“Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. A sneaky thing, even. We know we’re supposed to give it, and give it freely. It’s our Christian duty to do so. So we do – or so we say. We try to be the bigger the person. But look at your language for a second. Do you ever refer to someone by the act they committed against you? In conversation, or even in your head? Ever think, “that girl, the one who ____”, or “<insert name here>, that ex, the one who dumped me after ______”? Think through the tough things you’ve been through in your life, and the people involved. How do you think of them now – really think of them?
See, we can’t just say the words. Forgiveness is indeed a word, and if we only forgive on the surface that’s all it will ever be. But we are called to do more than just say the words. Why? Because the Lord forgave you. Whatever you did in your past. Whatever addictions you had, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever you have done that even your best friends and family and partners in crime don’t know about….God knows. And He forgives you.
What does that mean? Well, if you’ve confessed to God, it means that when you go to judgement day to be held accountable for your time here on earth, there’s a lot of dirt on you that won’t actually be written down. You may even think to yourself “but what about the time I _____?” It’s not in there, because Jesus Christ washed it away with His blood. He is your Savior and this is exactly why. True forgiveness is complete, instant, and eternal. It means that the sins you’ve accrued don’t even make it into your judgement book. It means that even if you got up to heaven and asked God Himself “what about the time I ____?”, He’d say “what are you talking about?” He washes you clean the instant you repent and confess. He can restore innocence. He can’t take away consequences of your actions…..but He can forgive them. And once He does, they don’t come back to haunt you.
Is that the level of forgiveness we freely give to others? All the time? I doubt it. But you can. And here’s how. Instead of just saying to yourself, ‘I forgive ____’, say it to God. Search your life and your heart for old wounds, even when they involve people you’ve thought you’ve forgiven. Then, name those people to God. Literally say the words. “I forgive _____. God, I forgive them, in the precious name of Jesus, I forgive them now. You forgave me when I didn’t deserve it, and I will not deny it from someone else. I won’t fall into that trap. I forgive them with all my heart and soul.” Take it a step further and tell God what the situation was, and tell Him outright that you’re letting it go now because the time for forgiveness has come. By the way, don’t worry about speaking formally, or quoting me verbatim if you have a different way to say it. Don’t worry about feeling or sounding cheesy – you don’t. These words are beautiful in God’s ears, and you are made by Him. So the feelings you feel and the way you pray and speak to Him…..you’re only being who He made you to be. So talk to Him freely.
Anyway, I put this forgiveness thing to the test the other day. Some of the things I dredged up I thought were already forgiven and dealt with. Some were years old. Some even required me to forgive myself. And the coolest part was, as soon as I said the words to God that I was letting go and in faith and obedience to Him I was forgiving, He gave the strength to do it. When I told Him that I forgave, He lifted the hurt away. It was gone. It was like it never happened. I literally felt lighter.
I can’t speak for what God will do all the time, but I do know that the freedom I feel now is worth trying for. Don’t settle for superficial forgiveness. Don’t settle for a life that still has you wrestling with your past in weak moments. Forgive others and forgive yourself. And do it on a soul-deep level. Bring God into it, and He will help you to take it beyond the words. For me, I think what I meant when I said to God “I forgive” was that I wanted to forgive and was ready to let it go. But He honestly did the rest. He helped share the emotional load and He helped with the actual forgiveness part. It was like handing God the keys to the garbage truck and watching Him drive away the junk, leaving me new and clean and fresh. It was amazing. And so I beg you to try it. Please. And if you want any extra prayer support, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone needs extra prayer support, right?
To every reader of this blog: put God to the test in this area, let your past go, and feel the lightness and growth and closeness to God that comes instantly afterwards. When you truly let go, you’ll get a glimpse of how deep your own salvation is in God’s eyes. I pray that you get to feel that. God bless, and know that I am praying for each and every one of you to find true forgiveness and peace, for others in your life and also for yourself.