I was recently (as recently as this morning) faced with a situation in which I had to choose how to react to a wrong that was done to me. With the wound fresh, the last thing I expected to think of was forgiveness. “It’s too soon to forgive! I can’t already forgive the person when they just now committed the wrong! The wound is so fresh. Nobody forgives someone that quickly. It’s normal to work through it, let it stew for awhile, deal with the emotions, tend to the wound, heal, and then, eventually, at some point come around and forgive them.” But those thoughts were all immediately shot down in favor of forgiveness, as in that moment I saw a Tweet my pastor posted about forgiveness, and then (not a minute later) I saw a Facebook post by a popular Christian Apologist about the importance of forgiveness.
So as I decided to forgive, I thought, “What exactly does forgiveness entail, anyway? I can’t just say I forgive the person, and that’s the end of it.” So I went to Scripture and asked for God’s wisdom. I also thought of what it means when God forgives us. And this is what I came up with:
What does forgiveness entail?
Forgiving entails a removal of the desire to punish or retaliate or seek “justice.”
It entails treating the person as if they had done no wrong.
It entails an unchanged love for the person. [“Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5)]
It entails showing compassion.
It entails blessing the person as though they have earned it.
Forgiveness entails letting go of whatever the person did to you. Give it to God, be open with Him, get out everything pent up inside of you — every thought, emotion, feeling about it; get it all out, give it to God, and stop thinking about it. It’s important that we let these things out to God, not to the person; if we unleash it on the person, we’ll not only be guilty of unforgiveness (as we’ll be committing an act of retaliation), but we’ll also be guilty of hurting the person, and then we’ll feel even worse. If you absolutely MUST speak with the person about it, only do so after you’ve prayed and let it all out to God, and only speak to the person in love. Be sure that your heart is pure and your motives are pure. NEVER act based on emotion. Seek wisdom from God on the proper way of approaching the person; and remember: wisdom is the application of knowledge — our knowledge is found in Scripture, so search the Scriptures and ask God to teach you how to apply those Scriptures; James 1:5 says that God will give that wisdom to all who ask, so you can be assured that He won’t lead you astray.
Above all, the important thing to remember, perhaps the strongest motivation for forgiveness, is that God forgave us of so much more than whatever we have to forgive a person of. Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”
With all that being said, the only thing left for me to say is:
“I forgive you.”