Forgiveness Is Not an Option

In this sinful world we have all experienced injustice and hurtful situations.  It is a struggle at times to step away from our emotions and render forgiveness, especially if the offense is repeated. We overcome our hurt and frustration over one situation only to have another provocation from the same source.  It is a continual battle.
It is a battle that must be waged though.  God has made this abundantly clear.  “Our father…forgive us our debts as we forgive others”.  We have prayed this numerous times but have we really thought about it and understood it?  Certainly Jesus does not mean that God’s forgiveness is measured by ours. We would not want that! It is a frightening thought.  Our Savior wants us to understand that a forgiving disposition is the hallmark of His children. No child of God can have a heart that constantly and resolutely refuses to forgive others. Of course we fail because it is so easy to succumb to hurt and injustice. We sometimes want to repay like with like or to simply withhold our love and kindness from the offender.  Praise God, he is far more merciful and He says, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32)..
God also tells us in Ephesians 4:26 “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” It is impossible to rid yourself of anger unless you render forgiveness.  How many times, when we tossed and turned in our beds over a situation, have we imagined the tongue lashings we would give?  Did it accomplish anything except to render us exhausted and miserable the next day?  Such disobedience displays a lack of faith.  We are not trusting God to deal with the offender in his perfect way and in his perfect time.  Attempting speedy retribution by our actions or words does not assist God. It produces negative results.  R.C. Sproul said, “If you are angry, you need to ask yourself one question ‘How am I not getting my way’?” Your way may be righteous, but sometimes God frustrates legitimate desires to teach and train his children….both the offender and the one offended.  It takes two to make a problem.  Both have lessons to learn.
We need to realize also that forgiveness is not an emotion but an act.  There are times when we simply don’t feel forgiving.  This should not stand in our way of performing the act.  We need to forgive and let God deal with our emotions. 
We have heard parents telling their children to say “I’m sorry” when they have offended someone.  I was privileged to know a parent who took that to the next level.  Not only did the offending child have to say they were sorry, but the offended child had to say, “I forgive you”.  They also had to hug each other at the conclusion.  It was interesting to see how many times situations were defused by this action.  Many times giggles followed. Of course, there were occasions when that wasn’t the case, but I was impressed at how often it worked. God was teaching these young hearts even then.
Okay!  So we see we must forgive but how can we forget?  We can’t!  Our minds are a phenomenal creation.  Everything we hear, see and experience will be imbedded in them.  Too many times, offenses are placed in a file of our minds, labeled “for future use” and we open it wide at the next confrontation.  This is not true forgiveness. 
God, himself, is incapable of forgetting and yet the Bible tells us in Psalm 103:12, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. God hasn’t forgotten our sins, but through the righteousness of His Son, he no longer holds them against us. The Old Testament Hebrew word for atonement is cover. What God covers, stays covered. However, sometimes when people get up from bed and throw off the covers, they also uncover all of their old resentments and hurts. We may not forget the offense, but we can cover it by placing it in the arms of Jesus each time that it raises its ugly head. He will help us relegate it to the deep recesses where it will be covered. I was once given a piece of sage advice.  When you become angry at someone over a situation, stop and cite three positive things to yourself about that person.  You will be amazed how your mind can be freed of anger.
You can also find strength to forget as well as forgive by going to Jesus with a heartfelt petition on behalf of the offender. Your perspective will change. When an offense is repeated we must go back on our knees.   Does seventy times seven have a familiar ring?  Again, if we honestly analyze our own lives, we will see how we offend God in the same way, over and over again and yet he is faithful in forgiving us and letting us start afresh.  Do we owe any less to our brother?
Forgiveness is not an option……….It is an obligation……..and it requires our obedience…..