We are looking today at the subject of forgiveness. To forgive a person who has hurt you deeply may be the greatest challenge you ever face and the greatest gift you ever give.
Imagine standing right next to a hurdle on a racetrack. You are right up against it. You can’t jump a hurdle from a standing start. It’s impossible. It can’t be done. You have to take a run at it.
This, to me, has been one of the most important things I have learned about the Christian life, and it is at the heart of our series. All progress in the Christian life is made by the momentum of our spiritual health.
So, here are six strides you can take toward forgiveness:
1. Remember that the Holy Spirit lives in you.
…the Holy Spirit by whom you were sealed. (Ephesians 4:30)
Progress towards forgiveness begins here: The Spirit of God lives in you.
You may have experienced hurts and wounds that are incredibly hard to forgive, hurts that I know nothing about, hurts that are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced. Here’s what you need to know: No one has had more to forgive than God.
Think how much God has had to forgive: 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 had to forgive, and He has done it! And His Spirit lives in you!! When you look at an offense, and forgiveness seems impossible, take a step back, get some distance, and begin your run here.
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 all come from nursing a grievance. Someone has wronged you, and your mind keeps going over it, and over it, and over it again. All of us know about this in our own experience.
You keep thinking about it—how wrong it was, how hurtful it is. But every time you think about it, you are stoking a fire within your own soul of anger and bitterness.
Bitterness and anger are fires that need to be fed. Stop feeding them. When your mind goes back to that stuff, say to yourself, “There are better things to fill my mind with than this.”
With the help of the Holy Spirit, set your mind on something else—whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise. You have the power to do this if you are a Christian because God’s Spirit lives in you.
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 or who said what can make it worse. “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel” (2 Timothy 2:24). Quarreling stokes the fire of bitterness and anger, putting you further from the forgiveness you’re trying to cultivate.
Put clamor and slander away from you: I am not to sit at the breakfast table or go around talking to other people about what that person has done or about what a terrible person he or she is.
Put away all malice: Malice is the desire that the person who hurt you will get what they deserve.
These are the negatives, and they are very important. There are certain things that make forgiveness impossible. If you keep doing them, you will not be able to forgive.
4. Have compassion on the one who has hurt you.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted… (Ephesians 4:32)
This is especially important with a person who has wronged you and still has no idea what he or she has done. They’re completely unrepentant—they have not taken ownership. They have no sense of responsibility. They’re blind to what they’re doing, and to the pain they’re causing.
Well, if this person is blind, then you should have pity. When you see a person walking on the street who’s completely blind, do you want to run up and kick their cane away? No!
Jesus became the merciful, tenderhearted, compassionate high priest He is through what He suffered (Hebrews 2:17). That means suffering can produce hardness of heart, but it can also produce great tenderness! Pain made Him the kind of high priest that you can come to.
If you have experienced great pain through the sins of another person, if something can hurt this much, then use your pain as fuel for compassion.
When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). 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, tenderhearted.
5. Realize that you will need the forgiveness of others.
Forgiving one another… (Ephesians 4:32)
God does not tell us here that we should forgive someone who has hurt us.
He says that we should forgive one another. What does that tell us? There will be things that you need to forgive in others, and you can be absolutely certain that there will be things that others need to forgive in you.
Here’s something that you will find to be true: 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 towards forgiving.
6. Savor your forgiveness in Christ.
Forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you… (Ephesians 4:32)
God’s forgiveness is both the model of our forgiving and the motive of our forgiving. So, the Apostle draws our attention to the way in which we have been forgiven by God.
Think about how God has forgiven you. Turn this over in your mind. God has forgiven me in Christ. He did it gladly, freely and fully. This forgiveness us undeserved, it is irreversible, and it is eternal.
God has forgiven me in love and mercy, out of an agony of heart, shrouded in darkness at Calvary, and I will never fully understand that pain, even in all eternity.
Savor your forgiveness in Christ. Appreciate it. Enjoy it. Let this priceless gift of God that you have received 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.
Here’s what you do with regard to a person who has hurt you badly, and is completely unaware of what he or she has done: Take these six strides on the path of mercy, and you will be ready at any moment to forgive.
Forgiveness will already be in your freed heart, ready to be released. You will be ready to place it in the hands of the one who has wronged you when he or she is ready to receive the gift.
And this is how Jesus Christ is towards you today: Ready to forgive whatever in your life needs to be forgiven. He is kind and tender-hearted. He has compassion on you. His nail-pierced hands are stretched out towards you today. Whatever you see that needs to be forgiven, He is ready to forgive as you come to Him.
If you believe that this is true, why would you not come to Him in repentance today?