How can I extend forgiveness to those who sin against me?
The Bible is clear we are to forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12; 18:21-22). But how are we to forgive others?
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The Lord's Prayer offers insight into this area. Matthew 6:12 states, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." First, we pray regarding forgiveness. Forgiving someone who has hurt us is often not easy. We need God's power to release bitterness or any grudge we might hold against them.
Second, remember the forgiveness God has given to you. When we remember the many sins God has forgiven in our own lives, it is easier to give mercy to those who have hurt us.
Third, realize forgiveness is connected with our spiritual maturity. If we want to grow in Christ, we must be willing to forgive others, following His example. He has forgiven us, setting a model for our own lives.
Fourth, from a practical standpoint it is also helpful to realize not forgiving someone else hurts us more than it hurts the other person. Often, the other person will move forward in life without concern while you are the one dwelling on how they have hurt you, allowing it to continue causing you problems in the present. Your best choice is to offer forgiveness, even if only in your own mind, to allow yourself to focus on new and productive areas of life rather than letting past problems consume the life God desires for you to use to have greater impact (Philippians 3:13-14).
Fifth, a wonderful way to forgive someone who has sinned against you is to focus your life on loving and serving others. First Peter 4:8 teaches, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." Living a life of love is the best way to move beyond the pain of past hurts.
Sixth, in some cases you may feel the need for some kind of reconciliation with someone who has sinned against you. For conflicts among believers, Matthew 18:15-20 offers a pattern to help. First, go to the person and address the issue. If this does not work or is not possible or safe, take one or two others with you. Third, if this fails, take the problem to your local church congregation. Fourth, if these actions do not work, then no longer associate with the person as a believer. These actions can help reconcile many Christian relationships and help with the forgiveness that may need to take place.
Remember, our goal is to live for God, forgiving others as He has forgiven us. When we do, we rely on His strength to help us forgive, a power much greater than our own ability to let go of past hurts from others.
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