Perhaps one of the most difficult things God asks us to do is "to forgive men when they sin against you" (Matthew 6:14). How tough is it to respond to evil with kindness, and to love the unlovable?
A popular actress admitted on prime time show that she was raped by a scorned suitor when she was 18. She kept it to herself at that time because her father was a prominent government official and the scandal could ruin his career. She continued to keep it a secret throughout her adult life. The trauma, however, affected her relationship with men and eventually, it also ruined her marriage.
In years to come, this actress accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was willing to forgive her rapist. It was a very touching moment when she looked straight at the camera and said, "You know who you are and I want you to know that I have already forgiven you. If God will allow us to meet again, I will tell you in person that I forgive you. In fact, I will even share the Gospel with you. I am praying for you in the hope that you too will come to know my Savior." When the TV show host asked her if the forgiveness was enduring, she responded, "I have forgiven him through Jesus Christ. There are times when the hatred would dare to come back again, but I use my God-given free will to choose to liberate him."
This is an incredible act of forgiveness which can only be possible through the Holy Spirit. Forgiving someone who had wronged us is definitely not easy, but it is possible. Our perfect model is Jesus who, despite the pain and suffering He went through, uttered on the Cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) Jesus was very human when He faced His death. He felt the humiliation, the torture, and the agony.
How can we forgive?
1. Surrender our anger to Jesus. Apart from Him, we are nothing and we cannot do anything. The decision to forgive is a divine calling. It is beyond our human wisdom and strength. - "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:6)
2. Recognize that we are not perfect. If someone had inflicted physical or psychological injury upon us, we too could be guilty of the same fault. We also want to be forgiven. - "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)
3. Know that God created all of us. The selfish side of our character keeps on whispering to us that we are better than the other person. It also tells us that our pride is a prized possession. - "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2)
4. Realize that when we hate our enemy, we are hurting more ourselves than the other person. Hating affects our health and more importantly, our relationship with God. It destroys our testimony. - "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness." (1 John 2:9)
5. Bless our enemies. This works like the principle of sowing and reaping. What we sow is what we reap. We sow hatred, we reap hatred. We sow blessings, we reap blessings. It has a rebound effect. - "Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked." (Proverbs 10:6)
6. Stop talking about the incident. The more we talk about it, the angrier we become and the less chances we are to forgive the wrongdoer. - "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." (Proverbs 29:11)
7. Pray for our enemies and ask God to let us see them through His eyes. As Christians, we know that God abhors sin but He loves the sinner. - "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Mathew 5:44)
8. Get the encouragement of our church pastor and elders to help us in the road to forgiveness. A support group composed of Christians is a strong power against wickedness. - "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)
9. Release our transgressor to God's judgment. It is not our place to seek revenge. God is a God of justice. Sin has its consequences. - "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." - (Romans 12:19)
The healing process may take awhile. Human as we are, it is all right to shed some tears, to be angry, and to get hurt. However, we have to understand that it is self destructing to dwell in rage for a long time. - "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4: 26-27)
Forgiveness is a gift from God. We are free to draw the love from God's heart and use it to love our enemy. Focus on the Cross. Forgiveness is its most important message. - "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
What is one similarity between Christians and non-believers? Christians and non-believers both love the people who love them.
But what is one difference between Christians and non-believers? The non-believers hate the people who hate them, while the Christians love, with the love of God, even the people who hate them. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13: 34)
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. ( Proverbs 25: 21-22)