Finding the Grace to Forgive

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“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye”. ~Colossians 3:13

He was a black man when black was not beautiful.  He was a negro when a more pejorative term was commonly used.  He was Booker T. Washington. 

If you have never read his autobiography, Up From Slavery, I would challenge you to do so because it will bless you in a special way.  White people can learn some things from the black people especially when the black people have known personally the contempt of the white race only because the skin color is different.

We do not have to go into history to find illustrations of man’s injustice to man breeding a deep-seated hatred, mistrust, and fear.  We can look across the globe to modern day nations torn apart with war.  The fuel of hatred feeds the fire to keep the hurting alive so that still more bombs shall explode and still more children shall grow up in the shadow of death.

Or, perhaps we could look into our own hearts. 

Very few people live long in this life without being the victim of an injustice.  It might be something in childhood.  An incident occurs and the scars are deep, and never seem to heal.  It could be an incident in the marriage, or at work.  The tongue of a foe begins to wag, and before long a strong accusation has been made or a deed has been done. 

The heart cries for justice, but no justice will be done because there will be no trial, no judge, no jury.  Only the incident will remain to remind the soul of how difficult life can sometimes be.

For those people who have had harsh things said to them, there is a healing process.  I offer spiritual theology based upon the Word of God as well as personal experience.

The Bible commands those of us who name the name of Christ to forbear one another.  To forbear means ‘to endure’ or ‘to bear with’.  Then, we are to forgive one another.  The word used here is an interesting word, because it has the form of grace, charizomai.  To forgive is to be kind, benevolent, to grant forgiveness. As always, the question is “how?”  “How do we forgive?”  I would like to offer you several techniques that others have found useful.

There is the technique of prayer.  It is very hard to be upset, angry, and hateful to someone you are praying for.  Jesus said pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.  I confess, I have found this the most difficult thing to do but most rewarding when done.  There is a wonderful feeling of grace that floods the soul when enemies are prayed for, and there are some very practical results.

The soul enjoys peace.  It is hard to have peace when the mind is tense and filled with bitter thoughts about what wrong has been done.   

The body can relax.  A lot of people today have ulcers, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats and unnecessary stress because they are filled with bad memories.  Forgiveness can restore health.

There is fellowship with God.  It is a law of the Kingdom of heaven that spiritual sacrifice cannot be made as long as there is enmity between brothers.  Jesus said first be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer the sacrifice.  Praying for one’s enemies is one method of expressing forgiveness.

Another technique is to use the ‘as if’ principle.  It is very simple.  Treat people as if they are your friends, and more often than not they will be your friend.  It is not easy, but a nice smile, a warm handshake, a friendly word, and you can move on.  Avoid the problem for the moment, there will be a chance to deal with the issue later as you seek a Spirit-led opportunity to bring the issue up.  Most matters are just as soon forgotten anyway.  What seems so major today will not be so important in six months.  In six years everyone will wonder what all the excitement was about anyway.  In working through the techniques of forgiveness use the “as if” principle.

Another technique in learning to forgive is the use of the servant’s heart.  People need to be needed and that is good, because we do indeed need each other.  We may act like we are self-sufficient but God has so designed us that we are social creatures who desperately desire to be loved, appreciated, and useful.  Therefore, when seeking to be reconciled have the person you are having a hard time with do something for you.  If you can perform a service for them that is wonderful, but get your brother or sister to fill some need.  This of course means humbling yourself enough to ask for help, but if you are serious about being reconciled as the Bible commands, a little humility is not much to pay.

There is another technique in learning to forgive which is to make a mental image of releasing the hurts.  Imagine all the hurts, all the wrongs, all the harsh things are being brought together in one package.  You are now in an airplane with the package.  Open the door.  Feel the wind.  See the ground far below.  Now pick up you package of hurt and throw it out.  It is falling, falling, falling, and now out of sight.  You have released it in the mentality of your soul.  Paul has offered another way of learning to forgive.

It is found in Philippians 3:13 when he says, “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” 

“How does a person learn to forgive”?

By releasing all that has happened to God. This is accomplished by faith, and is patterned after the grace and mercy of God who removes our sin as far as the East is from the West, and remembers them no more.

The mind is a marvelous creation. It can remember millions of items of information.  It can also shut down and forget.  Just suppress a thought or a piece of information and it will go away.  

There are other techniques, but these five might help as individuals seek to obey the Lord’s command. 

Let’s review:

Pray for your enemy.

Use the ‘as if’ principle.

Exploit the servant’s heart.

Mentally release the hurt.

Forget the things that have happened in imitation of God.

There is a bonus technique I want to share with God’s people who want to learn to forgive. Have a fellowship meal together. Invite someone over for supper.  Jesus did. Study John 21: 4-14.

Our passage tells us that we are to forgive “even as Christ forgave.”  This means several things.

First, it means we are to forgive to the same extent that Christ forgave.  Did Jesus forgive us for some of our sins, most of our sins, or all of our sins?  Of course, you know the answer.  He forgave us of all our sins and for some of us that is saying quite a lot. 

The power of sin leads some people into hatred, murder, sexual immorality, pride, jealousy, and all other forms of evil.  Somebody has said that the blood of Christ can save “from the guttermost, to the uttermost,” meaning Christ can save a person such as serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, to the self-righteous Saul of Tarsus.  The former slave trader John Newton was led to write,

Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

Because of the Cross there is not barrier between John and Jesus.  Jesus has forgiven those of us who are saved of all our sins.  When we remember this it helps us forgive others completely.

Second, we are to forgive in the same manner that Christ forgives and that is freely and prior to any apologies from the person we are offended with.  The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  While we were still enemies of the Cross, Christ died to redeem us. 

Here is amazing love.  There is a famous song in which the second verse says,

I love Thee, because Thou hast first loved me. 
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
 I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow,
 if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

It is a true mark of Christian grace to forgive others before they are asking to be forgiven.

Third, we are to forgive with no strings attached.  Sometimes we hear people say, “I will forgive but not forget.”  The Christian must forget.  This does not mean to become an amnesia victim, but it is to forget in the sense that the failure is never mentioned again or brought up.  Jesus does not hold our past against us and we should not hold the past against others.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.”

Of all the arguments we can set forth exhorting Christians to forgive, none is more powerful as the simple fact that in the kingdom of heaven, we are forgiven as we forgive others.  Jesus said, “…forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”  Luke 6:37

He also taught, “…if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  Mark 11:26

Christians wonder why revival tarries in the Church, why souls are not saved, why churches fall apart, why there is a hostile spirit in congregations.  Part of the reason may be that the Christian has not emptied the heart of all evil and forgiven others. That can change in a moment, when there is a renewed commitment to be like Jesus in this area.

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