Guest Post-Betty Predmore
Forgiveness and the importance of it starts in Genesis and runs throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Bible defines forgiveness as pardoning an offender. When translated to Greek the word means “to let go”, which is exactly what we do when we make the choice to let an offense pass by without reaction or retaliation.
Why We Must Forgive
As God’s word is used as a source of teaching and training, we can see where we learn the necessity for and wisdom to forgive others when they sin against us. Peter asked a great question when he was seeking clarity on how much forgiveness is required:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “LORD, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
Here Jesus was saying to Peter that there really is no limit to how much forgiveness we should offer to others during our lifetimes. We are to practice the art of forgiveness many times over, as often as is necessary, to live in harmony with others.
So watch yourselves.
If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.
Luke 17:3-4 ESV
God is clear that this is not a suggestion or a request. It is a command. When we live a life in obedience to God, we must include repeated acts of forgiveness in our daily process.
One of the reasons forgiveness of others is so important is because it goes hand in hand with our own forgiveness. We are human, thereby we are sinners. We will sin each day of our lives, in ways big and small.
We will require God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. The need for this abundant grace and mercy will come to us more times than we can ever imagine.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV
Friends, we are going to need God’s forgiveness in abundant ways in our lives. How dare we ask from God what we are not willing to give to others?
If we live a life of withholding our forgiveness from those who repent towards us, God will do the same to us. He wants us to come to him with contrite and repenting hearts. He also wants us to have hearts that are filled with grace and mercy for those around us.
What Happens When We Exercise Forgiveness
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
When we practice forgiveness and give it freely to those around us, God is going to do the same for us. That is one of the great blessings that come from having a forgiving heart.
Is it as simple as just asking?
With God, it is that simple. By confessing our sins to him, he wipes them away, giving us a clean slate. We are not bound by those sins that we get caught up in. We can walk in freedom from the bondage of sin and live in the fullness of his grace.
This all sounds great, doesn’t it?
But life is life, and life is hard. People hurt us and we get bitter and resentful. We store up our anger and hold it close to our hearts as a means of protecting ourselves from further pain.
Often, we sit and ponder our pain, propelling it far greater and messier than it has to be. We hold grudges. We develop attitudes. We find ourselves reacting in ways that undoubtedly would not please Jesus.
That bitterness and anger take root in our hearts, and we store it inside of us, tucked away in a little compartment of our heart where it has room to grow and fester.
Before we know it, that little seed of hurt, anger, resentment, or bitterness has grown. It becomes a heavy load that we carry with us, day in and day out.
It evolves into something so big that it defines our attitudes daily. We may put on our smile and do our best to forge ahead, but the weight of our burden is heavy. It slows us down, or sometimes stops us completely.
Why are we always so quick to carry a load that we could easily put down?
Why are we so obsessed with holding on to the hurts when we could be living in peace and freedom?
Jesus wants us to walk in freedom…the freedom of living a life of obedience to God. He wants to take our burdens and carry them so we can be set free.
That is why the act of forgiveness is stressed so greatly in the Bible. God knew how necessary a forgiving heart would be in order to live a life of peace and joy. There is no room for joy in our hearts when they are full of bitterness.
God knew how sinful we would be in our human selves. He knew we would hurt each other time and time again, purposefully and accidentally.
He knew there would be pain, shame, anger, envy, rage, and regret. He also knew we would need a way to overcome those emotions if we were to walk in his goodness.
Because of this knowledge of what we would be and what we would need, He gave us forgiveness. He gave it to us in the beautiful gift of his son, Jesus Christ.
The very purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross was not for anything he had done wrong. He did no wrong. He knew no sin. He was spotless.
His death was for our sins. The sins of the people of the past, and the sins of those to come. That includes you. That includes me.
No longer was mankind required to offer a living sacrifice as redemption for their sins. Jesus became the living sacrifice. Because of his death on that cross, we have the ability to go before the throne of God and ask for forgiveness of our sins.
We can do this every day, as many times a day as is necessary. God does not put a limit on our sins being forgiven. The thing he does require of us is that in order for us to seek his forgiveness for our sins, we must be willing to forgive others of their sins against us.
That is the ultimatum. It is the code by which Christians should live. That is why forgiveness is so important. It is that great connection between our obedience to God and his love and grace for us.
If we want to be seen as followers of Christ, we must walk in his likeness. This requires us to have the same forgiving hearts and he had. We are to forgive as he forgave Peter, after Peter denied knowing him three times on one single night. We are to forgive the way he forgave Thomas when Thomas doubted who he really was.
We are to forgive the way Jesus forgave the tax collectors and money changers, and even the thieves that hung beside him.
When we open our hearts to forgiveness, we can walk in his peace. When we learn to “let it go” we can stand as living examples of who Christ is and what he stands for.
Love Requires Forgiveness
Forgiveness is necessary for love. And love is the greatest of all gifts. We need love and we need to give love. It all starts with a heart of repentance and a desire to live and love like Jesus.
Who do you need to forgive today? Who has been taking up space in your heart, creating a little pocket of negativity in your life? What load have you been carrying that is getting heavier and heavier by the day?
Today is the day to seek God in prayer and ask him to help you let go of your pain and anger. It may not happen all at once. You may have to go back to God time and time again to truly let go of something that has caused you serious pain and anger.
That is okay. There are no time limits, and you cannot run out of opportunities to pray and ask for God to help you show forgiveness. He is always there, waiting to help you free yourself from your bondage of anger.
Lay it down at the feet of Jesus and let his grace and love fill you. Pour out that same grace and love to those who come against you. Show your enemies the love of Christ. Live above the negativity. Live in freedom.
About the Author
Sharing the gospel through writing and speaking is one of Betty Predmore’s favorite things to do. She engages her audiences with her easy, conversational style. Her words reach women’s hearts and make them pause and ponder the possibilities of a beautiful life with Christ. Betty has written two devotionals, Pondering Virtue and Whispered Grace. She has contributed to several collaborative book compilations and written for numerous Christian magazines and blogs.