But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
Forgiveness has been described as “the crown jewel of love.” It is perhaps the most precious of gifts for the human soul. Motivated by his great love for humanity, our Heavenly Father offered us his forgiveness through the sacrifice of his only Son. The only door to eternal life and emotional freedom is through the door of forgiveness. In fact, according to Matthew 6:15, Jesus makes it clear that we can prohibit the fullness of God’s grace in our lives if we withhold forgiveness. If we do not choose to enter into the process of forgiving another person who has harmed us, then we are likely to remain stuck in our anger, resentment or bitterness. We become a prisoner inside our self-made jail cells of unforgiveness and bitterness.
To forgive another is one of the greatest acts of worship we can participate in. Leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:24). But let’s be honest—forgiveness is hard to do! It doesn’t come naturally on its own accord or necessarily happen over night. It is a process that must be entered into willingly with a sense of true commitment to see it through. Forgiveness involves some of the following basic principles:
- Forgiveness involves an injustice. It could involve neglect, abuse, betrayal, broken trust or some other form of emotional hurt.
- Forgiveness does not require fairness. It does not ignore the wrong, nor turn a blind eye to the pain caused to the innocent.
- Forgiveness is for our freedom. It is for our benefit. If we don’t forgive those who have hurt us, we become the prisoner—not the other person.
- Forgiveness requires a season of protest…and God allows for this season of protest. This time allows us to protest that what happened was not right and that we got a bad deal. God allows us time to vent this truth.
- Forgiveness requires a time of grief. Grieving is the emotional release of our need for justice. It involves letting go of our innocence or accepting the brokenness of a relationship.
- Forgiveness seeks the grace of God. We must shift our focus from protest to the cross and give up the right to seek vengeance. We need to be a receiver—God desires to replace our hurt with his grace.