"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
I'm so thankful for the story of Peter and his denial of Jesus. Just imagine--betraying and denying Jesus, after Jesus had walked with Peter and taught him and loved him and served him for three years. After Peter's professions of faithfulness to the end! And then...uttering these words about Jesus, "I don't know the man!"
When Jesus comes face to face with Peter on the beach, he doesn't even bring it up. Jesus doesn't glare at Peter with bitterness in his heart. He doesn't whine about not being able to ever trust Peter again. He doesn't make Peter jump through hoops. No, he shares his heart and asks Peter to look after what is most important to Him--His flock, His sheep, His people.
What grace and good news to me that when I fail, and miserably, Jesus will forgive me and not hold it against me. He doesn't demote our relationship to a less intimate level until I can earn back my position. He doesn't make me feel like a loser, someone inferior, a "betrayer." He loves me as if I'd never failed Him, as if I'd always pleased Him in every way!
So I ask myself? Do I forgive like that? Do I love like that? Can I trust Jesus to watch over my heart and heal me when my heart gets used and abused? Or do I need to put up walls and establish boundaries so that "it never happens again!"
In relationships with other Christians, there are two principles that guide me.
First, I believe the Bible makes it clear that I am to forgive as the Lord forgave me; that it is not an emotion or a feeling, but a conscious act of my will. I must be deliberate. It is a choice. Colossians 3:13 says we are to "bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances we have against one another."
Second, forgiving is an act of faith. I am to act in faith in obedience to the Lord and trust Him to do His part to complete the process. I can forgive in faith even if I don't feel forgiving. This is no different than any other area of my life in which I decide to obey even when I know my heart still leans in another direction. The Bible is full of stories of men and women who act in faith and live by faith. Faith pleases God!
I must be careful to not hold a grudge in my heart, to not let bitterness take root. Praying for the person who has wronged me helps in this regard, especially asking God to bless him or her abundantly and to actually use me to be a blessing! Otherwise, I may say I've forgiven with my lips, but make it very clear with my actions that my heart is holding back.
I've been forgiven by God once and for all, but also day-by-day. Nothing can compare with the way my Savior has loved me and forgiven me. And no wrong against me by others can compare with the ways I've wronged him. No matter how much I forgive or how many times, I will never be able to out-do Jesus' forgiveness of me.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S. Lewis
Forgiving means going against my old nature. I can't do it on my own, but it's a beautiful thing to see the faithfulness of Jesus and His grace working in me. It sets free...always. And nothing is more healing than that.
Where might God be asking you to forgive in faith, trusting Him to do His part and accepting His grace to take the next step?