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Forgiveness: I have a hard time forgiving. Help!

The Question:

My sin is that I have a hard time forgiving .I hold things forever. Could you give me some help on this?

The Answer:

Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Ephesians 4: 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

As He hung dying on the cross, Jesus declared that great word of pardon, "Father, forgive them". He is our example, and we desire to walk in His steps. If He could forgive His tormenters for killing Him, if He can forgive us of all our sins, how can we do less?

To forgive is to quit holding blame or resentment about an offense or an offender, to cancel or let off a debt and to overlook, excuse or pardon. Forgiveness is NOT primarily an emotional feeling; it is an act of the will. As an act of your will, you refuse to hold the person guilty of their offense toward you.

You let it go and put them in God's hands. Then you refuse to bring it up, talk about it, or think about it. Instead, when thoughts come, make it a matter of  prayer. And eventually you will FEEL positively towards them, but the act of the
will comes first.

Forgiving in the Greek is charizomai {khar-id'-zom-ahee} literally meaning to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favor to, gratify, to show one's self gracious, kind, benevolent, to grant forgiveness, to pardon, to give
graciously, give freely, bestow, to forgive, graciously to restore one to another, or to preserve for one a person in peril.

Charizomai comes from the root word charis {khar'-ece} meaning grace: that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, loveliness: grace of speech. Charis also means good will, loving-kindness, favor, particularly of the merciful
kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues. Charis also includes that which is due to grace: the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace, the token or proof of grace, benefit, a gift or bounty of grace. Charis also is used to mean to give thanks, (for benefits, services, favors), recompense, or reward.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:8b "...Freely you have received, freely give."

I Corinthians 2: 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Forgiveness comes to us freely as part of God's gift of grace, His unmerited, unearned favor. When we forgive we are in turn bestowing that gift upon someone else. Forgiveness, as all of the results of grace, brings joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, and loveliness. It is a gift we give because it has been given to us. When we withhold forgiveness, we are in effect "charging" the offender with his offense, and not freely releasing him from guilt as God has released us.

I Corinthians 13: 4-5 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

We often use the phrase "forgive and forget". To forget means to cease or fail to remember, to cease or omit to think of something. Although we forget a lot of   things unintentionally, you can also intend or will to forget an offense. Love
keeps no record of wrongs.

Jesus said in Luke 6:27-29 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic."

When the thought of what that person did to you comes up, and that bitter hatred begins to rise again, make it a matter of prayer. Not only pray that the Lord will help you forgive that person, but pray for that person. Pray for their salvation and deliverance. Pray blessings upon them. You cannot hate someone and bless him or her at the same time. You'd be surprised how quickly you can get over an offense when you start praying for the offender!

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And then go the "second mile". Actually do something good for the one who has offended you. Overcome the evil they did by doing something good for them. If  you are honest, a lot of times evil recycles itself. Someone harms you, you "get back" at them, they "get back" at you, and on it goes. Evil never overcomes evil. You overcome the evil-evil-evil-evil-evil cycle by doing good to you enemy. Forgiveness breaks the cycle and brings blessing!

Forgiving and forgetting are not easy, and often it takes time for the process to be complete. It's hard work! And a lot of times, crud from our childhood can interfere with forgiveness and acceptance of others.

I have had a hard time letting people get close to me in my life. I know part of  my problem came from being raised in a dysfunctional home - my father was an alcoholic. And love always meant *not quite* trusting somebody, because you
never knew when the bottom would drop out. It mean *hiding* your true feelings at times, because it would enrage my father and endanger us. It meant *stuffing* feelings and pain deep down inside, it meant *not* being a child.

Well, that sounds all glum and dreary, I know. Something in your childhood may have affected you this way too. Just between you and the Lord, examine your heart and see what wounds still exist. Time does *NOT* heal all wounds. Unless
and until the healing balm of Jesus covers them, they continue to fester. If you have leftover pain from your childhood or teen years, acknowledge it and let Jesus heal you.

Part of the healing process is forgiveness - when these things come to light, with the grace of God as an act of your will (because you won't *FEEL* like it) forgive and ask God to cast these things in the sea of *HIS* forgetfulness, to be remembered no more.

