“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” —Matthew 5:43-48.
The Bible says we must forgive those who have done us harm. How do we do that? We say, “I’ll forgive them but I will never forget.”
If you don’t forget, have you truly let it go? Is that the way you want God to forgive your sins?
David said in Psalm 32: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
If there was ever anyone who had a right to claim mistreatment, it was Jesus. What cruel physical torture, indignities and mockery He suffered before His death and what was His response? “Father forgive them.”
I have never, and neither have you, had to go through what Jesus did. Remember what God forgave you and what it cost Him before you decide you can’t forgive someone for what they have done to you.
In the prayer the Lord taught His disciples He said, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Isn’t that saying, “God forgive us in the same way we forgive those who have harmed us?” That alone is enough reason to put great effort into forgiveness.
I have found that when forgiving is difficult, it is praying for that person that will finally clear my heart. When we first begin to pray for them, it may be very difficult but if we keep returning to the prayer, God will honor it and one day we will find that our heart is clear of any hard feelings and we sincerely desire good for them.
The act of forgiveness benefits us greatly.
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Dr. Karen Swartz, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.”
She continued, “Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health. Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.”
Did you know there were such physical and mental rewards when we obey God?
Sylvia Hughes is a longtime Sunday School and women’s Bible study teacher, and a retired newspaper editor. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.