Why forgive those who hurt us?
It always saddens me to hear that there are people in the church who aren’t speaking to each other and can’t even be in the same room with each other. It’s happening right now in my church. Sigh. When I hear stories like this I’m reminded of the following scripture:
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21.
John has some harsh words in this scripture for those who don’t like their fellow human beings. He’s saying in order to love God, we love others. Why? Because those other irritating people out there are also children of God and made in God’s image. Jesus died for them too. We may not like the sin we see in their lives. That racist attitude. The arrogance. The pride. Name calling. Etc.
Yet what have we discovered? Sin is ugly. We may not like that person’s sin. Yet we are called to love them. Even when they are ugly with sin. Why?
Why is it important to forgive?
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.
The sin we now see, God has always seen. And God still loves us. All the ugliness we see, and are repulsed by, God is also repulsed by. Yet he gives us the solution. One word. One person, Jesus. God saw the ugliness in the world and sent his son into the midst of it all. He sees all sin clearer than we do, even now. And he still loves us enough to send his son to die for us so that we can be reconciled to Him. Would you do that? Would you sacrifice one of your children for that irritating racist neighbor? Do you love that irritating prideful, arrogant church member enough to sacrifice your child?
How do I forgive?
For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15.
While God doesn’t call us to sacrifice our child for another, he does ask us to forgive, which is a sacrifice too. It’s a sacrifice of our pride. To say the love and the relationship with this person is more important than the sin we see in their life. God did the same for us through Jesus. God loves us more than any wrong actions or attitudes we have.
Why we should forgive according to the Bible
At the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks the lawyer who was trying to justify his wrongful actions:
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” [the lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37.
We are to also show mercy and forgive our fellow humans. If they don’t want to be in relationship with us, let them go. Shake the dust from your feet and move on. Don’t cling to someone who no longer wants to be with you. That’s unhealthy. Forgive, let go and move on.