“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
How many people not only carry grudges, but also feel like they have a right to do so? In a study in the Journal of Adult Development, 75% of people surveyed said they believed God has forgiven them for past wrongdoings, but only 52% said they have forgiven others. Only 43% said they have actively sought forgiveness for wrongs they have done.
The last thing I want to do is make light of what you might be going through. When you hear about forgiveness, you might be thinking, “You don’t know how much he hurt me,” or, “She doesn’t realize how badly she destroyed my life.” In response to this, I humbly ask you to notice Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Make no mistake: Ignorance does not equal innocence. Ignorance is not an excuse with a policeman any more than it is an excuse with God. When someone hurts you the only two beings in the universe that know just how badly you have been hurt are you and God. And God cares deeply about your hurt.
But what Jesus did for people who hurt Him is what Jesus wants us to do for people who hurt us. You see, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive…” not only so that we might be forgiven, but also that we might be forgiving. God forgives us because Jesus died for us. He expects us to forgive others because Jesus lives in us. If you are going to live like Jesus, you have to forgive like Jesus.
Those words, “Father, forgive them,” mean two things for you and me. They mean we can die with a clean slate toward God; and they mean we can die with a clean slate towards others. A truly forgiven follower of Jesus will be a totally forgiving follower of Jesus.
I want you to take some time to write down the names of people who have hurt or wronged you that you may not have fully forgiven. Beside those names, write the word “Forgiven,” one by one, beside each name as you pray and release your anger, hurt, and bitterness to God. Once you have done that, rip that paper up and throw it away to signify that you are free from the unforgiveness that was in your heart.
God, I release all of the unforgiveness and bitterness that is in my heart towards those who have hurt me. I entrust them to You to deal with as You see fit. Help me to love my enemies, and pray for those who hurt me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.