“If you truly are sorry,” Brandt Jean said to his brother’s murderer, “I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
Forgiving is incredibly difficult because holding a grudge is far too easy. It’s more natural for us to hold a grudge, to let our anger boil over and become bitter. But God has commanded us to forgive (Matt. 18:21-22).
We learn from this above story how forgiveness is, many times, supernatural. It took the Holy Spirit to let the words, “I forgive you,” leave those young man’s lips. But how? How did this man make it seem so easy to forgive his brother’s murderer?
He learned how to forgive. What are some ways we can learn to forgive?
Forgiven by God
Christians are able to forgive others—even of the most heinous sins—because we’ve been forgiven of our most egregious sins. It’s hard to withhold forgiveness when we’ve been forgiven. It’s difficult to spew our sinful wrath when God has withheld his righteous wrath on us.
We have been forgiven by God through the person and work of Jesus Christ—the gospel. This beautifully good news—which is too good not to be true—gives us the supernatural power not to look past sins committed against us, but to simply forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean we simply act like nothing happen, but means we cancel the debt the person who sinned owed us—just as our Heavenly Father canceled our debt (Col. 2:14).
Being forgiveness by God empowers us to forgive. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it go against our natural feelings and inclinations? Absolutely. But with the Spirit’s prompting and conviction, we know we must forgive—because we’ve been forgiven. And if God can forgive our sins against Him, we can forgive the sins of others against us.
Forgiven People Forgive
Those who have been forgiven by God of all their sins—past, present, and future—should be the ones most readily to forgive—no matter the severity of the sin. I understand the urge to hold a grudge. We’re all sinners so that is what comes most naturally. But when we remember we’ve been completely forgiven, we should be able to completely forgive others.
In fact, Scripture tells us that if we do not forgive, God won’t forgive us (Matt. 6:15). This isn’t some sort of add-on to our salvation, but is an indication of our salvation. If we’ve been redeemed by Christ and God has forgiven all our sin, then we ought to forgive others when they sin against us. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. That doesn’t mean forgiveness will be the first thought that comes to our mind when sinned against.
But it does mean that it’ll happen. Because we know we’ve been forgiven. And that is how we learn how to forgive.