A study of Forgiveness: The Need to Forgive…Is He Talking To Me?

28 Feb

(Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many insights into this subject matter)

Vengeance is popular today; forgiveness is not. Retaliation is heralded as an inalienable right of f personal freedom. Like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, some would love it to “make my day” and allow them to gain revenge.

Those who regularly are involved in counseling with church members find one thing: most troublesome problems would be significantly diminished (and in some cases solved completely) by a right understanding of what Scripture says about forgiveness. Of course, they would also need to heed God’s direction!

forgiveness (2)Some of us may not have anyone we need to forgive, & if so, praise God! That’s a wonderful thing. Others of us know full well we have someone we need to forgive. But I am concerned that there are also those of us, & this might include you, who need to forgive someone but we don’t realize that we do.

 (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How do we tell whether we need to forgive someone?

Who has wronged you? If you already have an answer, you may not have forgiven them.

Who has hurt you very deeply in your life? If there is someone, you may or may not have forgiven them, but that person is a likely candidate for someone you haven’t forgiven. If you have been deeply hurt or wronged, I want you to know that whatever happened was wrong & your anger about it was righteous anger, at least in the beginning. But even so, if the anger & hurt still linger, you may need prayer for healing & you may also need to forgive.

Do you feel resentment or a grudge toward anyone? Or maybe someone you can’t stand to be around or that you avoid?

Is there anyone you feel does not deserve to be forgiven? Do you feel you have justifiable resentment?  Augustine once said, “There was never an angry man who thought his anger unjustified.” Gary Inrig compares non-forgiveness to spiritual anorexia. The person becomes convinced that the very thing that is God’s provision for heath is really something dangerous and to be avoided. Even as her body wastes away, she clings to the notion that eating is bad for her. It is a delusion that kills slowly but surely. So is an unwillingness to forgive.

Do you have a case against someone, perhaps a case that you keep trying to prove to others? Someone you’re consumed with?

If you think you even might have someone to forgive, I want you to know it is possible to do–you can forgive them. God doesn’t ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. What’s more, you get to forgive them!

One of the real keys is for us to see clearly how important it is to do so. Let me share several reasons why we need to forgive.

God said to.

(Luke 23:34 NIV)  “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

(Eph 4:32 NIV)  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Col 3:13 NIV)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Our own forgiveness depends on it.

(Mat 18:21-22 NIV)  “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?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

(Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””

(Mark 11:25 NIV)  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.””

If you receive grace, you’ll pass it on. If you harden your heart, you either forfeit his grace or never had it to begin with. You cannot take a grudge to heaven.

To restore relationships.

We need relationships; we were made for relationships. And we need to try to make all our relationships good. The trouble is none of the humans who are available to have a relationship with is perfect. The only way to get along is to forgive. Since we are not perfect, we couldn’t have a relationship with God—but he forgave us so we could have a relationship with him. That’s exactly why we need to forgive—so we can have relationships. It will be possible without them.

For our own spiritual, emotional, & physical health.

This is huge. Researchers have discovered direct links between forgiveness and physical & emotional health. Not forgiving almost inevitably leads to chronic anger & stress, both of which are toxic. It leads to higher rates of stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, lower immune system function, & higher divorce rates. Some evidence it also decreases neurological function & decreases memory.

Holding on to resentment and failing to forgive leads to anxiety, depression, and stress. Stress can take a huge toll on the body, leading to ulcers, backache, and a weak immune system.

Stress is responsible for 75 percent to 90 percent of Americans’ doctor visits, according to the American Institute for Stress. It is no mystery why this insidious biological response has been called America’s number one health problem.

Chronic stress — the type that eats away at you little by little over time – is the worst variety. Having no redeeming qualities (unlike acute stress, which may rev you up when you need the extra energy boost), chronic stress has been linked to a host of major illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases and reproductive problems, along with more minor maladies like stomach upset, back pain, headaches and fatigue.

For the health of our marriages, families, friends, & church.

There might be marriages in our congregations that are going to disintegrate unless someone finds a way to forgive. There are families that will collapse, unless someone finds a way to forgive.  There are friendships that will unravel, unless someone decides to forgive. There are groups that will split, unless someone forgives.

The bitterness & resentment we feel will also alienate us & cut us off from others. It will make us suspicious & fearful of relationships. It will isolate us. Unforgiveness destroys community. Churches ought to be a no-debt zone, but it’s not always so.

So for these reasons, we really, really must forgive.  (Heb 12:14-15 NIV)  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The following check-up was developed from a longer test created by Susan Wade Brown, Ph.D., as part of her doctoral dissertation in psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, CA., edited by Robert Enright, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.

Think about the specific person you want to measure your forgiveness toward. Rate each item to the extent that the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors match your own.

0 = Strongly disagree 1 = Disagree 2 = Neutral 3 = Agree 4 = Strongly agree

1. I’m going to get even.

2. I’ll make them pay.

3. I replay the offense in my mind, dwelling on it.

4. I think about them with anger.

5. I can understand where they are coming from.

6. I have a clear ability to see their good points.

7. I prayed for them, asking God to bless them.

8. I told God I forgive them.

9. My resentment is gone.

10. I feel peace.

11. I keep as much distance between us as possible.

12. I live as if they don’t exist, or never existed.

13. I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it.

14. I took steps toward reconciliation: wrote them, called them, showed concern.

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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Forgiveness


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