Recently, I went over the Lord’s prayer with some little kids at my church. I wanted them to become familiar with it because, during many of the tough times in my life, those verses (among others) have popped into my head out of nowhere and brought peace when I couldn’t find peace anywhere else:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
This time when I read it, a familiar part struck me again: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” It’s always been easy for me to SAY I forgive another person, but there have been times where thoughts resurface and the pain feels all too real again. The Lord’s prayer challenges us to ask for forgiveness from God and forgive those who have wronged us at the same time. It may be a simple thing to say – “forgive them,” but when you’ve been wronged – the pain, anger, and bitterness, can eat you up. Letting go isn’t as simple as saying it one day, or even “feeling” like everything is in the past. It isn’t easy – but there’s always the question of, WHEN is it okay to forgive? That answer isn’t always simple but it can be answered by looking at Christ’s example. I heard a message on forgiveness and realized that the moment Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, was WHILE the nails were going through His hands, WHILE He was left on the cross, WHILE He was being mocked. That is when Jesus decided to forgive.
“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23: 33-34a
The beauty of Jesus’ words holds such deep meaning when we realize that He had every power to get up from that cross unharmed and healed – but he instead chose to be selfless and to endure and forgive. Forgiveness in God’s eyes doesn’t seem to be a feeling. It’s a constant, conscious choice to choose selfless love. When God forgives, He doesn’t hold it over us and make us overwhelmed with guilt. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He accepts us as we are. God forgives completely. This quote by Corrie Ten Boom summarizes God’s forgiveness rather well:
“When God casts all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), “He puts up a sign: NO FISHING! – Corrie Ten Boom”
Here is an excerpt from a newsletter that Elisabeth Elliot (one of my favorite authors) wrote on this topic – giving us practical steps to take in order to forgive:
“Perhaps four things that have helped me when I have been hurt may be helpful to others:
- Receive grace (see Matthew 18:1-35 and the passage above from Colossians 3:12-14).
- Acknowledge the wrong. Make sure your judgment is based on the Word. Be straightforward with God (as Paul was: 2 Timothy 4:14).
- Lay down all rights. Forgiveness is the unconditional laying down of the self (see 1 Corinthians 6). This includes the desire for vindication, pleasure at the other person’s humiliation, keeping accounts of evil, the right to an apology, and bringing every thought under obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- What to do for the one who has wronged you:
- a. If he asks forgiveness, forgive(Matthew 6:12).
b. If he doesn’t, forgive in a private transaction with God.
c. Pray for him.
d. Ask for grace to treat him as if nothing had ever come between you (see Psalm 119:78) and stand with Christ for him.”