Imagine standing right next to a hurdle on a race track. You can’t jump a hurdle from a standing start. You have to take a run at it.
Often we get focused on one sin, one problem, one issue that we want to overcome. How do I get over my fear? How can I prevail over this lust? There you are, standing right next to the hurdle, and you can’t get over it. Why? You have to begin from further back.
The same is true when it comes to forgiving other people. You have to begin with your own need to be forgiven: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Start mourning your own sins and you will be on the way to forgiving the sins of others.
Here are six strides that will give you the momentum to help you get over the hurdle of forgiveness.
1. Remember, the Holy Spirit lives in you.
The Holy Spirit by whom you were sealed… (Ephesians 4:30)
No one has had more to forgive than God. Every sin you have ever committed is a sin against him. Each of these sins played a part in the awful suffering of God’s Son. That is true not only of your sins, but of every sin of every believer who has ever lived. Think how much God has forgiven…and his Spirit lives in you!
2. Don’t dwell on the injury.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger…be put away from you. (Ephesians 4:31)
Bitterness, wrath, and anger come from nursing a grievance. Someone has wronged you, and you keep thinking about how wrong it was, how hurtful it is. Bitterness and anger are fires that need to be fed, so stop feeding them. Tell yourself, “There are better things to fill my mind with.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christian, you have the power to set your mind on something else.
3. Don’t fight and quarrel.
Let…clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice… (Ephesians 4:31)
When a relationship is in trouble, fighting and quarreling over who did what and who said what will only stoke the fires of bitterness and anger. This moves you further away from the forgiveness you’re trying to cultivate. So don’t go around talking to other people about what a terrible person he or she is, and put away malice—that’s the desire that the one who hurt you will get what they deserve. If you keep doing these things, you won’t be able to forgive.
4. Have compassion on the one who has hurt you.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted… (Ephesians 4:32)
When the person who has wronged you hasn’t taken ownership and they have no sense of responsibility, that means they’re blind to what they’re doing and to the pain they’re causing. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. They didn’t even know they were lost! The person who has sinned against you may be just like that. Be kind to one another and tender-hearted.
5. Realize that you will need the forgiveness of others.
Forgiving one another… (Ephesians 4:32)
There will be things you need to forgive in others, and there will be things that others need to forgive in you. It is impossible to say from the heart, “Lord, have mercy on me,” and at the same to refuse mercy to another person in your heart. Realizing your own need of continuing forgiveness will help you to take another stride toward forgiving others.
6. Savor your forgiveness in Christ.
Forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you… (Ephesians 4:32)
God’s forgiveness is the model and the motive for our forgiving. Think about how God has forgiven you. Turn this over in your mind. God has forgiven me in Christ gladly, freely, and fully. This forgiveness is undeserved, irreversible, and eternal—done in love and mercy, out of agony of heart in the darkness of Calvary. Savor your forgiveness in Christ. Appreciate it. Enjoy it. Let this priceless gift of God move your heart to worship, wonder, love, and praise. Forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you.
Practice the six strides and your seventh will take you over the hurdle of forgiveness. When a person has hurt you badly, and he or she is completely unaware of what they’ve done, take the first six strides, and you’ll be ready at any moment to forgive. Forgiveness will already be in your heart, ready to be released, whenever the one who has wronged you is ready to receive the gift.
This is how Jesus Christ is toward you today: He is kind and tender-hearted. He has compassion on you. His nail-pierced hands are stretched out toward you. Whatever you see that needs to be forgiven, he is ready to forgive as you come to him. If you believe this, why would you not come to him in repentance today?