Forgiveness is not something I knew much about before I met Jesus. I basically knew what the word meant, but I did not know how to be forgiven. I often felt like I did not live up to the standards and expectations that the world seemed to have for me, and I did not know what to do about it. I was a good person with no big offenses and was told I was loved. I knew I had flaws, and I heard about them sometimes too. I remember feeling sad and that I was missing something in my life.
Often I would walk the three blocks from our house to our church and sit in the chapel alone praying and asking God for help. I felt I was letting Him and my parents down, but why? During that time, I also became nervous about needing control in my life and became obsessive about ordering my room, practicing my flute for hours, and trying to achieve a sense of perfection. I needed order to feel secure.
When I went to college, I was invited to the large student ministry at the evangelical conservative church on campus. This displeased my family because it was not a Methodist Church. However, I liked the Bible Study in the dorm and I liked the church. I think God was answering prayers. I was studying the Bible and learning what it said; the people were genuine. Jesus seemed present in everyone there, including my future husband, Paul.
One Sunday the pastor preached on salvation, sin, and forgiveness. For the first time, I connected with the fact that I was a sinner, as was everyone, and that I needed to confess and ask God for forgiveness! Wow! Instead of placing my trust and faith in trying to be perfect, I needed to admit I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I worked and to place my faith in God’s forgiveness.
Let’s look at the definition of “forgiveness” and think about how it applied in my case. The word “forgiveness” is a noun. It means being pardoned, absolved, or exonerated. What I learned that day was that God sent Jesus to take on my sins so I could have forgiveness from Him. Oh, what a load lifted from me and what thanksgiving I felt about what Jesus did for me. I think for the first time, I understood better what being okay with the world, and the Lord, and forgiveness was all about.
Forgiveness was a decision made to pardon my shortcomings; we are called to be like our Lord and do the same for others. As it is written, Jesus told us:
To forgive because we are forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).
To pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
To forgive if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions (Matthew 11:25).
If we have experienced His forgiveness, how well are we forgiving others? For myself, I know there are many times when I do forgive, but also many times when I still need to do better at putting that into practice.
This is an area where practice helps. We don’t need to wait until someone does something really bad to start practicing. We have opportunities to practice every day at home, driving, shopping, answering the phone, working, doing whatever we do in our daily lives. Each and every feeling of annoyance or anger over insult, thoughtless acts, hurtful words, or forgotten acknowledgments is an opportunity to practice forgiveness. I’m working on asking myself, “What would Jesus do to forgive them? I know he forgives me.” Then I pray for help. The Holy Spirit is with us to work in us to show His love to each person with whom we interact.
He has forgiven me so much and I want to forgive others with the same love. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing to receive. It releases us from the burden and allows us to focus on others. God forgives us so we can have a relationship with Him. What a gift and we can give that gift to others. We can tell them how they can have that gift from God through His Son.
Let us pray for each other and help each other practice “forgiveness.”