One of my kids had a fish tank for years. Eventually, there were no more fish, and I was cleaning up the area where the fish tank had been, on a dresser next to a wall. Water we used to refill the tank often spilled over onto a towel, which carried it over to a nearby wall. This small but constant amount of water made a soft spot in the paint. I went to clean it off and ended up wiping off what looked like two layers of paint! Thankfully it did not go deeper than that. The wall needed to be cleaned, textured, and repainted to restore it to what it had been before. I wish I had paid attention to what had been happening so I didn’t have to take those steps.
Whether our need to forgive feels small or seems insurmountable, we must be attentive to our tendencies to let slights, offenses, and wrongs grow even bigger in our minds. It is best to forgive than to let it grow into a larger problem. Here are three verses that can help give us the perspective we need to forgive.
God forgave us. The fact that God forgave us is more than enough reason to forgive others. Psalm 86:5 NASB tells us, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all who call upon You.” We would have such a great debt of a lifetime sin if God did not forgive us. Yet we hold against someone else a relatively small amount of sin? Follow God’s example of forgiveness.
Keep No Record of Wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV says, “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.” Sadly, isn’t that what we do in many relationships? Maybe we will let a slight go. Maybe we won’t make a big deal when we are embarrassed by someone on purpose. But you better believe, it is going on “the list.” God doesn’t want us to have that list. He wants us to love people so much that we stop keeping track of the wrongs. It doesn’t mean we don’t learn from those experiences, but it does mean that we stop holding it against them.
Don’t give Satan an opportunity. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul talks about a person in the Corinthians congregation who needs to be forgiven. In verses 10 and 11, he says, “if I have forgiven anything, I did so for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Think of all the times that unforgiveness has broken up Christians from one another. Satan definitely sees that as a win. In our unforgiveness, bitterness, and eventual malice, we can play right into Satan’s plans. Don’t be a part of that.
So say you’ve forgiven someone. Will this mean that everything will be as it was before? Sometimes. I’ve seen relationships restored. But I’ve also seen people part ways after a great offense, even after everything was forgiven. Bring your willingness to forgive to the table, and let God sort out what your relationship to that person will be.
Father, It is so difficult sometimes to let go of the hurt that we feel when someone wrongs us. Thank you for Your example of how to forgive. Thank you for the strength to forgive other people. Thank you for the unity that we can find among other imperfect believers. We love you, Lord! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.