One of the biblical definitions for forgiveness is “the act of pardoning an offender and letting them go.” For followers of Jesus, forgiveness is not a feeling, but a command. When we have been hurt, we often do not feel like forgiving the person who hurt us. But we must. It is not for his or her benefit, but much more for us. It sets us free. But choosing to forgive someone might also end up setting them free from their own sense of wrongdoing and guilt and leading them to a deeper understanding of Jesus. We are commanded to release bitterness, which is so destructive for us internally. It ruins and corrodes our insides. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” It appears forgiveness not only hurts us but those around us—especially those we love the most! Forgiveness is rooted in God’s forgiveness of us. Of an eternal billion dollar debt that we could never pay off on our own. After understanding his mercy and grace, Jesus then asks us to extend the same forgiveness to others, knowing that a ten-dollar debt is comparatively nothing compared to the eternal billion dollar debt from which we have been set free. “Bearing with one another,” we are to forgive freely. As God has forgiven us in Jesus, so we are to forgive those who have hurt us. Forgiveness means canceling the desire for someone else to be hurt as badly as he or she has hurt you. It is a declarative decision to say that that individual does not have to pay you back for the way he or she has hurt you. And, again, it’s NOT a feeling, but a command by Jesus for those who follow him. As he himself died on the cross, he cried out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Then we are set free from the prison of hatred and bitterness. Free to enjoy life as Jesus intended, to the full!
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