Once we ask God to forgive our sin, he does, and our spiritual life begins. In shaping our new life, God wants to make us holy, like he is. If you were to rescue a child from sleeping in the mud, you would never want to see that child return to that old habit. You would provide for that child, giving him everything he needs. Perhaps the child would wouldn’t want a bath, but you know staying dirty is bad for his health. You insist on the bath. Maybe the child whines for a broken piece of glass he used to play with, but you offer better things. The child may not understand, but as he matures, he will.
We don’t understand the mind of God, but we trust in his goodness. He is perfect love and perfect beauty. He created rainbows, waterfalls, sunsets, and lightening. He established the mountains and the oceans. He wants us to explore his lovely creation and enjoy it. Our fleshly nature tells us that God’s holiness is stiff and boring, but this is a lie. Living in God’s holiness is exciting as one experiences his voice, his miracles, and his favor. The one who created lightening storms and the solar system wants to commune with you. His speech is powerful; his words are true.
Part of communing with God is letting him wipe the mud off of us. We don’t realize how yucky our hearts can be. We crave his forgiveness because it makes us feel clean, like we never wronged him. (He doesn’t keep reminding us of our failures.) Then he tells us that we must forgive others as he has forgiven us. This is also part of getting our hearts right before him.
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 6:14-15
Ouch. Our flesh likes to hold on to ways we have been wronged. We like to replay scenes in our minds, thinking anew of what we could have said. We imagine various scenarios, stroking the anger or bitterness inside. But God sets an example when he forgave us; he chooses to not look on our sins anymore. He separates us from them, freeing us.
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.Psalm 103:12
And so we must forgive others their selfishness. In the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35, a king forgave a servant’s debt who owed him a ton of money. Then that same servant would not forgive the debt of someone who owed him much less. When the other servants saw what happened, they told the king, who then had the first man put in jail. Sure, others sin against us. But they owe us much less than we owe God. Since he chooses to forgive us, we must extend that mercy to others.
Harboring unforgiveness actually hurts us. It makes us miserable. When we forgive someone—especially someone who does not deserve it—we release resentfulness and bitterness. God can melt away these toxins, which infest the souls who harbor them. These toxic attitudes also give Satan a foothold to torture us. Release them to God and live in the peace of Jesus.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.Colossians 3:12-13
God does not want us to live in abusive situations; he wants us to live at peace with others. (Romans 12:18) If you are not sure how to forgive someone or how to live in peace, ask God for help. Praying for someone regularly will help you release anger, and maybe God will touch and change that person.
Sometimes we don’t want to forgive others because we feel that they won’t be punished if we do. Realize that God is the final judge. He will punish people for their wicked deeds. God wants us to forgive and to leave the matter of justice with him. It is impossible for us to know someone else’s mind. But God knows all, and he will repay each person according to what they have done.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.Romans 12:14-20