Forgiving Others

Bob RoaneJoy and Peace, Repentance, Confession, Forgiveness

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Forgiveness and Peace

A study in the Journal of Psychology and Health suggests that people who receive forgiveness themselves for things they did wrong and forgave others for hurting them slept better. Forgiving ones are more likely to sleep better, and for longer, and have better physical health. They are able to leave the day’s regrets and offenses in the past. Researchers suggest that people who don’t forgive tend to linger on unpleasant thoughts and feelings, such as anger, blame, and regret. This can involve painful rumination, repetitive thoughts about distress, resentment, or bitterness.1

The Prophet Isaiah says: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.2       

This post builds on Rosamond Herklots on Forgiveness

Kendall’s Wise Words

Pastor R. T. Kendall is a Christian writer and pastor who teaches “7 Steps of Total Forgiveness” based on Joseph’s example in Genesis. His book is entitled Total Forgiveness. In certain cases, we must turn matters over to church elders or governing authorities for discipline and/or punishment.3 However we must forgive fellow sinners, even if they still must face the consequences of their actions.

1. Kendall says: Wherever possible keep it quiet. Don’t tell others what the guilty one said or did to you. If we want to hurt another person by telling on them, we are sinning. Proverbs 29:11 says: “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”  For our own healing, we many need to tell a faithful counselor who will keep the matter confidential. But rethinking and retelling over and over how we were hurt keeps our anger stirred up and hinders forgiving and moving forward.

Clara Barton (1821-1912) was a nurse who founded the American Red Cross. She was reminded of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she never heard of the incident. Her friend asked, “Don’t you remember it?” Barton answered, “No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.”

2. Kendall says: As much as possible, put the offender at ease. Joseph was pleasant and generous to his brothers despite their cruelty to him years before. James 3:13 says; “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” Proverbs 16:21 says: “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.” Our Christ-like kindness may help the other person to repent and get right with God.4 On the contrary, our severity may harden them in their sinful ways or cause them to despair.

3. Help the offenders seek and receive the Lord’s forgiveness. Don’t punish people with a “guilt trip.” Joseph said, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for putting me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”5 Jesus declared, “As you would like and desire that others would do to you, do exactly so to them.”6 Let’s resist taking sinful pleasure from making others sweat, squirm, or feel badly. That’s not how the Lord treats us or how He calls us to treat others.

General James Oglethorpe (1696-1785) founded the State of Georgia. He once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.” Christ said: “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

4. Kendall says: Don’t remind them unnecessarily of their wrong and your hurt. Like Joseph, trust God’s sovereign strategy for dealing with their misdeeds. Galatians 6:1 teaches: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” If we are self-righteous and finger-pointing Pharisees, our attempt at forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation will backfire.

5. Kendall says: Protect the guilty one from their greatest fear. In Genesis, Joseph knew his brothers dreaded that their father, Jacob, would learn of their evil deeds. They were relieved when Joseph set them free. Scripture says: “Whoever covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends….Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”7

6. Make a lifelong commitment to keep on forgiving, today, tomorrow, and onward. Satan will remind you what the other person did and tempt you to bitterness, resentment, and revenge. The Apostle Peter wrote: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”8 Tempting us hold on to grudges is one way the devil tries to derail us.

Kendall suggests reading Luke 6:37 every day. The Lord Jesus said: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Deciding to forgive one who hurt us needs ongoing renewal. It is often a process, just as finding relief from your own pain is a process. Both take time. So let’s keep on bringing our damaged emotions to God and seek His inner healing.9

7. Pray for God’s blessing upon them. Christ says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”10 This is hard and we need the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control. “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”11 Praying for one who has hurt you or let you down is hard because:

  • We are warring against our flesh (sinful nature) to keep in step with the Spirit.12
  • Nobody knows we are doing it, except the Lord. And that’s OK. He is enough!13
  • God may truly bless others as if they’d never sinned. Just like He does with us!14

Jesus’ word to pray for offenders is not a polite suggestion or an unrealistic goal. It is His command.

You may also like: Forgiven and Forgiving (Part 1)  Forgiven and Forgiving (Part 2) Loving Enemies and Forgiving

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Sophie McMullen, “Having Trouble Sleeping? Try Forgiving Someone,” The Washington Post (10-21-19).     2 Isaiah 26:3-4.     3 See Matthew 18:15-20; Romans 13:1-7.     4 See Rom 2:4.     5 Gen 45:5.     6 Luke 6:31.     7 Prov 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8.     8 1 Peter 5:8.     9 1 Peter 5:6-7.     10 Matt 5:44.     11 Prov 16:3.     12 Gal 5:16-21; Rom 7:14-25.     13 Matt 6:6.     14 Gen 47:1-2.