How To Forgive Others
By David J. Stewart | July 2014 | Updated December 2014
Matthew 6:15, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
One of the hardest things in the world is oftentimes to forgive someone who has woefully wronged you. Victims of crimes often ask, “Do I have to forgive?” You certainly have a choice not to forgive, but if you don't forgive them, then it's like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The Bible reminds us as Christians that God forgave us of our sins for Christ's sake, and teaches us to do likewise...
Ephesians 4:30-32, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
When bitten by a snake, there are two things you can do: You can either hunt down the snake while the poison kills you, or you can tend to the wound and live. It's better to tend to one's wounds and live.
The Bible teaches us how to deal with our enemies. The way to forgive others is to place them into God's hands for judgment. It is a matter of faith that God will avenge us in eternity. It is easy to let things go when you truly believe that God will hold all men accountable, even for the idle words they speak (Matthew 12:36). Romans 10:19 teaches us not to avenge ourselves against our enemies. Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” God commands us as Christians “to give place unto wrath.” When you get angry, have a place to redirect it. The next time you get angry, pass out some Gospel tracts! The next time that you become bitter, do something nice for a homeless person. The next time you feel depressed, put $5 in a Gospel of John and hand it to a poor person! Brother, if you want to be happy in the Lord, then get busy living for OTHERS like you're dying! That's how to develop a forgiving spirit.
God commands us as Christians to forgive, not just seven times a day, but seventy times seven times (that's 490 times). Matthew 18:21-22, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” God was willing to forgive us of all our terrible sins (Matthew 18:23-35). Matthew 18:34-35, “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
Jesus Set the Example to Forgive On the Cross
While on the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive the men who crucified Him. Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” 1st Corinthians 2:8 says that Pilate would not have crucified the Lord had he known the truth. It was the Lord Himself who taught us to love our enemies. Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” The Bible says that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn men, but to seek and save that which was lost (John 3:17; Luke 19:10).
As Christians we should take a step backward and try to view the big picture, as God does. This is understanding. Instead of seeing people as bad, view them as broken. Of course, all men are woeful sinners in God's eyes (Romans 3:23). Most people who get into trouble with the law are good people who are just at a bad point in their life. Oftentimes it is hurting people that hurt other people. It is human nature to want someone to burn in Hell because they tore a page out of our book, but as Christians we ought to learn to forgive quickly and give place to wrath, knowing that God will avenge all wrongdoing in eternity. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says that EVERY WORK shall be brought into judgment by God. Knowing this truth makes it much easier to forgive those who trespass against us. No one is going to get away with anything! God even knows the number of hairs upon our head. God is omniscient (all-knowing).
Every Work Shall Be Brought into Judgment By God
To help you forgive someone who has wronged you, realize that God is the ultimate Lawgiver and Judge. James 4:12, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” Ecclesiastes 12:12-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
In Matthew 12:36 Jesus said that men will be held accountable even for the idle words they have spoken. No one is going to get away with anything. Proverbs 24:12 says that God even reads men's minds and motives and will judge them accordingly. Proverb 24:12, “If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” God is the keeper of men's souls. You cannot harm another human being and avoid the judgment of God (Matthew 7:1-2). Hebrews 9:27 teaches that every individual will be judged in eternity by God.
Please understand that to forgive someone does not release them of responsibility, restitution, punishment and other consequences for their wrongs (or crimes). Forgiveness is a choice! Certainly it is understandable that someone who has been deeply wronged by another person would require a time period of emotional healing, sometimes a lifetime. But this is separate from forgiveness. So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is releasing a person's offenses into God's omnipotent hands for judgment. You don't want to mess with God by messing with a child of God. Matthew 18:6, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Overcome Evil with Good
Romans 12:19-21, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
My advice to you if someone has hurt you is to get busy soul-winning, work a bus ministry, teach a Sunday School class, support missions, help the poor, visit a nursing home, tell someone that God loves them, go street-preaching, buy an extra pack of pastries at the store for your neighbour, get busy for God laying up treasures (souls, crowns, possessions and rewards) in Heaven. When people hurt me, I work that much harder serving God, so that I'll have even more treasures in Heaven. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!!!
There are many evils that go unpunished in this world; such as, the Japanese Unit 731 torture labs in World War II and Joseph Stalin's brutal murder of 60 million people under the Communist Soviet Union between 1920-1950, and a trillion other wrongs. God will judge each and every one of them, that is, wrongs committed. He must, for He is holy and just. Even men's thoughts will be judged (Proverbs 24:12). God is a good God. Matthew 25:40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When someone hurts a Christian, a child of God, they are hurting Jesus! That's exactly what the Lord said in Matthew 25:40.
