Is Forgiveness Optional?


But he hurt me….

She betrayed me…

I can’t forgive what he did…

How could she do that to me?

I can never forgive someone for doing that!

Have you ever thought any of these thoughts? 

Life can be painful at times because we are human.   It is no surprise, humans fail each other.  Sometimes we are mean, dishonest, vile or worse.  Personally, I have a long list of things I have done both knowingly and unknowingly where I hurt others with my actions.  Some I am downright embarrassed to admit.  I am thankful that God is willing to forgive all of our wrongs, aren’t you?  1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins Jesus will be faithful and will forgive us and make us righteous. Acts 13:38 tells us that our forgiveness is provided compliments of Jesus’ death on the cross and all who believe on him will be forgiven.

Even more AMAZING is that God will not even remember my sins anymore, once I confess them. Psalm 103:12 (YES!  I accept.)

But, you know what?  The Bible is very clear that we also need to forgive others who sin against us. It is not just suggested or recommended that we forgive others.   The Bible doesn’t say, forgive others so that you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t say , forgive others to the best of your ability. The Bible commands us to forgive.  No matter what. Even if they did that one thing…you know the thing that boils your blood, or makes it run cold. Even if they did that one thing that keeps you up at night. You know that thing I am talking about. You know who you need to forgive.  God says we have to forgive everyone who hurts us, even them, and yes, even for that!

It has been over 20 years now, since my brother died. His autopsy states that he committed suicide. I believe that he was shot and killed in anger by someone he had just ended a relationship with. I wanted this girl to die. I wanted her to pay for what she did, for taking my brother from me and my parents and siblings. I wanted her to suffer. I wanted to damn her to hell.

I was so full of pain and anger and dare I admit it, even hate. Yes, I felt hatred for this human. This hatred wanted her dead, so that makes me guilty of murder in my heart. In my rants to God where I was asking him to punish her for her crime, he gently spoke to my heart. He said “I love her Jamie, just as much as I love you. I died for her sins just as I did for yours. I desire to see her come to repentance and know me just as I love you and your family. It is not my will that anyone would be damned to hell, not even her. It is through my grace that you have been saved, and it is through my grace that I want to save her too”.

Wow! His voice was so gentle. He did not condemn me for having such evil thoughts. And I knew by his tone that my pain hurt him dearly. But by showing me that as I had been saved by grace, I, too needed to extend grace to her. I didn’t want to. But I saw that I needed to. I asked God to give me the ability to forgive her because it was outside of what I could do in my own strength. I asked him to help me to see her as he saw her. I asked him to forgive me for my evil desires. When I did this, my heart was flooded with peace and love for her as another person that needed God’s grace and forgiveness. I prayed that God would bring someone into her life that would be Jesus to her.

My desire to forgive her, did not mean that I wanted to be her best friend or share tea and laughs with her. But it did mean that I would no longer carry the poison of hate in my heart. I saw a glimpse of God’s infinite grace and mercy that he extended to me when I didn’t deserve it.   I had no right to withhold that same gift from someone else.

Just now My heart begins to sing this old hymn: Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace     that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, Gods grace, grace that is greater than ALL my sin.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Read the parable of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. This parable talks about a servant (let’s call him John) who owes the king a great deal of money (like 3 billion dollars) and is unable to pay. The king demands that John is to be sold, along with his wife and children along with everything John owns in order for the debt to be settled (as if!).  John cries and begs the king to have patience so he can pay him back. What happens next is incredible. The king finds compassion in his heart and cancels the ENTIRE debt that John owed.  Ironically it  happens that another servant (let’s call him Bill) owed John about 1 thousand dollars.  After John was forgiven his debt he went and found Bill, grabbed him by the throat and demanded that his debt be paid back immediately. Bill cried and begged for mercy but John found no compassion in his heart and threw Bill in prison.  Now the king heard about this atrocity and demanded that John be brought before him.  The king was angry and said to John “Didn’t I forgive you because you begged me to? Shouldn’t you have found it in your heart to forgive Bill just as I forgave you?”  Because of this injustice the king handed John over to the tormentors until he could pay back all that he owed. It tells us at the end of this parable that God will also do the same to us if we refuse to forgive FROM OUR HEARTS those who hurt us.

Hmm, compelling isn’t it? Now does this mean we will lose our salvation if we don’t forgive someone?  I don’t think so. If we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive others, I think that indicates maybe we never had our heart right to begin with.  Maybe we didn’t understand and fully appreciate the gift we were given.  Maybe we trivialized it. If we have truly accepted the forgiveness of our sins, Jesus lives in us and through us. He gives us the ability to forgive all things, even that one thing and that one person!

is there someone you need to forgive? Ask God to allow you to see that person through his eyes. Ask him to put his love and forgiveness in your heart for them. What seems humanly impossible becomes possible when we follow in obedience. Our miraculous gift of peace comes when we choose to obey God’s command to forgive.

More verses on forgiveness:

Matthew 18:21 reminds us that we need to forgive others over and over if necessary.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to be kind and compassionate and forgive others as Christ forgave us.

Colossians 2:13 encourages us to bear with one another and forgive them as Christ forgave us.

2 Corinthians 2:7 even tells us to forgive and comfort the one who has caused the grief (What??, seriously?) Yup!

Ephesians 1:7 explains that we are forgiven by Jesus’ blood and grace

Colossians 1:14   reminds us that Jesus has rescued and redeemed us and has forgiven our sins.

Acts 5:31 tells us that Jesus was crucified so we could be free from sin.

Psalm 130:4 announces that God offers forgiveness and doesn’t even keep a record of our wrongs.

Psalm 86:5 boasts that the Lord is ready to forgive, good and abounding in love to all who call on him.

Psalm 103:12 declares that our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west!! INCREDIBLE!




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