And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings (Mark 11:25-26 – Amplified).
The Christmas holidays are challenging for many people. The Christmas holidays remind some of us life changes and family changes that have occurred in the past. Then, during the holidays we spend time with family and others that we haven’t seen perhaps for months, or even since last year. And, sometimes there are disagreements and challenges that have been left open-ended for years. This creates some awkward social situations. And this is where we need to make sure that we’re walking in love and forgiveness. So, I want to address today specifically how to forgive others so we can enjoy the holidays.
One of the requirements for answered prayer is that we walk in forgiveness. Faith is a heart thing. And our relationship with our Father is a heart thing. When we choose to hold onto offense, hardness is produced within. That hardness shut others out, and keeps the Father out too!
All of us encounter challenges with others. It’s just part of being human living in a fallen world. When someone commits an offense towards us, Jesus said that we must let it drop, leave it, and let it go. Forgiveness is not an option. It is a command!
Forgiveness is not a feeling or emotion. It will eventually produce a feeling, but it does not start with a good feeling. Forgiveness is an action we take that will change emotions. Many people want the feeling first before they forgive, but it just doesn’t work that way.
I’ve found that there are at least three steps to forgiveness, based on the way God forgives us. We are to forgive even as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).
When God forgives us, He chooses not to bring the offense up to us again! When God forgives us, He chooses to forgive and forget. Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more (Hebrews 10:17). When we forgive others, we must choose not to mention the offense again! IF you keep reminding a person of their offense towards you, forgiveness has not yet been given!
When God forgives us, He chooses to forget and tell no one else about it! So when we forgive even as God forgave us in Christ, we choose to mention it no more to the person we’re forgiving, and we choose to tell no one else about it!
When God forgives us, He chooses to remember the offense no more. It does not come back to God’s mind again. He has the ability to completely forget. I will remember no more. We don’t have that ability. We easily remember offenses, and the flesh desires to hold on to them. We must choose to refuse the negative thoughts that come about a person who has committed an offense against us.
When I am forgiving a person, and the thoughts of what they did come back, I choose to replace the thoughts of what they did with prayer for them. I find that I must be consistent with this process. Thoughts can be stubborn! When I choose to think only wholesome thoughts about the person I’m forgiving, and refuse to think on the negative, I am creating a process that will eventually release negative emotions from me.
Understand that emotions change with thoughts. Thoughts fuel emotions. If I change my thoughts about a person, the emotions will eventually change toward them too. This is an important principle to understand. Here’s another way to put it: You won’t feel good about a person until you think good about that person.
Most people think they haven’t forgiven until they feel the forgiveness. But it works the other way around! Forgive first! Choose to go before the Father and as an act of faith release all ill-will, anger, wrong thoughts, and wrong motives towards a person. We can do this by telling the Father in prayer exactly what the person did and how that made us feel. Then, by faith, and by a specific act of will, tell the Father that you choose to forgive the person for the issue, and that you do right now release them from any thoughts or motives you have that they owe you something for what occurred.
Then do what the Father does. Don’t bring the offense up to them again, and don’t bring it up to others. And then, when the offense comes up in your own mind, pray for the person. Eventually, the emotions will change. This takes time and the length of time is determined by the degree of the offense.
Make a decision to forgive even as Christ forgave you today.