Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Through decades of life and experience, I have had many opportunities to be forgiven and to face the challenge of forgiving others. It still amazes me when talking to people about the need to forgive and move on, how difficult it seems for many to actually forgive even with knowing this is God’s desire for them. In today’s scripture, we are instructed to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another. I can hear some of you saying, “I wish it were just that simple.” But it can be when we understand the context of the directive to be God’s representative in the earth.
When we can realize that anything God asks us to do is only possible with His help and empowerment, this should inspire us to move forward. God has promised to never leave us alone or forsake or abandon us. All God ever requires of us is to make a choice to obey and pursue His will for our lives. To believe that forgiveness is accomplished as act of our will by choosing to forgive the offending party is to activate the power of God on our behalf. We must realize that forgiveness, (or anything else God desires for us to do) is not emotion based, but choice centered. Many of us wait around until we feel like we can forgive, and the truth is that the only thing that may take time or be a process is for our feeling to be healed.
Forgiveness should be done immediately, by choice, because God asks to and because He made provision for us to be forgiven immediately through our accepting Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. Because we are forgiven, God can, and has, empowered us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving as we allow Him to heal the hurts.
God does not ask us to forget what has happened, but does ask us to erase the debt owed from our life’s ledger. What I mean is that when you see the person who has hurt you, you must remember that you have made a choice to forgive them and no longer seek retribution or punitive damages from them. We attach no strings, stigma, or conditions that will affect our behavior of kindness toward that individual. With God’s help, you must remember how God has forgiven you and can enable you to move forward without bitterness, strife or resentment.
Your ability to choose to forgive immediately – that is to obey God – will release you to experience the promises of God’s peace and support. Even if the person is a repeat offender, forgiving and releasing the debt will allow you heal and move forward knowing God is at work in you and working through you as a follower of Christ. (Adrian)