As members of the human race, we have all experienced the pain and hurt of being sinned against by another person. Maybe it was something that someone said to you or may have done to you. Similarly, we have undoubtedly hurt another person through our words or actions toward them. Because this is true, there’s a huge need for us to understand the importance of forgiveness—both asking for it when we’ve wronged someone, and giving it to others when they have wronged us.
The process of seeking to be forgiven begins with our acknowledging that we actually did hurt someone. That begins in our own heart as the Lord convicts us of what we’ve done. We then need to ask God to forgive us and to ask his help as we go to talk with the other person. We need to admit to them what we have done. Saying that we’re sorry, and meaning it, is important, too. The final step is to repent of what we did, that is, to determine in our heart that with the Lord’s help we will not repeat what we have done or said.
When we forgive someone for having hurt us, we are to “forgive as the Lord has forgiven us,” (Colossians 3:13). How does the Lord forgive us? He does it completely, holding no grudges and harboring no bitterness. Out of his great love for us, our sins were forgiven by God, But it was at the cost of the death of His Son, Jesus Christ for us. The penalty (punishment) for our sin was paid for by Jesus on the Cross. The result is that He no longer counts our sins against us. We are fully pardoned! He, the sinless one, died in our place, for our sin.
When we forgive others there is a cost to us, too. That’s because we are releasing someone from their very real debt against us. We say this when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” We are to forgive because the Lord has forgiven us a debt that is far greater. Note these verses from Psalm 103. They may help you to understand God’s forgiveness a little bit more:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s… The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities… For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
And one last thought to ponder, and hopefully to put into action: forgiven people are to forgive others!
Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of area churches.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.