"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Recently I have dealt with the hurt that has come from the wickedness of gossip and lies. People within my church began spreading things about me that were untrue and extremely hurtful. Over these past few weeks, the hurt that I experienced from it turned into anger and soon the unforgiveness crept in allowing bitterness to form. Knowing how easy it can be, when bitter, to fall into sin with an unforgiving attitude, I began to search God's word for wisdom.
God's timing is perfect and last Sunday at church, my pastor preached on bitterness and the bitterness that comes from having an unforgiving heart. I have spent this week focusing on these truths.
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells of a servant forgiven a huge debt by his king. When the same servant has an opportunity to forgive someone a minor debt, he chooses to inflict punishment instead. The king finds out and is outraged:
"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:32-35, NIV)
These words penetrated my heart as I thought of my bitter attitude toward those who have hurt me. As I meditated on these verses, God reminded me of times that I have said or done hurtful things to others. God's forgiveness has been extended to me in those times and so I can no longer allow myself to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged me.
Forgiveness is a process and something that God must work within us but we must be willing to let go and to allow Him to work. I have to continue to forgive the ones who hurt me and as I have struggled with this issue, God is showing me biblical steps to take as I forgive those that have caused this hurt.
We must recognize and confess our own sins.
Psalm 41:4, "I said, 'O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.'" (NIV)
We must rejoice in God's forgiveness of our sins.
Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (NIV)
We must remember that forgiveness is a continual process.
Matthew 18:21-22a, "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." (NIV)
When we allow forgiveness to take place and allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hurts, I believe we are then able to experience Psalm 34:8:
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."