Even though it may take time for you to emotionally heal from something devastating that someone has done to you, you can forgive them in your heart right away, knowing that they must give account to almighty God. When a person hurts you, they must seek forgiveness from God. You cannot forgive their sins. You may choose to forgive them in your heart for what they've done to hurt you, but that in no way gets them off the hook with God. They still must make things right with God or face the consequences, and part of making things right with the Lord as a Christian is making restitution.
Never seek vengeance or be vindictive against anyone. God has promised to take care of the matter and avenge all wrongs (Romans 12:19). I would 10,000 times rather have other people hurt me (and many have), than me hurt them!!! I would rather wait a lifetime to be avenged by God, than to have to answer to God one day for hurting someone else.
How to Forgive Yourself
If you're a human being, you have also hurt people in life, whether intentionally or not. It's easy to think only in terms of others hurting us, but we are all guilty of hurting others. Humans are creatures of emotion. Anyone is capable of committing any sin under the right circumstances. This is why the Bible teaches in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Protect your heart (which is your subconscious mind).
Oh be carefully little eyes what you see,
for the Father up above is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh be carefully little ears what you hear,
for the Father up above is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little ears what you hear.
Oh be carefully little feet what you go,
for the Father up above is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little feet what you go.
The hardest thing in life is to forgive yourself. God invites the vilest sinner to come and reason with Him. Literally, God offers complete forgiveness to anyone through faith in Christ Jesus. Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” The blood of Jesus cleanses deeper than the darkest stains of sin. Revelation 1:5, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Hebrews 10:19, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” If it weren't for the precious redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, we'd all go straight to Hell to burn forever!
God will forgive you, even if people don't. That's why king David said in Psalms 51:4, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” If you've been forgiven by God, washed in the blood of Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, keep your head up. Colossians 1:20, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” What a precious Savior!!!
Capital Punishment is Biblical
I heard about two thug burglars, rapists and mass-murderers in Connecticut, who raped and murdered two teenage girls and the mother in 2007, murdering all three of them. The killer had a younger accomplice. They tormented the father, cracking his skull open with a baseball bat, nearly killing him. The surviving father was on Oprah and other national media, painfully sharing his nightmare. The older of the two assailants apologized to the family of the dead victims in court and said that “forgiveness is not mine to have.” That man is very wrong! Forgiveness is his to have FROM GOD ALMIGHTY if he'll receive Christ's payment on the cross for his sins and believe in the resurrected Christ! This in no way diminishes the awfulness of their inexplicable evil deeds. They should have been executed long ago, but they likely never will be because of America's liberal, leftist, unbiblical, laws.
We live in a faithless society. In an attempt to spare his client the death penalty, I heard the younger assailant's attorney say that executing him would end his punishment. The attorney reasoned that locking the man away for a life sentence will force him to suffer behind bars for the rest of his earthly life, which he thinks is better than just executing him. Biblically, that is all wrong.
First, the Bible teaches capital punishment (the death penalty), and when men disobey God, there's always consequences. Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” If murderers were executed in the United States, then these two men very likely would have been deterred from committing these awful crimes. Is it any wonder why America's crime rate is so high and our prisons are filled to double their capacity? The rich executives who own the prison system profit handsomely from keeping prisoners locked up instead of executing them as the Holy Bible commands. Prisons have become a lucrative trillion-dollar profitable industry. Those attackers should both receive the death penalty, but our ungodly legal system won't obey God by exercising justice. The older assailant was given the death penalty, but he appealed it, which according the news reports will likely take 25 years to happen. There is little justice in America!
Second, the attorney assumes that God doesn't punish evildoers in eternity. Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is wrong to keep criminals worthy of the death penalty alive, allegedly to make them suffer more, when God Himself is waiting in eternity to deal with them. So by keeping these two men alive, the hearts of other youth won't have any deterrent not to burglarize, rape and murder other families! Oh, how foolish are men not to obey God's Holy Word.
It brings tears to my eyes when I think about the poor surviving father/husband. What kind of Christmas do you think he has each year? I doubt if the murdered family's victims will ever forgive those monsters. I can certainly understand why they wouldn't want to forgive. Do you know what forgiveness is? It is looking to God by faith and releasing our hatred for those who've hurt us, knowing that God will judge all men for their every thought, word and deed (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
The U.S. Supreme Court removed the Holy Bible and prayer from our nation's classrooms in 1963. It's not that hard to figure out folks why atrocities like this are happening. God will not be mocked. We are a Godless nation today! Brother Lester Roloff was the biggest blessing America's youth ever had through The Roloff Homes for troubled youth. Only God knows how many thousands of young thugs, criminals, prostitutes, burglars, rapists, atheists and troubled youth were saved and turned around into decent and respectable citizens by the power of Jesus Christ. The Roloff Homes were a Godsend, but the wicked state government shut them down. I cannot comprehend how hot Hell will be for those who've harmed thousands of children by stopping Brother Roloff from helping our nation's troubled youth.
