Faith-Driven Forgiveness

Duane Vander Klok

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Hebrews 12:14-15

Most of us have been betrayed, hurt, or abandoned by someone we loved and trusted. We know that pain like this causes a gaping wound in our hearts. It can be very hard to overcome and especially hard to forgive, but God has called us to forgive as He forgave us.

Jesus was betrayed by his closest friends many times – He was betrayed very deeply by his disciple Judas. And yet He was able to fully forgive. We are called to forgive because God knows that bitterness and unforgiveness hurts us much more than the person it is aimed at. When there is unforgiveness and unresolved conflict, it can be tempting to try to point bitterness at the person you are angry with, but the truth is that it cannot be aimed. Bitterness spreads and touches everyone in your life except the person you are really angry with.

Forgiveness is easiest when you do it immediately – the longer you wait, the harder it is to forgive the offense. When Judas betrayed Him, Jesus immediately forgave and called him “friend.” When Jesus was on the cross, He immediately forgave saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) Where there is unforgiveness, there is an open door, an opportunity, a foothold for the enemy to come into your heart. When we give the enemy an inch, he is notorious for trying to take a mile.

The best response does not include revenge, grudges, or retaliation; the best response to offense is to forgive and get free. Forgiveness is not a feeling, but a decision that you make by faith. You may have to make the decision to forgive someone multiple times because your feelings are not cooperating. It is not easy, but we can forgive because God first forgave us. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel, and the church is meant to be the forgiving community of forgiven sinners.