Forgiveness is a struggle for many Christians. Yet, with God’s grace we can forgive those who have hurt or offended us. Recently I was impressed by God to call a former parishioner and apologize to him for my actions and attitude towards him fifteen years ago. He immediately accepted my apology and forgave me. There was a sudden release for both of us as together we experienced the dynamic of forgiveness.

R. T. Kendall, author of Total Forgiveness, writes,
“When everything in you wants to hold a grudge, point a finger and remember the pain, God wants you to lay it all aside. When we are bitter, we delude ourselves into thinking that those who hurt us are more likely to be punished as long as we are set on revenge. We are afraid to let go of those feelings.”

“I have come to believe that the only way to move beyond the hurt and go forward in life is through total forgiveness. The ultimate proof of total forgiveness takes place when we sincerely petition the Father to let those who have hurt us off the hook - even if they have hurt not only us, but also those close to us.”

Kendall concludes,
“Forgiveness must happen in the heart, and when it does, peace emerges, with or without a complete restoration in the relationship. What matters is that the Holy Spirit is able to dwell in us ungrieved, able to utterly be Himself.” (Total Forgiveness, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL)

One experience that I read many years ago describes God’s forgiving grace. Corrie Ten Boom, noted author, missionary, and speaker, saw a German prison guard viciously abuse her sister, Betsy, who died shortly afterwards. They were in prison for protecting Jews in Holland during World War II. Years later, after she spoke in a church service, a man came up to her and reached out his hand to greet her. She immediately recognized him as the prison guard. She struggled in her heart and prayed in desperation for God to fill her heart with the love of Jesus. He did and she was able to reach out her hand to him in an act of God’s forgiveness extended to him.
(The Hiding Place. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1973)

Paul, the Apostle writes, “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, NIV).

Again, he writes,
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get ride of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32, NIV)

The choice is ours, either to hold within us bitterness, hurt and resentment, or to forgive, release it and allow God’s inner peace to dwell within our spirit. When we experience Total Forgiveness we are set free to enjoy life to the fullest.

Rosamond E. Herklots, wrote these inspiring words to a not too familiar hymn,

    “Forgive our sins as we forgive,” You taught us, Lord, to pray;
    But you alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.
    How can Your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart,
    That broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?

    In blazing light Your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew;
    What trivial debts are owed to us, how great our debt to You!
    Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls, And bid resentment cease, 
    Then bound to all in bonds of love, Our lives will spread Your peace.

(Words by Rosamond Herklots, originaly published by Oxford University Press, London, 1983; the United Methodist Hymnal, the United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN, 1989)


(Excerpts taken from a column originally written by David L. Cowles and published in the “Your Faith” section of the Newark Advocate, OH, 2004)