In life, a tension exists between good and evil, light and darkness, right and wrong. Both cannot dwell peacefully together. We live in a fallen world, and “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Although we live in this dark world, we are not of it (John 17:16). Children of God have the Holy Spirit to help us stand against the darkness. We are to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
Let’s talk more about who we are in this world. Romans 8:37 says, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Because God “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13), we have authority over the darkness in this world (Luke 10:19). God’s plan is for His people to walk freely and boldly. We represent His Kingdom on earth.
But how can we do this when we suffer hurt and disappointment? How can we continue to walk freely and boldly when we carry pain? The answer is to choose freedom and to forgive. 2 Timothy 2:4 encourages us not to get entangled with this world. Choosing to carry hurts and disappointments when God says to cast all of our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7) entangles the heart, mind, and emotions. The sin of unforgiveness is a weight – one you can cast off.
Instead, Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” When you choose to forgive, you decide that past hurts will not have a stranglehold on your life. You wish to walk free in this life. John 8:36 says, “If the Son (Jesus) makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” None of God’s own should remain in an internal prison of unforgiveness when freedom stands at our heart’s door and knocks.
Allow me to share a personal example with you: Many years ago, a person hurt me deeply, and I was shattered. I knew the Bible required me to forgive, so through gritted teeth, I would pray and forgive this person. This type of obedience by true grit continued for some time. One day, surprisingly, I began to cry for this person. I prayed from my mouth what Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). What happened here? God changed my heart; He changed how I saw this person. Instead of looking through the lens of “you hurt me,” I saw the state of this person through the eyes of Christ and felt pity. Yes, I felt the compassion of Jesus Christ.
Joyce Meyer's Story
Joyce Meyer, a well-known Bible teacher, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father. She has shared her story broadly. Along her path of maturity in Christ, God led her to care for her father in his later years. She ultimately forgave him and led him to the Lord. Though darkness was present, Joyce chose freedom – unforgiveness was not an option. Of unforgiveness, Joyce says this: “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to hurt.” Not only has God granted her soul peace, but He also blessed her with wisdom.
Let’s look at 10 reasons found in the Bible to forgive others.
Reason #1 | Many of us learned the Lord’s Prayer as children. In this prayer, God instructs us to forgive: “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:11-12). Here we learn that we should not expect forgiveness if we withhold it from others. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Reason #2 | On the cross, Jesus forgave those who crucified Him and mocked Him. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know now what they do” (Luke 23:34). As believers grow in Christ, we are being conformed into His image (Rom. 8:29). Therefore, if He forgave those who caused Him great pain, we should as well. He is our example (1 Peter 2:21). Also, consider that as Jesus was taking his last breaths, He deemed it worthy of His final breaths to forgive.
Reason #3 | Matthew 18:34-35 says those who refuse to forgive will experience torment for their unforgiveness. Matthew 18 gives the account of a man who was forgiven a massive debt but would not forgive someone else who owed him a small debt. The one who refused to forgive was turned over to torturers. In verse 35, it reads, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you – turn you over to torturers – if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” We cannot expect God’s bounty of forgiveness for ourselves and then refuse to extend it to others. Refusing to forgive reveals the state of the heart. Please note that the torture in Matthew 18 may also refer to hellfire.
Reason #4 | The Holy Spirit lives within believers, and He guides us according to the Word of God. He is the One who seals us in Christ. If we do not follow God’s Word that instructs us to forgive, we grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 affirms this: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Also, John 14:15 reminds us that if we love God, we will do what He commands as the Holy Spirit enables us.
Reason #5 | When we carry unforgiveness in our hearts, a root of bitterness can spring up within us. A bad root entangles and squeezes out the life God has for us. Hebrews 12:14-15 explains, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” A root of bitters can cause trouble, not only for you but also for others. We do not want to fall short of obtaining the grace of God; we want to receive it for ourselves and extend it beyond ourselves to others.
Reason #6 | All human beings are flawed. We live in a fallen world; we make mistakes; we err. Romans 3:23 says, “We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Jesus realized the state of fallen humanity and died for us on the cross, forgiving us of sin before we ever asked for forgiveness. After reflecting, we each should acknowledge we have caused someone else harm. Luke 6:41 explains it this way: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” Let’s forgive as we see our own need to be forgiven by God and others.
Reason #7 | As believers, we are taught to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to pursue peace (Ps. 34:14). To carry out this instruction from the Word requires that we forgive. First and foremost, we honor our relationship with God by obeying His Word. Although it may not be easy, the Apostle Paul encourages us to do our best: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Forgive!
Reason #8 | The Word of God instructs us to forgive regardless of whether or not the offender asks for forgiveness. In light of this truth, we should especially endeavor to forgive those who are repentant: “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3). Know that when we forgive, we go further to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance about whether we are to re-establish fellowship or not.
Reason #9 | Works of the flesh displease God and hinder our being conformed into the image of Christ. One work of the flesh is unforgiveness. Galatians 5:7 instructs that “the sinful nature [flesh] wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.” We, therefore, must make no provision for our flesh (Romans 13:14) for those who do continue to obey their sinful flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).
Reason #10 | When you forgive, you become a victor. Choosing forgiveness speaks. It demonstrates that the wrong another has done to you does not dominate or rule over your life. You have chosen to arise in the power of God that is working within you. Yes, God does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).
Prayer: Father God, I honor you as my eternal Father. Thank you for creating me and having a plan for my life. I want to be free of hurts that have bothered me for some time so my relationship with you, Father, is not hindered. I have been so disappointed by (these situations) and (these persons). I make a decision today to forgive them and release them. First, I confess my wrongdoings and faults and ask you to forgive me. Now, I choose to forgive (these persons) who have hurt me. I let go of all unforgiveness and continue to do so. I ask you to remove the sting of these experiences and situations. I now cast all my cares upon You. You can easily carry these concerns – I no longer can. I want freedom. I’m not looking back anymore; I’m looking forward to the future you have for me – a future full of your plans for me. All the enemy has meant for evil is turning around for my good (Romans 8:28). Father, I receive healing for my heart and soul today. Thank you for helping me to finish my life’s race strong! In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.