Matthew 6:12-15 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Jesus commands us to forgive. In fact, our forgiveness from the Father depends on it! But who can obey such a command, when it hurts so badly? You can forgive because forgiveness is not a feeling. If forgiveness were based on feelings, who would ever feel like forgiving?

Hebrews 10:30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."

Forgiveness is an act of obedience, an act of the will. It frees your spirit from bitterness and looses the offender into God's justice. It doesn't free the offender from the consequences of his/her actions, but it does free *YOU* from the defilement of bitterness. In faith, you give up your right to revenge, "pay back time", and release it to the Lord, who will handle it in His way in His time.

Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

A person that is bitter is full of intense hostility, resentment and cynicism. Forgiveness frees us from bitterness, an evil root that will make us defiled, unclean or sinful. This simple act of obedience to the Lord also keeps us from a lot of illnesses and emotional pain that unforgiveness causes.

What if the other person does not apologize and does not ask me to forgive them? What should I do then? You still are required to forgive them whether they ask for an apology or not. If the other party is truly repentant, then God wants us to continue fellowship with him/her. However, if they are not repentant, I know of no scripture that requires us to continue fellowship. Pray for them, yes, wish them well, yes, but continue to let them use and abuse you? NO.

I don't know of any "doormat" scriptures in the Bible that requires us to allow someone who has abused us to continue to do so. I do know that it says, "Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might"! Christian love is a mighty force and sometimes love has to be "tough" and "just say no!" And even if we do let people take advantage of us because we love too much, God is pleased with our efforts. It's better to love too much than to hate any.

2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Some will ACT like they are sorry for their acts, and may even apologize to you, but they continue to behave the same way. The Bible says, "godly sorrow brings repentance". This doesn't mean merely being sorry you "got caught", it means grieving over your actions, being so sorrowful that your heart is breaking, and through God's grace and help, turning in the OPPOSITE direction, "doing a 180", and not doing those things again.

Matthew 18:15-17 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 'If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

So if someone offends you, you are commanded to forgive as an act of your will, and turn vengeance against the offender over to God. If the offender truly repents, we are to gently restore him/her to fellowship. If not, we are not to be evil or vengeful in return, but as the Lord leads, discontinue fellowship.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times [or 70 times 7].

However, we are commanded to keep on forgiving. One source says seventy seven times, one 490 times! Basically then, there is no limit to how much we forgive, as there is no limit to how much God forgives us.

A lot of Christians do not understand the relationship between the spirit, mind and body. In the flesh, we pretty much do what our bodies want us to. Then the mind tries to cooperate, but a lot of stress comes from the fact that our bodies want to do what our mind says is wrong. The conflict causes a lot of emotional problems, distress and unhappiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In the Bible we are taught first of all to be reborn from above, to have our spirit recreated in Christ - we are a "new creation" spiritually. When our spirit is reborn, we can receive wisdom from God, which in turn renews our minds, which in turn controls our bodies. When we are in order, in right relationship with God, our bodies do not rule us, we rule them, and therefore can control our emotional state.

When I say that forgiveness is an act of the will - first the Word commands us to forgive, which we cannot receive or do without our spirits being reborn in Christ. Our unregenerate spirits are rebellious and do not want to obey God. But when we are born again in Christ Jesus, our spirits CAN receive God's Word and CAN be obedient. Then our spirit commands our mind to forgive as an act of the will. And then our emotions (it may take a while) will eventually agree with our spirit and mind.

To cooperate with this process, DON'T bring the offense up over and over again. It will only aggravate your emotions, and cause bitterness. You may have a prayer partner that helps you deal with it, but don't bring in a third (or fourth or fifth, etc) party into the conflict. It only perpetuates the original offense.

The Lord has freed me from the pain of my past (95% at least) and I feel free to share with those like you that I feel need to know some of what I've learned. But to continually repeat offenses like they happened yesterday to any and all who will listen, that's not of God but a product of a bitter and unforgiving spirit.

Be gentle with your own heart. Don't beat yourself up because you don't "feel" towards others like you think you "should". Be obedient to the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. As you bring your spirit into line with God's will by being obedient to the Word, your mind will be renewed and your emotions will be cleansed as well.

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Condemnation vs. Forgiveness

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