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August 2019

Greetings this August,

Maybe you can say your Pastor is “hung up” on forgiveness. Why? Because just maybe I have heard enough people in my twenty years of ministry who struggle with forgiving someone who has wronged them. And most of the time, I would agree they have a legitimate claim of unfairness, hurt, pain, etc. which has inflicted significant struggles. Unforgiveness is a huge burden to bear, but with God’s help, you can let go of anger and bitterness. Yes forgiveness can be difficult.

Come to think of it, there are many things in life that can be really hard but also really good for you, like exercising, going to the doctor or dentist, and offering forgiveness. The last one, forgiveness is especially hard for some people, and it has been said that given a choice, some people would rather die than offer forgiveness. If God simply said to some people: ‘Forgive or die,” a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.

That’s the crazy thing about forgiveness! Many people would rather choose a lifetime of bitterness and hatred over forgiving the one who wronged them. They’re afraid that, by forgiving, they’re letting their wrongdoer off the hook. But forgiving someone doesn’t mean you’re excusing or forgetting their behavior—or even reconciling with them if you don’t want to. Rather, when you forgive, you’re freeing yourself from the resentment and anger that have been holding you prisoner. Forgiveness happens in the heart.

Look at it this way: When someone hurts you, they take something from you. They owe you a debt. Now, you can’t control anyone else’s actions, but you can control how you respond! Respond in forgiveness, and you’re canceling that debt. It doesn’t mean you’re ignoring what they did. It means you’re not letting it control you anymore. You’re releasing the grudge, letting go of the bitterness, and allowing yourself to heal.

That’s why forgiveness is an act that’s primarily for the forgiver—not the person being forgiven (although, it can also bring healing to the other person as well). Unforgiveness is a huge burden to bear, because it actually traps the unforgiver like a prisoner. If you can’t forgive, you’re not punishing the person who hurt you. You’re punishing yourself.

Forgiveness honors God. It’s an outward display of Christlike love brought to earth! That’s because God is the first and ultimate forgiver. He models it for us, and we honor Him when we forgive like He first forgave us.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV) says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

If you’re struggling to offer grace and mercy to someone, that’s where faith and obedience to God come in. When you can’t do it on your own, you have to rely on Him.

I am forgiven,

Pastor Greg