“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25, New King James Version).
A friend is struggling with forgiveness, and I’m not sure how to help her. Yes, I know the problem, but all the words I think of saying seem like I’m just repeating pat answers I’ve heard in the past. So, I’ve pulled out my Bible, started a search, and am trying to find scriptures to help her find a place of peace. Ultimately, the journey will be hers; only she can decide to forgive. Without revealing her circumstances, let’s just say what she has endured in life is what many would determine unforgivable.
I suppose the word unforgivable may be the starting point of this search. Is there ever an act so horrendous we are not required to offer forgiveness? My study took me several places: the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35; Stephen’s last words to those stoning him (Acts 7:60); the words of Jesus as He died on the cross (Luke 23:34). As difficult as it may seem, I cannot find a biblical “out” on forgiving. The degree of the offense has no bearing on our need to forgive—even to the point of death.
At first, we may feel justified to refuse forgiveness. After all, we’ve been done wrong. They don’t deserve our forgiveness. They haven’t even asked for our forgiveness—and may never ask. But eventually, “feeling good” about not forgiving may change to bitterness, anger, resentment, and a desire for revenge. When these negative emotions take up residence, peace moves out.
When considering the offenses of another, we need to realize some things. First, forgiveness is not dependent upon asking to be forgiven. Also, forgiveness does not mean we condone their actions. Nor does it mean they will not have to bear the consequences of their actions. It may or may not lead to reconciliation, and we may or may not learn to trust them again.
Who Forgiveness Changes
Forgiveness may never change the one who hurt you, but it will change you. It will release you from the chains of the past and free you to move into the present. You will find healing and peace of mind. We release the offense and the offender to God, for ultimately they are accountable to Him (Romans 12:17-21).
Mark 11:25 begins with the words “whenever you stand praying.” Before we approach God, we need to be clear with our fellowman. We must offer forgiveness to each other to receive forgiveness from Him (Matthew 6:15; Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is not an easy journey, but it is one well worth taking. Your well being depends on it.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be forgiving to others even when their actions have caused me disappointment and pain. Take all resentment and bitterness from me and keep me from a desire for revenge for the wrongs done me. You were able to offer forgiveness even when enduring the agony of the cross. Help me to have that same forgiving spirit in my life.