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One cannot love without forgiving, neither one can truly forgive without loving. We cannot say we dwell in love when we cannot get ourselves to forgive. And if we do forgive, that is, going through the act of forgiving, love must be present – love must be the driving force why we forgive.
This is the sum total of God’s offer of salvation: LOVE AND FORGIVENESS. It is because of God’s great love for all humanity that He made a way to make His forgiveness available to all.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3: 16)
For God, love and forgiveness are two inseparable acts. The Lord Jesus Christ has shown us everything that we need to do to be victorious in our walk of faith. But sometimes, we find it hard to forgive. That is, to forgive with love. Our human nature gets in the way and it makes it hard for us to forgive, especially those who have hurt us deeply, yet, aren’t even sorry, or who do not acknowledge their wrongdoing and who do not even ask for forgiveness.
But as true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the power to free ourselves from the burden of unforgiveness, by the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Yes, we can choose to forgive, and love (AND we will choose to forgive and love!) because we have been taught by the Lord and we are continuing and striving to LEARN HIM.
About two years ago, I was in this predicament. Someone who was close to me and whom I had shown goodness to, hurt me deeply. I was gently talking to her, trying to remind and counsel her in the way of the Lord, but she wouldn’t listen to me. She uttered hostile words that hurt, then walked out on me. Her heart was lifted up against me, and she’s ten years younger. I cried for many days.
Initially, I still tried to reach out to her, even apologizing if I had said something that had hurt her (for I was doing my best to practice humility), but she remained “unreachable”. So these were the things that I did:
I prayed earnestly and agonizingly. I wept to the Lord, pleading him to:
– take away the pain, resentment and ill will in my heart.
– help me to forgive graciously, even without her asking for forgiveness.
– increase my love that it will overpower all negative feelings.
– enlighten her, to show her where she has erred, and to teach her to be humble.
I released forgiveness from the very moment that I was hurt. This was so because I didn’t want to nourish hatred in my heart and I wanted the Lord to know that forgiveness was the way I wanted to take, even at that early stage.
It seemed only in words at first. I couldn’t get my heart to love even as I said many times that I had forgiven. For we can say we forgive and we do sincerely desire to forgive, but the real change in the heart is the work of the Lord. It’s God’s grace. And so we have to pray for it.
And through incessant prayers and meditations on the Word, it didn’t take too long before it became a sincere and genuine forgiveness. And then I could pray for her with true compassion in my heart.
Find wisdom and guidance in the Word
There’s no other, more excellent counsel but the Word of God. Study, obey, and do our best to live it.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Mat. 5: 44)
Forget the wrong, remember the good
Dwell not in the memory of the wrong that was done. Relive it not in our minds, torturing and exposing ourselves to more unnecessary pain and tempting our hearts to entertain ill feelings. When the memory tries to enter our minds, cast it out at once in the name of Jesus.
We can also do our best to remember the good side of the person who has wronged us and think of the good things that endeared us to him/her. I believe there is always a good side to a person.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, search our hearts. Why am I finding it hard to forgive? Is it pride? Is it about a hurt pride more than hurt feelings? Is it envy that is highly disguised? We cannot change the one who has wronged us, but we can correct ourselves. When we have identified the things that are hindering true forgiveness, we can pray to God to cleanse our hearts of them.
Acknowledge our own need of forgiveness
When we forgive, we liberate ourselves as much as we liberate the other person. We are in need of forgiveness from the Father as much as the one who has wronged us. It is because of this need to be forgiven that we also practice forgiveness to those who have done us wrong.
It is always easier to forgive when we think of God’s great mercies towards us, which we try to reciprocate by our humble obedience to Him.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Mat. 6: 14-15)
Overcome evil with good
One day, she came to our house to visit. I was in our room resting, and although she didn’t come to me, I gave her skirts and shirts as gifts through Maricris our housekeeper and my husband’s cousin. I wanted to obey the Lord and do that which is pleasing in His eyes, and she couldn’t take that away. We can continue to be a shining light, even if we’re hurting.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12: 20-21)
About two months ago, she came to visit again and this time, she came to me and embraced me, and I knew it was sincere. And that was enough to bring gladness to my heart. For I have forgiven long before.
Related article: Love’s Challenge: Loving the Hard-to-love