Would you like to hold a grudge with God’s blessing? Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how much of the same guff you had to take from someone until you no longer had to forgive?
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The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real.
- Your parents neglected or even abused you.
- Your spouse betrayed your wedding vows.
- Your best friends backstabbed you.
- Someone hurt you so deeply you feel you may never recover.
The debt is real. And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been taken. And this is hard. Very, very hard. But if we want God to forgive us, it’s essential.
The good news? Scripture shows us how.
Emotional Results of Not Forgiving
Often we refuse to forgive because we feel that not forgiving is our payback to our offender. But in truth, unforgiveness gives more torture to us than it does to anyone else.
- 95% of all cases of depression are a result of anger toward self or someone else.
- Prolonged anger causes us to lose a vital chemical in the brain that gives joy and peace.
- With good reason, the Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger, for this gives the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27).
In other words, your depression will stay until you forgive.
But this truth doesn’t have to be a trap.
Spiritual Results of Not Forgiving
To be sure, Jesus offers eternal forgiveness to any who believe in Him.
However, although eternal forgiveness is secure, in order for God to be forgiving in our daily walk with Him, we need to be forgiving toward others. (It’s important to understand the difference.) That’s what Jesus meant when He said:
If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14–15)
In short, if you as a Christian bear a grudge against someone, you are still saved, but you are out of fellowship with God.
Forgiving someone is essential for your walk with God.
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Forgiving Someone—Your Obligation and Motivation
But what if someone hurts us repeatedly? Isn’t there a point when we no longer need to be forgiving? Peter asked Jesus this very question (Matthew 18:21-22).
To what extent do we have to forgive?
- Jesus’ concise answer is: “To what extent have you been forgiven?”
- Jesus then added a motivation to our obligation: “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33)
If you have received forgiveness of your sins, through faith in Jesus Christ, you have the obligation to give forgiveness to those who sin against you: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Those words “just as” provide both your obligation and your motivation to forgive.
2 Truths Essential to Forgiving Someone and Moving On
I have found 2 truths that have helped me with forgiveness:
- Forgiving doesn’t always mean forgetting. Forgiveness may include appropriate boundaries—staying away from the one who hurts you until God changes him or her. But remember, these boundaries have nothing to do with forgiveness. That’s a heart issue.
- Factor God’s sovereignty into forgiveness. Nothing has helped me more than this principle when it comes to forgiving others. Over and over, Scripture reminds us that we can forgive because God is ultimately working through EVERY event in our lives to bring about a good result for us.
- Joseph had this perspective with family who betrayed him (Genesis 50:20).
- David clung to this truth when he could have retaliated (2 Samuel 16:11–12).
- Philemon was given this reason regarding a servant who ran away (Philemon 15).
- Paul challenged us to have this perspective in everything (Romans 8:28).
Yes, you’ve been betrayed. Yes, others have abused, backstabbed, and victimized you. Yes, you’ve been hurt—and it still hurts. And yes, you’ve also been forgiven through your faith in Jesus Christ.
Does that same grace urge us to forgive others?