“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Matthew 6: 12
The words of the Lord’s Prayer roll off our lips with ease. They’re memorized. Recited. Dull in impact because of overuse and lack of understanding. So, what does it mean to ask God for forgiveness; and to give it to others in a sacred rhythm of grace?
Human nature is tricky. We are thankful to receive forgiveness from God, but quick to withhold it from others when we’ve been hurt or offended. Different types of offenses strike blows to our lives. Here are three of the most common:
Offensive Burs: Like small, sticky thorns that attach to your pants; these are the comments aimed toward you with the intent to hurt. Things said or unsaid that begin to collect in your life. The looks of disgust or disappointment; the shoulder that leaves you out when you want to fit in.
Offensive Blows: These are verbal attacks, assaults to your identity or character, actions or words that harm you. Blows to your worth and purpose.
Offensive Boulders: These are the biggies. Betrayal by a spouse, abandonment or abuse by a parent or someone you trust. A criminal act or something that alters your life and emotions.
Burs, blows and boulders hurt…but it’s what we do with them that matters. When we forgive others for their offenses towards us, we are offering them a gift, and we offer ourselves a gift too. The great author Oswald Chambers says “God doesn’t forgive us because he loves us…that’s a shallow description. He forgives us because it’s the essence of the sacrifice of his Son Jesus on the cross. Without the cross, and some kind of sacrifice—forgiveness is shallow.”
When we forgive someone who has hurt us, there’s always a measure of sacrifice. This sacrifice forgoes our right to blame, take revenge or play the victim. Instead, we offer a hand that opens and refreshes a darkened scene. Forgiveness is a choice to let go of the ropes that tie us to the offense.
How do we forgive others for the burs, blows and boulders they inflict on us? And how do we forgive ourselves when we’ve been the one inflicting the pain?
First, we must acknowledge the wound. You can’t heal what you refuse to feel. We must acknowledge that we’ve been hurt—not excuse or minimize it. I’ve heard people say “Forgiveness is a process…” but that’s not the picture the Bible gives. Forgiveness is a choice, and as we keep making the choice, we mature and grow. Peter once asked Jesus how often we needed to forgive someone. “Up to 7 times?” he asked boldly. Jesus said, “No, 70 times 7.” That’s 490 times in case you’re wondering. Over and over we choose to forgive, and in the process—we heal.
Next, we must confess. Scripture says, “Confess your sins to one another so YOU may be healed.” (James 5:15) If you’ve offended or hurt someone, you must be quick to confess so forgiveness can begin to heal. Sometimes the person you need to forgive is yourself! Rehashing or tormenting after you have failed is not from God. If He let you go–shouldn’t you do the same?
Acknowledge the wound, confess the offense, then loosen your grip and run in freedom. That’s the joy of forgiveness. Are you ready to let go?
Questions to ponder:
- Have you experienced an offensive bur, blow or boulder? Describe its impact—and explain where you are regarding forgiveness.
- Why is it easier to accept Christ’s forgiveness than to extend it to those who have hurt or betrayed us?
- Do you find it harder to forgive yourself that to forgive others? How can you apply the work of the cross to your inability to let yourself off the hook?
© Gari Meacham
A popular speaker, writer, and podcast host; Gari travels the globe speaking at conferences, retreats, and events for women. She’s written eight books, a television pilot and produced a documentary film called God Loves Broken. Her highly acclaimed books, workbook, and DVD series are used in book groups and churches across the country. Gari co-hosts a podcast called Gutsy Faith which entertains audiences and brings them to the clarity of the Bible. She’s also a guest voice for Women of Faith, a long-standing leader of impactful outreach for women.
Gari is President and Founder of The Vine—an organization that helps vulnerable children and women in Uganda. She’s married to former New York Yankees Bobby Meacham, and together they have three children. Bobby and Gari have been in professional baseball for over thirty-five years and still get excited to see each other after a long road trip! They call Houston their home.