[Part 2 of 4: Forgiveness Series]
In the last post, I said, “Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s an act of faith.”
In response to an instruction by Jesus to forgive often, the apostles said, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). This gets where we live. Most Christians are like the apostles in the sense that they desire to increase their faith, but it’s especially necessary in the area of forgiving those who have wounded or offended you.
I remember hearing Mark Hankins say something once that helped me understand this principle of forgiving more than anything else. He said, “Those who choose to not forgive burn the bridge over which they themselves must pass.”
When I heard that, I immediately had a mental image of what he meant. God and man were once separated by sin. There was a great gulf between them until Jesus became the bridge. So what would happen if, after the bridge has been laid and man has free access and a relationship with God, man stands on his side of the bridge and says to God, “I can’t forgive” …? In that case, is God being hard when He says, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26)?
No, of course not. Those who choose to not forgive burn the bridge over which they themselves must pass.
Honestly, I used to be bothered by this. I thought God was being a little harsh to expect us to forgive like Him. I figured His ability to forgive came from the fact that He’s God. So how could He expect us (human as we are) to forgive like Him?
But then I realized: “Those who choose to not forgive burn the bridge over which they themselves must pass.” In other words, it’s a choice (not a feeling or an ability).
Think about it this way: When God made Jesus the bridge between mankind and Himself, what all did we receive? For starters… forgiveness of sins, love, peace, hope, soundness of mind, blessings, and much, much more. So when you and I stand across from God and say, “I can’t forgive” then basically, we are blocking everything we need from God to help us.
The love of Jesus helps me forgive.
His peace helps me forgive.
His ability to override my raging thoughts helps me forgive.
We all needed forgiveness for our own sins so Jesus became the bridge that brought us salvation. But if in my hurt and offense, I follow my feelings and resist forgiving others, I’m essentially burning the bridge that forgave me, not to mention the avenue God uses to bring me whatI need to heal and move forward.
But on the other hand, when I grit my teeth (resisting my feelings) and do it anyway (forgiving by faith because I love God and want to obey and trust His commands), then across His bridge of salvation comes love for my enemies, peace for my situation, hope for restoration, freedom from mental attacks, and much, much more.
But only if I first obey.
You will never feel like forgiving. It’s a choice. But when you forgive, I guarantee God will help you.
We’ll talk more tomorrow…