Yesterday I wrote that ‘Living like Jesus’ also involves ‘forgiving like Jesus’. I wanted to write a little more about this because It is not uncommon for Christians to have questions about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not come easy for most of us. Our natural instinct is to recoil in self-protection when we’ve been injured. We don’t naturally overflow with mercy, grace and forgiveness when we’ve been wronged.
How is it then that we can forgive? We forgive by faith, out of obedience. Since forgiveness goes against our nature, we must forgive by faith, whether we feel like it or not. We must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done so that the forgiveness will be complete. I believe God honours our commitment to obey Him and our desire to please him when we choose to forgive. He completes the work in his time. We must continue to forgive (our job), by faith, until the work of forgiveness (the Lord’s job), is done in our hearts. Philippians 1:6 says ‘And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.’
Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.” How do we know then that we have truly forgiven someone? We will know the work of forgiveness is complete when we experience the freedom that comes as a result. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.
Forgiveness isn’t something that always come fast, but it is something which is always required. We read that ‘Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’
This answer by Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is not easy for us. It’s not a one-time choice and then we automatically live in a state of forgiveness. Forgiveness may require a lifetime of forgiving, but it is important to the Lord. We must continue forgiving until the matter is settled in our heart.