A Sunday school teacher was talking to her class about forgiveness. She asked her students what a person needs to do to receive forgiveness from God. There was a moment of silence, and then a little boy raised his hand and said, “You have to sin.”
That is true. You have to sin. And all of us qualify. We sin more often than we realize. So yes, we have to ask God to forgive us. Most Christians understand that God graciously gives us His forgiveness, though we don’t deserve it. He tells us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
That is amazing. We understand that for the most part. But here is where it gets tricky for some. Forgiven people should be forgiving people. We have received the forgiveness of God, and therefore we should extend that same forgiveness to others—especially to those who have wronged us.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Isn’t that true? Forgiveness is great in theory, but it is much harder in practice.
I read about a study that was done on the topic of forgiveness. It revealed that 75 percent of those surveyed believed God had forgiven them for past sins, but only 52 percent had forgiven others. We have a problem.
The Scriptures say that if we ask God to forgive us, then we should forgive others. Life is filled with hurt and disappointments. We have people who hurt us. And guess what? There are people we have hurt as well. We need to learn how to apologize, and we need to learn how to forgive.
Some might say, “Wait a second, Greg. You don’t know what people have done to me. You don’t know what I’ve had to face in life. It’s unforgivable.”
No, I don’t know. But this is what the Bible says. And here is the most important reason we should forgive people who have hurt us: God commands us to. I don’t think we need any other reason, but there are a few others.
The Bible tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” and “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13 NIV).
Failure to forgive others also can bring your prayer life to a screeching halt. Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25 NIV).
The bottom line is that forgiven people should be forgiving people.
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