The Power of Forgiveness
“Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it. [Don't take the law into your own hands.] Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be ‘heaping coals of fire on his head.’ In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:19-21 TLB
One day, when my son was only about 6 years old, he came home from school without his lunch box. I asked him where it was, and when he said he didn’t know, I suggested that he mentally retrace his steps. As my son got more and more confused, I got more and more angry. It seemed like he was always misplacing something, and for me, this was like the last straw. I told him that when he went to school the following day, he had better go to the office and check the “lost and found”. Over the next few days, my son tried everything to find that lunch box, without success. I was really disgusted with him, and I made sure that he knew it. Then one evening, I opened one of my kitchen cabinets and was horrified when I discovered the missing lunch box inside. I had packed my son’s lunch and then, instead of handing it to him as he walked out the door, I put it in one of our cabinets. With a heavy heart, I approached my son and asked him to forgive me for accusing him of losing his lunch box. Without a moment’s hesitation, he threw his little arms around my neck and kissed me and exclaimed, “That’s okay, Mommy!” It was a lesson in forgiveness that I’ve never forgotten.
These days, whenever someone attacks or hurts me, I try to remember how so many years ago, my little boy showed me that being kind and forgiving to those who wound us can cause them to feel the regret and repentance that God wants them to. Jesus has commanded us to forgive our enemies, to pray for them, and to resist treating them as badly as they treat us. (Luke 6:27-28) Our Lord has called us to live “the most excellent way,” by “keeping no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 12:31;13:5) And He expects us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not being done to us.
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, the Spirit of God dwells on the inside of you, and He will empower you to forgive those who offend you the moment you make the decision to forgive. In addition, God has given you the supernatural ability to love others with His kind of love. (Romans 5:5) Does God care if we’re mistreated? You bet He does. And the Bible makes it clear that He is committed to protecting and defending those who are devoted to Him. But He expects us to “leave room for God’s wrath” by refusing to avenge ourselves, and giving Him the opportunity to fight for us. (Romans 12:19 NIV)
The reason why we don’t see more believers winning battles is because, all too often, we don’t want to wait on God to defend and rescue us. We plunge ahead and try to fight our own battles, and as a result, we forfeit the victories and blessings God had in store for us as a reward for trusting Him. We need to remind ourselves that just because we let someone off the hook for wronging us, that doesn’t mean they’re off God’s hook. When we forgive those who hurt us, we aren’t excusing their actions–we’re just forgiving them as an act of obedience to God, and we’re trusting Him to deal with them. We can’t expect our feelings to help us. We have to do it as an act of our will, and we may have to do it by faith. After we make the decision to forgive, often our emotions will fall in line.
When Jesus spoke about prayer and mountain-moving faith, He said we had to let go of all unforgiveness in order for God to forgive us our sins. (Mark 11:22-25) We can’t expect our prayers to get ready answers when we are holding grudges. Ephesians 4:32 (MSG) says: “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” When bitterness begins to take root in our hearts, it can poison us spiritually, and make us physically and emotionally sick. (Hebrews 12:15) It can also open the door to satanic attack. (Ephesians 4:27)
Allow me to leave you with some food for thought from the Word of God today: “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” (John 20:23 MSG)
Lord, help me to be quick to forgive those who treat me unjustly, to respond in a Christlike manner, and to pray for them. Remind me that “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13 TLB) Thank You that as I sow seeds of mercy, I will reap mercy! (Matthew 5:7)