Choosing to Forgive


The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good.  If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”  John 20:20-23 MSG

This passage of scripture has always intrigued me – Jesus says, “if you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good.  If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

What are you going to do with them?  What a great question!

My daughter and I had an argument yesterday.  You know the kind.  You are staring face-to-face with your teenager and you want them to do something.  They don’t want to do it.  You plead your case.  They respond with their reasons.  Back and forth, back and forth the argument goes… just like a ping-pong ball, all the while escalating in volume and tone.  My husband steps in and says, “Now I want you to apologize to each other.”

Wait, what?  Apologize?  No way.  I look at her.  She looks at me with the same “no way” look on her face.  We move away from each other to give each other some space.  At that moment I thought – “No way, I am not apologizing. I’m right; she is wrong.”  (Isn’t it funny that we always think we are right?)  I had a choice to make.  I was mad.  I was not apologizing. Immediately, the Holy Spirit rebuked me.  I felt it in my heart. I knew it in my mind, but I still wouldn’t budge.  (Yes, I can be stubborn, strong-willed and bull-headed.)

I look at my daughter.  I am sure she was thinking the exact same thing, “No way, I’m right, she’s wrong.”  (Actually, the word in her mind was that I was being unreasonable). But then she smiled and held her arms out.  I still didn’t budge, I was mad.

Why?  Why do we hold grudges?  Why do we refuse to forgive someone?  Sometimes it’s pride.  Sometimes it’s stubbornness.  Sometimes we say, “It’s the principle of the thing.”

Now, my daughter and I did eventually apologize to each other.  Ours was just a silly disagreement, but what about when there has been a major issue - a big event or circumstance that carries more weight than just a petty argument?  Or maybe it started as something minor, but over time it has become something much more.  Sometimes the hurt and pain that the other person caused us is too great, too much, and it seems impossible for us to forgive on our own.  (Without God’s help it is impossible for us to do it alone).  Notice in the passage above that Jesus breathed into them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”   We need God’s help to be able to forgive.

What do we do with those sins that we refuse to forgive?

We hold on to them tightly because we feel we just can’t let it go.  We carry them around.  We hide them away.  We keep looking back to them (this could be daily or just from time to time).  It forces us to dwell in the past instead of living in the present.

Some of us even bring up those past sins and hurts and put them in the other person’s face.

We use them as weapons to inflict pain to the other person and ultimately to ourselves.  We use them as shields to keep other people away.  We use them as an excuse.  We use them as leverage or for revenge.

All of these uses are destructive. They hurt the other person, but they also hurt us.

What do you do with the sins you refuse to forgive?

God does not want us to live with unforgiveness in our hearts.  He longs to give us peace and saturate us with his love. We cannot have any of this if we don’t forgive.  We cannot be at peace. We cannot love. We cannot receive His love.

What do you do with the sins you refuse to forgive?

Give them to God.  Ask Him to help you forgive.  This is not always easy but it is a choice we can make.  Will you choose to forgive?

by Kim