Is the Bible Practical…Is Forgiveness?

If you think the Bible isn’t practical to everyday life, let’s look at this a little further.  Our ladies class at my church is studying the topic of “Authentic Love”, as we look at the biblical basis underlying Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “Love as a Way of Life”.

The Bible is clear about how to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Just one of the many ways God’s Word speaks to this is in Galatians 5:22-23, where the fruit of the Spirit is discussed.  Here is the passage in the New International Version:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

ImageOur current study is teaching us a different aspect of authentic love each week.  Many of these correlate to these qualities in Galatians.  Thus far we have studied kindness and patience, and this week’s study (January 29) is on the topic of forgiveness.  One may ask the question, “Are we really supposed to forgive?” or “How can we truly forgive someone when they’ve hurt us very badly?”  Both are valid questions and deserve a valid answer.

Jesus was our perfect example of how to treat others.  Oh, I know, He was perfect, and we can’t be expected to be perfect like Him, can we?  No, we can’t be “perfect”, but if we truly have a personal relationship with Jesus we want to please Him, to obey Him, by emulating His example in our own lives.  As we live by biblical principles in our lives we grow in our likeness to Jesus, and this growth, this spiritual maturity, is a process of perfection (sanctification).

So, how does that translate into being able to truly forgive others?  Well, if you know anything about Jesus or the Bible, Jesus was the ultimate forgiver.  What Jesus did on the cross for EVERYONE on this earth, believer or non-believer, was to die for the forgiveness of our sins.  If for nothing else but our indebtedness to Him for the sacrificial shedding of His blood for us, we should be willing to forgive others who do much less damage than crucifying us!

Matthew 6:14-15 (New Living Translation) states:

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When we open our hearts and hands to others in forgiveness, our lives are open for God to pour forgiveness and blessing into our lives. We need to respect the person who has wronged us, no matter what they’ve done.  Our immediate response and selfish nature tell us to seek revenge.  But that is a dangerous thing to consider.  God is very clear about vengeance.  He states in His Word that it belongs to Him and Him alone – and He will repay (Romans 12:19).  It is not OUR job.

Sometimes it is very difficult to offer forgiveness or to even feel it in our hearts.  Sometimes the other person isn’t sorry about the offense, and that makes it worse.  Then sometimes, all we can do is to release that person for hurting us.  They are feeling no remorse, they are not miserable, they don’t even think about it!  But keeping that hurt and unforgiveness inside does hurt us.  It grows and snowballs into anger, then bitterness and hatred.  These emotions lead to self-destruction.  Don’t do it – release that person from the offense and use your energies in a positive, constructive way to go about your life.

Leave the burden with God and let Him deal with the person who offended you.  Put your hurt in His hand, as He knows how you feel.  Comfort will come from Him in time, not from holding onto the bitter feelings against that person.

How do you want to live the rest of your life after someone hurts you?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a bitter old woman!  Plus, I definitely don’t want to be a poor representative of Jesus, who I am trying to please and exemplify to others.

Colossians 3:12-12 in the New Century Version states:

12 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.

Is the Bible practical?  Is forgiveness practical?  The answer to both questions is yes!  That doesn’t mean the process is easy, but we have the greatest power in heaven and on earth to help us live the life that pleases God through the presence of the Holy Spirit within us if we are saved. What more motivation could we have?  To me, that is very practical!