In this four-part article, I’d like to focus on our attitude towards our offenders and the steps we can take to overcome our own sinful desires to “take offense.”
Read part one, Defining the offense, here. Read part two, Discovering Forgiveness, here. Read part three, Deciding on Forgiveness, here.
#4. Demonstrating Forgiveness
The fruit of your actions tell the condition of your heart. You can tell if you have truly forgiven someone by how you treat them and talk about them. Our fellowship will always suffer if we continue to “take offense” and not “cover in love.”
Forgiveness comes in two parts: a crisis and a process.
First, the crisis – you must choose to release a person from the offense. “I choose to forgive. I’m not trying to get even or am looking for vengeance. I don’t wish for bad things to happen to that person, and I’m not focused on the offense. I’ve released them.”
After the crisis comes the process, which is where healing takes place. In the crisis of forgiveness you say, “I choose to forgive,” but in the process you say, “I will treat you as though it never happened.”
In the process, you must hold yourself to these guidelines:
1. I won’t bring up the offense to the person, except for his or her benefit.
2. I won’t bring up the offense to others.
3. I won’t bring up the offense to myself, which is hardest of all. It’s refusing to replay the offense or dwell on it (it’s “casting down imaginations…” each and every time it comes into your mind).
The process of forgiveness is not quick or clean, and when you falter in the process, you must return to the crisis – when you realize the unforgiveness is creeping back, you must revisit the crisis and choose again to forgive. If you do this faithfully, you will be free! When you forgive, things like bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice will decrease in your life. When you truly forgive, damaging emotions are gradually eliminated and replaced with tender-hearted kindness. Kindness is a fruit of forgiveness… an action that reveals your heart has truly been changed. This isn’t generic kindness aimed at strangers or your favorite people. But it is unreserved kindness toward the very person you had to forgive. When you try to squeeze kindness from an unforgiving heart, it only drips more bitterness. When you can’t freely show kindness to someone, you know unforgiveness is there lurking somewhere in the shadows. Remember, the fruit of your actions tells the condition of your heart.
Some other things I have personally found beneficial in forgiving others is filling my day with Scripture. I listen to it being read, listen to Scripture songs, and try to memorize it with my kids (or you can partner up with a friend for accountability).
Psalm 119:165 – “Great peace have they that love thy law and nothing shall offend them.”
Filling your heart and mind with Scripture may be one of the most effective ways to combat offenses!
Also, praying for your offenders will enable you to cover them with love. Jesus told us to “pray for those that despitefully use you…” This really is more beneficial to you, although, certainly God can change the heart of the one causing the offense. Just remember, often the people who are the most obtuse and offensive, are the ones whom Satan is either greatly deceiving, or they themselves are dealing with personal hurt. If we can remember this
during the offense, it will be easier to excuse, forgive, and cover it.
So, for the last time, recall the offense that I asked you to think of in Part 1…
:::Can you commit to forgiveness?
:::Can you forsake bringing it up again, both to the person who wronged you and to your closest friends?
:::Will you endeavor to pray for that person – pray that God will bless them and show Himself strong in their lives?
:::Will you purpose to cast down the thoughts of the offense and replace it with Scripture and the promises of God?
If you commit to doing this you WILL get the victory!
2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…” And Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Overcome offenses with love and forgiveness.
Will you chose to be the abundant, growing, forgiving plant that I enjoy having around the house? Or will you chose to allow your unforgiveness to dry you up, steal your joy, destroy your relationships and the Spirit’s work in your life?