Why Should We Forgive?

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{This article is the second in a four-part series about some things I’ve learned through my journey of forgiveness. Read the first article here

Last article we talked about recognizing unforgiveness. You may be asking yourself; what is the big deal about unforgiveness? Why is forgiving so important?

First, let’s look at a primary medical site, John Hopkins Medicine, at JohnHopkins.org and see what it has to say about unforgiveness. Keep in mind, this is from a medical standpoint. Not a religious view at all!

“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns HopkinsHospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of 

 

depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health. Studies have found that some people are just naturally more forgiving. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and hostility. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health conditions. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.” — John Hopkins Medicine

 

From a medical view there are huge benefits to forgiving! What about the Bible? What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Is it wrong to not forgive?

  • An easy answer is found in Colossians 3. We read that we should forgive. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:13
  • Yet the Bible goes deeper than just instructing us to forgive. It also tells us why. While Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray, He said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespass-es, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14)
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) It’s recorded again in Luke 6:31. In other words, if you want to be forgiven, you need to forgive.
  • Another place Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what meas-ure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (again in Luke 6:37 & 38)

So, if you have no debt, then you are free to point fingers. If you have debt you want forgiven – then you better forgive debts owed to you. If we don’t forgive, it is as though we are denying we have any debt to owe. And if we deny we have debt, then we also deny we have been redeemed. Redemption through Jesus is the ONLY thing we can stand on. Let’s not deny that redemption. Rather, let’s claim that we had a debt that was paid.

  • In Mark 11:25 & 26, Jesus was talking to His disciples. He said, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
  • In Matthew, He said, Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matthew 5:23 & 24

We know we are not saved by this process of us forgiving others. We are saved by Jesus and His blood. Yet, if we are living in unforgiveness, then we are living in sin. Just as a thief, murderer, or adulterer are living in sin.

We know that in order for a sinner to be forgiven and get to Heaven, they must accept the gift of salvation that Jesus’ blood supplies. A sinner must turn from their sinful ways, repent, and live in the Spirit. In that same way, if someone with unforgiveness does not do the same- they are still in sin. They might be trying to live a Godly life in all other areas. But if they don’t forgive, it is as though they have not accepted Jesus’ free gift.

Forgiving is not forgetting.

Like some other scars we may have, sometimes we never forget. Forgiving is not putting our-self back in that same position to get hurt again. Forgiving is letting go of the revenge. Letting go of the debt that the person owes us. This Bible passage is an example of that very thing:

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tor-mentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18:23-35

Perhaps we are like this ungrateful servant who didn’t have pity on his fellow servant. Perhaps we, like him, don’t truly understand what a great price God paid for us when He saved us from our sins. If we truly knew the price of the debt Christ paid for us, how much easier would it be to forgive the little (and big) things that people do to us? If we truly realized how much that sacrifice cost; would we just ooze with thankfulness? Would we find it easier to extend forgiveness toward those who have wronged us?

If we live a forgiving life… We will live a forgiven life!

Going back to that medical website at JohnHopkins.org, I want to share a paragraph the author wrote.

Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not,” Swartz says. As you release the anger, resentment and hostility, you begin to feel empathy, compas-sion, and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you. John Hopkins Medicine

Do we think God is too small to help us forgive? He is a BIG God. Though, working through the steps of forgiveness are hard. Very hard. He is BIG enough to help us through it. He is able to teach us to release the anger and even to give us an affection for the person who wronged us. Our God is BIG enough!

Next issue we are going to get practical on how to walk through steps of forgiving.

 

Article first seen in the Summer 2017 issue of Titus 2

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