by Norman H. Patterson Jr
As We Forgive… Part 2
The Importance of a Small Word
Sometimes the most important words in the Bible are the smallest. "As" is one of those words. There are two important verses that use this little word.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12
The word "as" is used as an adverb in both verses. According to Merriam-Webster "as" means, "to the same degree or amount." When we apply this understanding to these two verses, we see the importance of this two letter word.
In Ephesians 4:32, we are commanded to have such tender-hearted forgiveness with one another "to the same degree or amount" as the forgiveness God the Father has given to us in Jesus Christ. This is worth exploring.
The Degree of God’s Forgiveness
What kind of forgiveness has God given us in Christ? There are many verses in the Bible that describe this forgiveness. Here are a few examples:
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7
All forgiveness is through Christ. God cannot forgive us apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ. His forgiveness is absolute and complete. It is so powerful that we are told that God forgets our sin forever. This means that God will never use our sin against us. He forgets it and treats us as if we've never sinned. His forgiveness is so complete that we are, in the eyes of God, as holy and pure as Jesus Christ Himself.
That's how God in Christ forgave us!
As God In Christ
Now we have to apply this understanding to Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
You can translate the word "debt" here as "sins" or "trespasses". While the meaning is nuanced by the different words, they all essentially refer to the wrong committed against us by another person.
These verses reveal to us 3 things:
1. God forgives us in Christ
This we know from the verses quoted above and from countless other verses in the Bible.
2. Our Required Forgiveness
We are required to forgive one another with this same forgiveness. This is where it gets powerful. To truly understand the depth of the forgiveness God is requiring us to give to those who sin against us, we must apply the verses concerning God's forgiveness of us to those who have sinned against us.
As I wrote about in Part 1, it is worth noting that people actually do sin against us. The closer the person is to us, the deeper the pain of the sin. A stranger cannot hurt us as much as a son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, relative or close friend. Unless we recognize the reality that we have been sinned against and the pain that goes along with that, our forgiveness will not go very deep. Sometimes, we avoid naming the sin because we want to avoid the pain that goes along with the sin. First, name the sin, then forgive it.
How are we to forgive one another? Apply the verses given above:
Hebrews 8:12, we are to have mercy towards those who have sinned against us, and to remember their sins no more.
Psalm 103:12, as far as the east is from the west, we are to remove the sin committed against us.
Ephesians 1:7, in Him we have the redemption through his blood, we are to forgive their trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.
In other words, in Christ, we are required to treat others as if they never sinned against us. The forgiveness God gives us is Christ is complete and lasting. This is the same forgiveness we are to give to those who have sinned against us.
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow. Isaiah 1:8
3. The Necessity of Forgiveness
If we fail to forgive those who sinned against us with this same measure of forgiveness, we put ourselves in spiritual jeopardy. This is vitally important for us to understand. God stated this spiritual principle in many places in the Bible.
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:37+38
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:13-15
Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:32-35
How to Forgive
1. ask and write
Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the people in your life you haven't forgiven. Write down their name. Think about who you talk about to others and how they've hurt you.
What keeps you awake at night and the person that is behind the hurt?
2. Name the sin
Next, write down what they did to you. Don’t sugar coat it. It is important to get as specific as possible. Vague forgiveness leads to shallow relief. Be as detailed as you need to truly deal with the sin and the pain that it caused.
3. feel the pain
I wrote about Mindful Pain here. If you need a deeper understanding or help dealing with the pain other’s have caused in your life, please read that blog post. In brief, most of our personal trouble comes from pain avoidance. Facing the pain means it no longer has power over us. Forgiveness is one of the ways we learn to deal with the pain.
4. Actually forgive them
Now walk through each person on your list specifically naming them and the sin that they committed against you. It is important to go through this step. It looks something like this:
Father, I forgive (name the person) for (specifically name the sins that were committed against you).
5. Face the Emotions
Don't be afraid of the emotions that surface. I can’t emphasis this enough.
6. Time Heals
Give yourself time for your emotions to heal. Forgiveness is an act of the will, but the healing that takes place often takes time. Forgive as many times as it takes to work through your emotions. I wrote about this in a previous blog post called 7x70. You can read about it here.
Sometimes unforgiveness is so ingrained in our hearts and minds that we have to forgive over and over again. Don’t be discouraged if you find that you are still thinking about the person who hurt you. Whenever they surface in your thoughts, remember you have forgiven them. Perhaps there is a layer you forgot to forgive. Deal with it as many times as you need. I wrote a blog post concerning how to change our way of thinking through a Daily Truth Encounter. You can read that blog post here.
8. Pray for Them
One of the best ways to release those who have hurt you is to pray for them. Jesus called us to pray for those who those who hurt you and release them into God's hands
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45
9. Leave them in God’s hands
I will be writing about this in the near future. Until then, remember that God never leaves revenge or retaliation in our hands. Only God has the authority to give vengeance. This is because only God knows the situation perfectly and only His is perfectly just. If there is justice to be had, God will bring it about in His way and in His time.
I write about forgiveness a lot in my blog. That’s because I have found that they only way to spiritual wholeness is through the truth God revealed in the Scriptures. He has given us everything we need for faith and practice in the Bible. It was only after my life fell apart that I began to apply these truths. It wasn’t just a spiritual exercise for me. It was a matter of life or death. I chose life! This website and my blog is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and the reality of the power of practicing His ways in the details of life.