We have all been hurt by people in our past. I do not know a single woman who hasn’t been spurned by malicious words whispered when their backs are turned. Every woman holds wounds inflicted by family members, close friends, boyfriends, church members, or even strangers. I myself am one of these women. I love to hold onto grudges and see red when I think about the people who have hurt me in the past.
In my earlier college years, I had several people close to me all suddenly leave my life at once, betraying my trust, and leaving open sores that would fester for a while. Two and a half years later, I am beginning to understand what forgiveness means as a follower of Christ. As a culture, we tend to say we forgive people without really thinking about it; we say it as a means to let the offending party off the hook. When we do this, the feelings of resentment build within our hearts and we later come to realize that we never truly forgave in the first place.
I have recently been inspired that forgiveness is not a passive thing that we decide on; forgiveness is an action, one that must be willfully done each day. We must consistently forgive people for our past wounds. Matthew 18:21-22 says:
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”
Jesus meant business. He wants us to continuously and actively forgive those who trespass against us. I believe that this extends to every time that we remember something that is done against us, drag up and rehash old arguments and wounds. We must actively re-forgive those people and not let bitterness grow.
In Luke, there is the parable of the lost sheep. The shepherd looks and looks for his lost sheep, and is overjoyed when the sheep is returned to him. This is how God feels about us. He loves us so much that when we return to him, it is as if he has found the most precious treasure. Here is the kicker though: He feels the same way about your enemy. God passionately loves you, but he also passionately loves the woman in church who has spurned you, or the man who broke your heart. When we refuse to forgive these people, we are ignoring the fact that God first forgave us. We have hurt people just as our enemies have, and God has forgiven us all. So too must we forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 says:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
We are called to forgive each other, because God first forgave us.
Some of us, myself included, not only struggle with forgiving other people, but also struggle with forgiving ourselves. God forgave us. If the creator of the universe, who can do no wrong, and has never needed forgiveness, can forgive us, why can’t we forgive ourselves? It is so easy to hold on to your mistakes and tear yourself down for them. Let them go. Forgive yourself. God forgave you, so you can forgive you. We are a new creation in Christ, so let us live like it. Let us shine and have confidence in our life in Christ, and share His love and forgiveness with everyone around us.
About the Author
Kailey is a senior biology major at Oklahoma Baptist University. Her parents live in Edmond, Oklahoma with her three younger sisters. She will be attending Oklahoma State University Center for Health Science medical school in the fall. She hopes to be a pediatrician and use medicine as a witnessing tool to reach under-served populations.