Kids seem to have no problem forgiving others when they say “I’m sorry.” They apologize, and then the kid forgives them, and then they go on as though nothing happened.
But as the kids get older, they learn to hold grudges. When they become teenagers, it seems that some of them get to the point where nothing that a person could say or do would get them to forgive him. And then these people become adults, and they still do the same thing, holding grudges and refusing to forgive, even if that person truly has changed.
Then you end up with strained or ruined relationships, hurt and anger, high blood pressure, ulcers, confusion, sadness… Well, let’s just say that it’s not good. It would be so nice if we could just hit the “reset” switch on all our relationships. It is possible to start fresh in those relationships, but it takes forgiveness.
The same thing is true in our relationship with God. If we want to start over, be completely free from guilt and sin, then forgiveness is necessary.
A new start, spiritually, requires forgiveness on three levels.
You must accept God’s forgiveness on his terms.
So many people today are promising people God’s forgiveness without going to God’s word to show how to get it. Have you ever heard “pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart”? That’s nowhere in the Bible!
God said that forgiveness comes by hearing the gospel (Acts 2:22-24), believing it (Mark 16:16), repenting of your sins (Acts 2:38), Confessing Christ (Acts 8:37), and being baptized so your sins can be washed away (Acts 2:38). When you do all of these things–and not before–then you are promised God’s forgiveness.
What about those people who have done all those things, but have messed up again? How do THEY get God’s forgiveness so they can start over? Those people are told to repent (change) and pray to God (Acts 8:22). Those people are told to confess their sins to God, and He will forgive all of their sins (I John 1:9).
How does God forgive?
I worked with a man once who couldn’t bring himself to study the Bible because he was convinced: “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done.” This is actually a common belief some people have, but it’s not true. After all, God forgave Peter of denying that he even knew who Jesus was. God forgave Paul of murdering Christians. God forgave king Manasseh of killing his children by burning them alive in worshiping a giant statue; murdering God’s prophets; causing the people to forsake God.
God will forgive anyone for anything if they come to Him on His terms. Not only will God forgive, He will NEVER bring it up against you again. Hebrews 8:12, 10:17 – their sins and iniquities I will remember no more. When God forgives, it is complete forgiveness. When God forgives, you can know without a doubt that He basically forgets it and doesn’t take it into account against you…ever.
You must forgive others.
If you truly want a fresh start, you can’t hold grudges against other people. How many times have you been so upset with someone that you get angry every time you see that person or hear that person’s name? A lot of times the person may not even realize he’s done something to upset you.
Some people like to bury the hatchet (meaning they stop fighting and trying to destroy one another), but they leave the handle sticking out. They’re willing to say, “we’ll just not bring this up again right now and try to move on,” but the problem is never resolved. Instead of forgiving, they are just trying to ignore it.
It seems that far too many people in this world have a hard time of letting go of things that upset them. Not that I watch them, but it seems that one of the main themes that run through Hallmark movies is the need to forgive others so you can be happy.
Peter was told by Jesus Christ that even if someone sins against you seven times in a day, and then seven times he comes and apologizes, you are to forgive him.
This is not an option, it is a command.
Jesus didn’t say, “forgive him after you’ve yelled at him and shown him that he’s scum.” He said just forgive him. Not only that, but Jesus also said there is no limit to the times we are to forgive people. He said “seventy times seven times.” This means that we are to continue to forgive people, regardless of how many times they may sin against us.
Even if it is the same sin, we are to continue to forgive. Have you ever committed the same sin more than once? Do you think God will forgive you, even if you mess up and commit that same sin again?
Forgiveness applies in every aspect of life, from marriage to work to driving down the interstate.
Jesus, in Matthew 18:34-35, said that if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us. If you care AT ALL about going to heaven, you have to learn to forgive other people.
You must learn to forgive yourself.
If a person is convinced that he is worthless and that he will never change, will he ever change? If a person goes into dieting with the idea that he will fail, is he going to lose any weight? If a person is convinced that nothing he does is going to make a difference, will he really try? The answer to all of these questions is an obvious NO!
We all have to learn to stop beating ourselves up over the past and move on from it. We should (like Paul) learn from our past mistakes, and say now I know what NOT to do.
If we want to make a new start, we have to say “the past has passed.” If we want to make a new start, we have to forgive ourselves for messing things up and start over. Instead of moping about how much of a failure we are, we need to say, “I am forgiven, and I’m ready to get back up and try again!”
Forgiveness is Key!
Remember that God’s commands are always in our best interest. God gave every command for a reason. When you forgive people, your stress level goes down. When you forgive people, you will be happier. When you forgive people, you show an appreciation for God’s forgiveness. When you forgive people, you encourage others to do the same thing.
Therefore, when you forgive people, your life improves, and so do the lives of the people around you. Why would you NOT want to forgive others?
We each want a new start. We each want forgiveness. Shouldn’t we be willing to give that same chance to others?
-Bradley S. Cobb