By Harold and Bette Gillogly
Feelings of forgiveness do not happen in a vacuum. We don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m not going to feel resentment toward that person who hurt me anymore.” Shazam! Nope. Doesn’t happen that way.
Our emotions change as we change our behavior. We can’t simply say. We have to do. Jesus Himself tells us the secret of feeling forgiveness. He said, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28). Whoa! You mean we have to learn to love the people who offend and hurt us? ’Fraid so.
How can we possibly do that? We change our behavior toward them. When we feel like spitting in their face, we are kind and good to them instead. When we feel like cursing them and telling everybody how terrible they are, we bless them and speak well of them instead. When we wish them a little fire and brimstone, we pray for them – not for our sake (“make them treat me nicer”) but for theirs. And eventually our feelings toward them will change. The bitterness and resentment will seep away. We’ll start to feel the freedom of forgiveness.
Jesus said if you treat those who offend you in this way, …then your reward will be great, and you will be sons [and daughters] of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36) When we choose to be merciful and forgive like the Father, the Holy Spirit will enable us to follow through on that choice. And Jesus also promises that when we give up our feelings of resentment and forgive from the heart, we will reap a great reward. Our hard old hearts will soften, and peace will permeate our soul. (Colossians 3:15) Forgiveness is the key to peace. Peace is the reward of forgiveness.
September has been “Forgiveness Month.” You may have forgiveness down pat. You harbor no resentment toward anyone. Great! But on the other hand, maybe you do need to do something. Perhaps you realize you are clinging to some bitterness – maybe even some very old bitterness. It’s time to let it go. It’s time to do good to them. To bless them. To pray for them. It’s time to know real peace – in your heart and in your home.
If you would like more information about how to experience the freedom of forgiveness, we encourage you to read “The Faces of Forgiveness” Parts 1 https://marriages.net/the-faces-of-forgiveness-pt-1-of-2/ and 2 https://marriages.net/the-faces-of-forgiveness-pt-2-of-2/. We also recommend you go to our free, on-demand webinars entitled “How to Nurture Healthy Relationships” https://marriages.net/webinars-3/healthy-relationships/ and “Real Love Walking” https://marriages.net/webinars-3/real-love-walking/.