You see, the Illuminati want to destroy our youth, evidenced by the kooks, queers and sickos in the music industry that target our youth with perversion of every sort. Evidenced by the indoctrination of innocent children with the satanic lies of Evolution. Did you ever wonder why they don't teach morality, courtship and marriage to our youth in the schools? It's because there can be no morality without the Holy Bible. Truly, We Americans Get What We Deserve!
God Chastises His Children When They Hurt Others
1st Thessalonians 4:6, “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” You can rest assure in knowing that God never lets anyone slide. Romans 2:11 teaches that God is not a respecter of persons. There is no favoritism with God. You're either saved or unsaved. If your unsaved, God will judge you according to your works (Revelation 20:11-15). If you are saved, God will still judge you according to your works, but He won't send you to Hell to be punished for them (2nd Corinthians 5:9-11).
Although the believer cannot go to Hell, we can and will be chastised of the Lord. The unsaved dead will be judged by God the Father, because they rejected the Son of God. However, Jesus Christ will be the believer's Judge in eternity, Who paid for our sins with His precious blood. Isn't that great that our dear Savior will also be our Judge? 1st Corinthians 11:31-32, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” Knowing this truth should compel us to let trespasses against us go into God's omnipotent hands. Since God chastises those who do wrong, we can let the matter go for now, knowing that The Judgment Seat of Christ is coming for all believers, and The Great White Throne of Judgment for the lost.
A Lesson From the Life of Joseph
Consider the Old Testament true story of Joseph, whose jealous and wicked half-brothers threw him into a pit, and then he was carried away and sold into slavery in Egypt. Twenty years later God sends a famine to the whole land, forcing the brothers to travel down to Egypt for food. Long story short from Genesis, when Joseph's brothers find out that the brother they betrayed is now the most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh, they get scared. They told Joseph they would be his slaves...
Genesis 50:18-20, “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
Ah, but notice how Joseph beautifully expresses God's unconditional love for them, letting them know that he is not in God's place to judge them. Joseph says, “AM I IN THE PLACE OF GOD?” Joseph could have had them all executed just because he wanted to. He could have sold them all into slavery, treating them just as horribly as they did to him twenty years earlier. Joseph was separated from his father for all those years because of his rotten half brothers. He could have taken vengeance upon them for breaking their father's heart. Joseph had a hundred justifiable reasons to hate his brothers and murder them!!! Yet, we learn a great lesson concerning forgiveness from Joseph, and see the dear Savior exemplified by Joseph's willingness to forgive.
We learn three things from the story of Joseph about forgiveness:
- Joseph didn't seek vengeance against his brothers for betraying and hurting him.
- Joseph released the offense into God's omnipotent and omniscient hands for judgment.
- Joseph spiritually discerned how God was able to use his personal suffering to help and bless others.
The most important thing to realize is that Joseph understood the Biblical truth that GOD IS THE JUDGE OF ALL MEN.
Joseph was able to give place to his wrath by understanding that God is the Judge of all humanity. If Joseph's ten brothers were in trouble, they were in trouble with God. If anyone was going to judge them, it was going to be God.
Please understand that forgiveness is NOT an emotion, it is NOT excusing someone, it is NOT forgetting. Forgiveness is placing a matter into God's hands for judgment, trusting that the Lord knows what is best.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” God holds us accountable even for the words that we speak.
Proverbs 24:12, “If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” God reserves the eternal right and power to judge all mankind because only God knows every thought and intent of the mind and heart. Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Understanding these Scripture passages helps the Christian believer to forgive, knowing that everything ultimately falls into God's holy, just and righteous hands.
Matthew 10:30 says that God knows the very number of hairs on your head. Do you really think God doesn't see the mean person trying to get under your skin at work, or the hypocritical person at church gossiping about you, or the family member who resents you, or the thieves who stole your car last year? God sees everything. Proverbs 5:21, “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.” Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
The most important thing is how we treat others. “THE GOLDEN RULE” is taught in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
If you believe the Bible that God is the Judge of all men, then you can place all wrongs into His hands, instead of carrying those mountainous burdens upon yourself. I choose to continually place everything in my life into God's hands through prayer, so that I can continually claim the promise from God that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Luke 7:47-48, Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” My friend, if you have ever been forgiven of much sins, as I have, then you will be compelled to love much and forgive everyone. The truth is that we are all horrible sinners, but most Christians fail to see their sinfulness. I recently heard a Christian man at church say that he has “never sinned really bad” in his life. Oh, yes he has, he just doesn't realize it. Won't you join me at the feet of Jesus, washing His precious feet with our tears?
There is nothing in this world that anyone could ever do to hurt me, but that I would forgive them, for I have been forgiven of so much in Christ. Don't judge others because they sin differently than you do! We are all sinners. 1st Timothy 5:24, “Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” My dear friend, you'll never know true joy and peace in life until you learn to forgive everyone with God's love. Jesus is precious!
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” —2nd Thessalonians 1:8,9
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