“Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Imagine you’re a runner and the race is an event in the Olympics.
You have the right shoes, the right shorts, the right shirt. Yet, something is desperately wrong. Locked onto your ankle is a heavy, black ball and chain! This weight is too heavy and you can’t run the distance – you can’t even qualify. If only you could figure out a way to free yourself, but you don’t have the key to unlock the chain.
Imagine you’re a runner and the race is an event in the Olympics. You have the right shoes, the right shorts, the right shirt. Yet, something is desperately wrong. Locked onto your ankle is a heavy, black ball and chain! This weight is too heavy and you can’t run the distance – you can’t even qualify. If only you could figure out a way to free yourself, but you don’t have the key to unlock the chain.
Then, you are told that you already possess the key to freedom. Quickly, you free yourself, and oh, what freedom! It’s as though that black ball miraculously turns into a big helium balloon. The load is lifted, the balloon is released, and the weight is gone. Previously, no one told you that unforgiveness was the black ball weighing you down. Now that you know forgiveness is one of the major keys to freedom, you can run the race and cross the finish line with freedom. The Bible says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
But why is it sometimes so hard to forgive others? If you were ever betrayed by a friend, for a time you may have felt powerless to stop the pain. Since no one likes to feel powerless, unforgiveness provides an illusion of power. By refusing to forgive, you feel a sense of power, and by holding on to hatred, you feel infused with strength. And when you retaliate with revenge, you carry out a power play. But this is not how Christ wants us to live. He wants us to forgive.
But how? The key to forgiving others is to rightly understand what forgiveness is.
To forgive means to release your resentment toward your offender.
In the New Testament, the Greek verb aphiemi primarily means “to send away.” In other words, “to forgive, send away or release the penalty when someone wrongs you.” This implies that you need to release your right to hear “I’m sorry,” release your right to be bitter, and release your right to get even. The Bible says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
To forgive is to release your rights regarding the offense.
This means that you need to release your right to dwell on the offense, release your right to hold on to the offense, and release your right to keep bringing up the offense. The Bible says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9).
To forgive is to reflect the character of Christ.
Just as God extends forgiveness to us in Christ, we are called to forgive others. To forgive is to extend mercy, to give a gift of grace, and to set the offender free. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
You might be asking yourself: “What can I do when I don’t feel like forgiving?” Whenever you don’t feel like doing something you should do, examine your thoughts. While you can’t control what your offenders do, you can control your thinking about your offenders.
God gives us much counsel about what we should sift out from our thinking. Imagine that the Bible is a “thought-sifter” – a tool that helps us sift out the thoughts that should not go into our minds. Evaluate your thoughts about those who offend you. Do your thoughts naturally flow through “the thought-sifter” in the following Scripture passage? “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
If not, catch them before they pass through and sift them out! When you carefully choose what you will dwell on, your emotions will begin to line up, and you will gradually feel like forgiving.
Prayer to Forgive Offender
Lord Jesus, thank You for caring about how much my heart has been hurt.
You know the pain I have felt because of (list every offense).
Right now, I release all that pain into Your hands.
Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for me and for extending Your forgiveness to me.
As an act of my will, I choose to forgive (name).
I refuse all thoughts of revenge.
I trust that in Your time and in Your way, You will deal with my offender as You see fit.
And Lord, thank You for giving me Your power to forgive so that I can be set free.
In Your holy name I pray. Amen.
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