in faith. God the Father and God the Son both remind us daily that we must forgive, because they first forgave us.
  • We are reminded of this by Ephesians 4:32:
  • “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as GOD for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
  • And Jesus’s own words in Luke 23:34 also tell us that we have been forgiven and should forgive…
  • Luke 23:34 says,
  • “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his rainment and cast lots.”

Teaching and Preaching of the Apostles and Masses on Forgiveness

Forgiveness was often a discussion for preaching for Christ. On many occasions disciples and followers of Christ, as well as Sadducees and Pharisees. At one point, Peter asks Jesus about forgiving others.

Matthew 18:21-25 “Then came Peter to him, and said, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times seven?
Jesus saith unto him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

That’s a lot of times to forgive someone who has wronged you, but the Bible never instructs you to continually return for additional punishment either. If you are able to walk away from someone and distance yourself, you only have to forgive that person as often as you have interaction with him/her that ends up being a negative interaction. Still, if you must forgive, that is how often Jesus would expect you to forgive.

So, When and How?

As much as the words may stick in your craw, tell the person right away after he/she has wronged you, “I forgive you.” You may not feel it, you may not want to say it, but if you make a habit of doing so, it helps you begin to feel as though you are forgiving that person. Then you can simply walk away. Sometimes that person may realize what just happened in the moment and ponder on it before choosing to apologize. Sometimes not. However, the end result is the same; you have shown Christian forgiveness as it is meant to be. Any non-Christian will be curious to know more about this forgiveness, and may even seek out the Lord themselves.

If you absolutely cannot say out loud that you forgive that person right after the incident, you may need a little time. Take that time to pray the following words (or something akin to it):

“Lord, I know I should forgive this person, but I’m hurt and my heart is hardened against forgiving him/her. Please heal the hurt so that I can tell him/her I forgive him/her. Then Lord I ask that you mend me, help me become strong enough to forgive others as you have forgiven me for my trespasses, and lead me on your path of righteousness. Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.”

It’s best to work on this day after day, but don’t wait too long to forgive. Allowing that pain to fester inside without forgiving someone can poison you and poison your walk with God. Keep praying and reading scripture until you can forgive, and then do so as soon as you are able.