The Risk of Forgiving

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34

Two sisters had a falling out with one another, and carried on a feud for thirty years.

On Mildred's seventieth birthday, Alice, who was seventy-five, felt a bit of remorse, but it passed. Later, though, when she heard Mildred was ill, she felt compelled to visit.

From her sickbed, Mildred looked sternly at her sister.

At last she said in a faint voice, “The doctors say I'm seriously ill, Alice. If I pass away, I want you to know you’re forgiven. But if I pull through, things stay as they are!”

A silly story, and yet many people make the foolish choice to hang on to bitterness or anger toward someone else – a family member, a former friend, a fellow church member, a co-worker, a neighbor, a parent, a child, or a sibling – rather than truly forgiving that person.

What does it mean to forgive?

The Old Testament word that is most commonly translated “forgive,” salach, means to pardon or release. It’s the word that God uses in Jeremiah 31:34: 

For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Another Hebrew word that is often translated “forgive,” nasa, means to lift up. The word paints a picture of a heavy weight of guilt being lifted off of someone else’s shoulders. The Psalmist uses this word when he prays:

Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. (Psalm 25:18)

In the New Testament, the most frequent word used for “forgive” is aphiemi, a term that literally means to let go or to send away. Jesus used this word when teaching us to pray:

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Because we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, Christians should be the most forgiving people in the entire world. To forgive the way God forgives means forgiving willingly and completely.

Here are some things to remember about true forgiveness:

1.     True forgiveness does not have to be earned. It is simply given.

2.     True forgiveness means letting the offense go and choosing no longer to remember it.

3.     Extending true forgiveness to others requires the grace of God to pardon those who have hurt us the most deeply.

Is there someone you need to forgive today?

There may be a broken relationship that you need to take the initiative to mend. Though it may seem awkward to try to restore that relationship, it’s worth the emotional risk to make things right.

Or you may be harboring unforgiveness in your heart toward someone who does not even know you are angry or bitter toward him or her. You may not need to tell that person a word about how you feel, but you do need to forgive them in your heart.

Before God, ask for His grace to forgive.

Have a great day, and keep moving forward!