“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)
As a way to end the 3 part series on forgiveness, I wanted to provide practical steps you can take toward forgiveness.
- Pray. Forgiveness cannot be done without the power of Jesus Christ in our lives. The same power God used to resurrect Jesus from the dead is the same power God will give you to do what seems impossible. Your flesh and your spirit will battle and your prayer may feel like a whisper you can barely get out. But the faith of a mustard seed will move mountains.
- Acknowledge. Forgiveness does not mean pretending you are not hurt or forgetting the wrongdoing. In fact, in order to forgive, we must admit to ourselves we were wronged and deeply hurt. Sometimes pride can keep us from this step. We don’t want to admit someone was capable of hurting us.
- Grieve. Once you acknowledge you have been hurt, grieve the loss. This may be the loss of a friend, marriage, trust, innocence, health, etc…The five stages of grief you may go through are denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and finally acceptance.
- Justice. Part of being able to forgive is knowing God is just (Is. 61:8). In the Christian world, this can often be left out. We encourage people to forgive without acknowledging our God given desire for justice. If someone shot your child, the offender should pay for the penalty. Seek earthly justice, not revenge. The purpose of godly justice is for the offender to reflect on his wrongdoing and to experience brokenness and reformation. However, no earthly justice will bring peace to your heart without the last step.
- Let Go. You know you have reached forgiveness when you no longer want the person to hurt the way they made you hurt. Instead, you desire they prosper. You desire they acknowledge their sin and experience forgiveness from God as you have been forgiven (Col. 3:13). You desire they experience peace and joy in life.
Forgiveness is not easy. Current psychology teaches us to be strong and avoid at all costs being a door mat. However, when we forgive our enemies, we may feel like a door mat. The important difference is you are not one. You are deeply loved by God and seeking to carry out His command to love your enemies. It takes more strength to forgive than to revenge.