It’s easy to say but not so easy to actually do.
Many people will say they’ve forgiven because they’ve heard it’s the right thing to do, and they feel like they’ve forgiven.
But forgiveness isn’t a feeling.
It’s a choice that requires corresponding action.
When our children were small, they’d often get into squabbles about toys or head-butting matches of “he said, she said.” I’d listen to what each of them had to say and try to determine the source of the problem. Once I figured it out, I’d require the offending child (or children) to apologize for what they had done or said.
Boy, was it a process to get them to admit their wrong actions and to sincerely be sorrowful.
On the other side of the equation, we taught the child who had been offended to say, “I forgive you,” when they received the apology. Then, we expected them to hug each other.
Whether or not they could hug was telling. If they couldn’t hug each other, we knew there was still a problem—someone was holding back. And it made it easy to tell which child was either not truly sorry or had not forgiven and released the offense to God.
Jesus told us to pray, “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12 NLT) Then He goes on to say, “And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
Yes, they’re related—forgiveness and temptation.
Because if you don’t truly forgive others, you will be led into temptation—to retaliate against them and take action into your own hands! And that action will be sinful, guaranteed.
Anger, bitterness, division, slander, and maybe even physical or financial retribution…
Many people are serving prison sentences today because of the hurt and fury they unleashed when they didn’t forgive and they gave in to the temptation as a result.
Feed your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.
That’s what the Bible tells you to do. Why? Because if you can feed someone and do good toward them, it demonstrates that you have no unforgiveness toward them. You’re no longer held captive by their actions because you’ve chosen a higher law—the law of love—and against love there is no law (Ephesians 5:22-23).
When we choose to forgive, we’re set free from the prison that others’ sinful actions were intended to build around our hearts.
But how do we forgive?
What if it isn’t someone else we need to forgive, but ourselves?
*Watch for part two of this post next week!*
Excerpted and adapted from Better Than You Feel.