Is Forgiveness Optional?

I have several friends right now who are going through difficult times with people they once had close fellowship with. When a friend or relative turns on you and begins to slander you or in other ways make your life miserable, it is easy to become bitter and to even grow to hate that person. These feelings are not unique to our day.

In Psalm 41:9, David says: “Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Then again, in Psalm 51:12-14: “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was you, a man my equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.”

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It is never easy to know that someone hates you or is trying to turn people against you but it is even harder when it comes from someone you loved. Jesus Himself experienced this when one of his disciples, who had walked with him for years, turned him over to the Romans to be crucified. As bad as the physical pain was, it must have been magnified by the emotional pain of knowing the perpetrator was one who had been in his inner circle of friends.

When you are being mistreated, the Golden Rule still applies. You must strive to treat that person how you desire to be treated. This does not mean that you pretend there isn’t a problem and open your heart and home to them but it does mean that you refrain from name calling, wishing them evil, slandering them in return, etc. You do not have to let your good be evil spoken of (Romans 14:16), but you must pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14) and ask God to help you to love them in spite of what they do to you (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35).

Believe me I know how difficult this can be. I am only sharing what the Word of God tells us in regard to these things. If it were easy to be a Christian, everyone would be one. But, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). If you are truly saved, you have been forgiven much, and along with that forgiveness comes the command to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

It can be very hard to control the feelings of bitterness that arise but it will be at least a little easier if you commit that person to prayer. Ask God to save them or to convict their heart. Ask Him to give you a genuine burden for that person. Do not allow that bitterness to fester until it controls you. When that happens, you are no better than they are. Life is short, and you cannot afford to allow your time to be wasted through fretting about what is being said or done to you, and definitely not through retaliation. Draw near to God and continue to follow Him with your whole heart. If you seek Him and His righteousness, He will handle everything else for you. Your enemy may never come around but you will have peace in knowing that he or she can only speak lies about you because you have walked uprightly.

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In closing, I would add that, if you have hurt someone, causing them to become bitter, you must humble yourself and ask their forgiveness. They may or may not forgive you but you must repent specifically for wrongdoing on your part. Sometimes persecution comes through no fault of yours. I understand that. But before you can pray about the speck in your Brother’s eye, you must make sure there is not a plank in yours. You may even need to explain the situation to a close friend or family member and get their perspective as to whether you are even partly to blame. Only do this if you honestly want to know since you may not like the answer. As painful as this may be, I am convinced that, if you obey God’s Word in these matters, you will find that peace that passes understanding and will develop a closer walk with God than you ever thought possible.

6 thoughts on “Is Forgiveness Optional?

  1. Sis. Sony, thank you for sharing these words from your heart. It is never easy forgiving those who have hurt you. It seems when one has been broken and battered by the storms of those you have loved, it seems easier to allow roots of bitterness to grow out of the tears that fall in the night. However, we remember that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

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  2. As you have been forgiven in Christ, forgive one another. When a Christian refuses to forgive, he is sitting in judgment on God! How arrogant we often are without realizing it! Humility ought to mark our lives – knowing we’ve been forgiven MUCH, we are to forgive one another.

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  3. If we aren’t able to make it right with someone we hurt u (eg that person may hurt us out of anger) will God still forgive us?

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  4. CA – The forgiveness we have in Christ is absolute and comprehensive, as relates to our status as children of the living God. We cannot be snatched out of His hand. As with salvation (there being a past tense – we have been saved, a present tense – we are being saved, and a future tense – we will be saved; all of which speak to the redemption and preservation and glorification of the saints secured by our Lord and Savior), so it is with forgiveness. We can hamper relationships – including our relationship with our heavenly Father (do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by Whom you are sealed), we cannot undo the adoption we have as His children.

    The more we understand the forgiveness and love the Father has for those Christ has purchased, the more humble we will be and more eager to forgive one another.

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