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In “10 Ways Christians Wreck Their Health, and the Biblical Truths to Overcome Them”, you’ll uncover the health-wrecking habits and attitudes that prevent Christians from reaching their health promised land. Learn how to claim victory over them by applying biblical principles.

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In my previous two posts, I’ve talked about the value God places on forgiveness in the Christian’s life and the dire health consequences of refusing to forgive. Today, I want to cover how to forgive…from the heart as Jesus called us to in Matthew 18:35.

Forgive as God Forgives

Several times in scripture, we are called to forgive in the way that God forgives us. For example:

  • In Ephesians 4:32, Paul tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

and

  • Colossians 3:13 calls us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

If we’re called to forgive others in the way that God forgives us, then a reasonable question to ask ourselves is how does God forgive us?

How God Forgives

According to the Bible, God offers us unconditional and complete forgiveness. When he forgives, he does not retain ANY evidence of our sins against him. 

Consider the following verses:

  • Isaiah 43:25 – “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
  • Jeremiah 31:34b – For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
  • Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
  • Acts 3:19 – Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
  • Micah 7:19 – He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
  • Isaiah 44:22 – I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

This gives us a model to follow as we work to forgive others. When we forgive, it must be complete – there should be no conditions placed upon our willingness to forgive others.

Aspects of Forgiveness

  1. Forgiveness is a choice. A willingness to absolve others of their debt against us doesn’t happen naturally. It requires intention. It requires a conscious decision. And it requires a willingness on our part to fully set others free from the obligation to make up for their transgression against us – regardless if reconciliation occurs or if justice is ever received. 
  2. Forgiveness requires empathy.
    Understanding how others feel helps us forgive in two ways. First, it reminds us of the great sin debt we owe that God has wiped out on our behalf. This was the moral of the parable of the Wicked Servant. When we fully understand what God has done for us, it puts us in the right mindset to then apply that same grace to others. Gaining clarity on how God feels when we refuse to forgive others can spur us on to action. Second, a compassionate heart enables us to reframe how we view our offenders. Viewing them through an empathetic lens helps us see them less as perpetrators of evil, and more as people in desperate need of God’s grace – just like we are.  In his seminal book, “My Utmost For His Highest”, Oswald Chambers wrote,

    Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace; it cost God the Cross of Jesus Christ before He could forgive sin and remain a holy God… When once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vice, constrained by the love of God.”

  3. Forgiveness is unconditional. True forgiveness has no boundaries or limitations placed upon it. This is why Jesus replied “seventy times seven” to Peter when he asked about how many times he should forgive someone in Matthew 18:22. In Bible numerology, the number seven represents perfection or completion. And as we’ve seen earlier in how God forgives us, he doesn’t hold on to any remnant of our offenses against him. Hanging on to offenses keeps us emotionally imprisoned, and can lead to bitterness and other significant health problems.  God says he forgives us for his own sake in Isaiah 43:25. For our own benefit, we should do the same. 
  4. Forgiveness is personal. There is no single formula or right way to forgive others. Depending on the offense, releasing the debts against us can be a complex and multilayered process or it could happen relatively quickly. In any case, a willingness to be fully transparent and prayerful are two common keys to the forgiveness process. Below, I’ve included a helpful exercise that I’ve used personally in my own forgiveness journey. 

An exercise in Forgiveness 

You can use the steps below to work through forgiveness on your own. There’s nothing uniquely special about these steps, but they can serve as a framework to help you as you walk in obedience to God’s commands. 

  1. Who do you need to forgive? Invite God to bring any areas of unforgiveness to the forefront of your mind. People who you avoid, constantly speak ill of, or who make you feel uncomfortable or angry are good candidates to begin with.
  2. Write down the offenders’ names as well as the offenses they committed against you. Be fully transparent with yourself about how the situation impacted you. How did it make you feel? How did it affect your life then and now? What has it cost you? You may find it helpful to do this step in the form of a written letter (one that is never mailed) to your offender. 
  3. Pray over that person and the situation until you feel peace. Declare they are completely forgiven out loud. This step may take time. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help as needed. 
  4. Once you feel a release, destroy the paper or letter with the written offenses. Shred it or burn it. This is a symbolic gesture to indicate to yourself that you have completely wiped out your offender’s debt to you.
  5. Reconcile with that person, if the Spirit of God directs you to do so.
  6. If the issue enters your thoughts again, remind yourself, “I have already forgiven this. The debt to me is fully paid.”

Forgiveness is a central tenet of the Christian faith. Practicing the spiritual discipline of forgiveness is an act of obedience and worship. 

Since we know that forgiving others is the will of God, we can be assured that God will honor our desire to do it, and will empower us to do it fully. 

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For Further Study 

Check out these book titles below for further study on forgiveness from a Christian perspective.

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