Forgiving in Ernest

By Michael Risley

The first time I remember being so angry and not willing to forgive was when I was a young boy. A girl who lived in my neighborhood, someone I liked very much, made me some chocolate cookies! Wow! And did they look good!

I remember biting into that first cookie with relish – but to my horror, beneath the chocolate coating was the disgusting taste of a bar of soap! The girl laughed, but I did not see the humor. I felt betrayed.

A few years later, I embraced Jesus as my Savior and Lord and started to understand the significance and power of forgiveness.

First, I realized that God had forgiven me.

Billy Graham says, “God’s forgiveness is not just a casual statement; it is the complete blotting out of all the dirt and degradation of our past, present, and future. The reason our sins can be forgiven is that, on the cross, Jesus Christ paid their full penalty. But only as we bow at the foot of the cross, in contrition, confession, and repentance can we find forgiveness.”

The second thing I realized through my salvation was that God desires for me to also forgive those who had offended or hurt me – as difficult as that might be.

God teaches, Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:13).

Corrie Ten Boom was a World War II German prison camp survivor. She told the story of speaking at an event where she recognized one of the German guards from her time of imprisonment in the audience. He was not only a guard, but one of the cruelest ones. After her talk, he came up to her and explained that he had become a Christian and asked her to forgive him.

Corrie recounts that her anger and revulsion for this man were so strong, but she knew what she needed to do. She wrote,

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? ‘Lord Jesus,’ I prayed, ‘forgive me and help me to forgive him… Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.’ And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”

In the power of God’s strength, Corrie forgave him.

Sometimes those who seemingly don’t deserve forgiveness at all are the ones who need it the most. Forgiveness is one of the foundational truths of the Christian life. We must be ready, even earnest, to forgive.

Corrie also wrote, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”

Truly the key to forgiving others is remembering how much God has forgiven us. Let God deal with the wrongs you have endured. Don’t squelch your life in bitter quarreling. Rather live renewed in forgiveness, peace, and joy.