HOW TO FORGIVE IN 3 STEPS
Although I have written on this subject in the past, I felt it important to write again today on the subject of FORGIVENESS. Of course, we receive God’s forgiveness when we by faith, trust in the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ on our behalf. But what about forgiving others? Some of us have been very badly hurt by the sins of others. When the drunk driver hit our car causing the death of my wife, Donna, I had to process forgiveness…and it wasn’t easy!
Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland before and during WWII. As a committed Christian, she and her family hid Jewish people from the Nazis. They were ultimately caught and sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She never saw her father again, and her sister died in captivity. She was released because of a clerical error and spent the rest of her life sharing her faith all over the world. Here is her story of having to forgive…
(You do not want to miss reading this, it will change your life!!)
From Tramp for the Lord, by Corrie Ten Boom
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never very far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back to me with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard—one of the most cruel guards. Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,”—again the hand came out—“will you forgive me?”
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive me their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was a simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out in front of me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”
For a long time we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
We are commanded to forgive…therefore not forgiving someone is sin!
Colossians 3:13 (NLT) Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Jesus taught that our capacity to experience forgiveness is in proportion to our willingness to forgive others.
Matthew 6:9, 14–15 (NLT) Pray like this: Our Father in heaven…forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
HOW TO FORGIVE: THE 3 STEPS OF FORGIVENESS:
STEP 1—IDENTIFY WHAT HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU. Any time you need to forgive there is always this sense of debt. Forgiveness is about identifying what has been taken. What do I think he or she owes me? What do I think he or she needs to give back to me? What could be done to pay me back for what was taken? You can’t truly forgive without processing what is owed.
STEP 2—SIMPLY CANCEL THE DEBT! Forgiveness is not feeling. You’ll never feel your way into forgiving. Forgiveness is a DECISION. “I choose to cancel the debt.” YOU DON’T OWE ME ANYMORE! You may say, “But I can’t forgive.” The actual feeling of forgiveness is a supernatural gift from God (see Corrie’s story above), but the will to forgive you and I must provide. When I knew I had to forgive the man who killed Donna this was my prayer, “Lord, I can’t forgive him. If I told you I forgive him I would be lying. But I am willing to be made willing to forgive him.” Instantly when I prayed that, the Lord flooded my heart with unexplainable forgiveness. The actual forgiveness is a supernatural thing…a gift…hence the name “for-give!”
STEP 3—REFUSE TO REINSTATE THE DEBT. If God could erase our memory, it would be easy to forgive, but that is not forgiveness, it’s amnesia! The amazing thing about God is that He knows your sin and He still forgives you and loves you. Whenever you are tempted to reinstate the debt remind yourself that the debt has been canceled.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T FORGIVE? R. T. Kendall deals with this in his book Total Forgiveness. He writes, “When we don’t forgive:
- We insult the price Christ paid for sin
- We impede God’s purpose of reconciliation
- We are showing ingratitude for God’s forgiveness of us.”
HOW DOES UNFORGIVENESS EXPRESS ITSELF?
- It begins with resentment
- Inward bitterness begins to grow
- Dwelling on the offense causes you to seek revenge
- The result is Self-righteousness
SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ABOUT FORGIVENESS AND UNFORGIVENESS (from R. T. Kendall’s book Total Forgiveness)
- Resentment leads to going over and over again in your mind what the offender did, recounting and reliving exactly what happened. You should not dwell on the incident or even think about it. It will not bring you any relief or release; instead, it will cause you to become even more churned up.
- We may also seek revenge by hurting that person’s reputation by keeping others from thinking well of them.
- Making a choice to continue in unforgiveness shows that we aren’t sufficiently grateful for God’s forgiveness of our own sins.
- Our primary cause of an unforgiving spirit is self-righteousness.
- There is, however, another cause for unforgiveness: that we don’t put a high enough value on our fellowship with the Father.
- The reason God treats you like an enemy is because, by not forgiving others, you are really saying, “God, move over; I want your job!” You crown yourself judge, jury, and executioner, and you presume to take God’s place.
- If I resent another person’s getting away with something and escaping punishment, it’s because I am jealous of their situation, that they would be shown mercy when they ought to receive justice.
- The person who hasn’t forgiven himself is an unhappy person and is usually unable to forgive others.
- Not forgiving ourselves is a subtle way of competing with Christ’s atonement.
- Grace isn’t Grace if we have to be good enough for it to apply to us.
- The devil does not want you to forgive others; he loves it when you are bitter.
Don’t you see that forgiveness is something God wants FOR us? God has a gift for us when He forGIVES us and He has a gift for us when He calls us to forGIVE others!
TWO FINAL QUESTIONS:
- Have you experienced the forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ?
- Who is God calling you to forgive?
Onward in forgiveness,