Honestly, how do you forgive someone when they’ve stabbed you in the heart?

By Stephen L France

Perhaps the worst thing to happen to me in my life was to face the prospect of a criminal conviction and lengthy custodial sentence for a situation, that was vindicated by multiple witness testimonies.

To have my ‘character’ dragged through the mud and my freedom stolen for almost a year by court visits, presented physical, mental, and spiritual pain that saw me in Accident and Emergency with heart problems on top of a slew of vicious, nightly spiritual attacks, that destroyed all morality inside me.

Yet, the Lord calls us to forgive every single person because He forgave us (Matthew 6: 14 – 15).

Forgiveness is one of several behaviours that highlight the uniqueness of our faith. It is also one of the hardest choices/processes to actively live in this world.

We can immediately understand why forgiveness is seen as a ‘Godly’ action when we come to know Christ, simply by its difficulty. We wonder – how did Jesus forgive everyone in the midst of such anguish on the cross?

Two of my favourite lines in all the literature I’ve ever read are:

Luke (KJV) 23:34

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Acts (KJV) 7:60

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

In these verses, we see Jesus the Son of God and Saint Stephen, respectively. They are able to forgive humanity during the height of physical adversity (Jesus is on the cross and Stephen is being stoned).

We are called to strive toward their example.

WHY DO WE FORGIVE?

Reasons we Forgive are…

  • …because we have been forgiven by God (Ephesians 4:32).

  • …to be in obedience with God (Matthew 6:14-15; Romans 12:18).

  • …to allow God to free us from the chains of bitterness and resentment (Genesis 4:1-8) – when you refuse to forgive, the grudge eats you up, causing you to suffer far more than the person that hurt you (Matthew 6:9-13).

  • …so we won’t become bitter and defile those around us (Hebrews 12:14-15).

WHAT IS FORGIVENESS IN THIS WORLD?

Forgiveness is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

  • Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake

  • No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake)

  • Cancel (a debt)

In the secular world, you may have heard the term, “I forgive but never forget.” I’ve often heard it said with a slight bit of pride in the tone. My favourite motivational speaker Les Brown says: “Forgiving is not forgetting. It is remembering without anger.”

The challenge I find with these secular definitions is that they make forgiveness seem like it’s possible without Jesus.

When you forgive, you’re wiping the slate clean. There is no recalling the past transgression or memory of it. So in forgiving, you are actively doing your part to confront the issue, heal the wound, and move on. But…how can you forgive if the memory is still there?

This is where Jesus comes into play.

HOW DO YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE?

I’m sure each of you has your own God-given strategy to forgive that involves prayer, profound connection with the Holy Spirit, and perhaps your own select piece of scripture that resonates with you.

I’ve personally found that sincerely comprehending two events in our history by faith and God’s grace, helps a great deal.

The first is the most catastrophic event of all time: THE FALL

With this event, I’ve taken responsibility of Adam and Eve’s misdeed. I’ve totally admitted to myself that I would’ve accepted the temptation and indulged in the fruit; that I would’ve wanted the knowledge to be like God himself, thereby rejecting God. Accepting this situation is humbling and allows me to comprehend the next event even more: THE RESURRECTION AND SALVATION OF ALL MANKIND.

Daily, I continue to grow in my understanding of Jesus’ walk to the cross; an innocent man brought to suffer a brutally painful death – crucifixion – for our salvation. He had to endure all the worst the world could throw at Him as a surrogate for us, allowing God the Father to forgive us of all our sins past, present, and future, vindicating us of THE FALL.

My understanding of God’s Grace is that I don’t deserve the good life I have: the accessibility to fast food restaurants, the ease of Amazon Online, the flexibility of working from home, being able to attend a private gym, having a roof over my head, and good food on the table. I don’t deserve anything of what is good, because I rejected my Father/ my creator through Adam and Eve.

Yet concluding, I owe Him everything because He has gracefully said, “the slate is wiped clean.” All He asks, is for me to forgive others like He did for me.

How could I ever refuse?

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