A note from Kelly King: All of us have multiple opportunities to put forgiveness into practice. Sometimes I might need to practice forgiveness several times in one day! In today’s article, Cindy Townsend does a wonderful job of outlining five reasons we should forgive others. Now, it’s your turn to practice!
Forgiveness is not a natural response when we have been wronged or hurt in some way. Forgiveness is a supernatural gift from God. Truly, it is easier to talk and write about forgiveness than it is to put it into practice. Experiencing and giving forgiveness is the pathway to freedom.
Let’s reflect on five reasons we need to practice forgiveness in our daily lives.
1. When we forgive, we are more like God than at any other time.
Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive others. Jesus told Peter to forgive not seven times, but seven times seventy (Matt. 18:21-22). We must realize forgiveness is to be a limitless practice in our lives. This is our challenge and privilege. For in the same way we have been forgiven by Christ, we ought to forgive others. Think of the powerful words Jesus said as He was nailed upon the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
2. When we forgive, we are obeying the teachings of God’s Word.
Matthew 5:11-12 reads, “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Later, in Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus encourages us with these words, “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”
3. When we forgive, our prayer lives become more effective and powerful.
We must pray the words found in the model prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our Lord said if we want to be forgiven, we must first forgive. As we ask God to forgive us of our sins, God will begin to work in our spirits and enable us to forgive those who sin against us. What a challenge for us as people of the Lord. When someone does wrong toward you, do not curse it or rehearse it to others. Do not nurse it in self-pity. Instead, disperse it to God and reverse it in prayer. Prayer is the key to opening the floodgates of His forgiveness.
4. When we forgive, the women in our church family begin to understand the importance of resolving difficult conflicts in a Christ-honoring way.
Just because we are in the right when our brother and/or sister has wronged us, we are not given the right to do whatever we please to prove our “rightness.” Our goal is to be forgiving and redemptive so that reconciliation can occur. The body of Christ can actually be strengthened and not hurt by our actions if our goal is to honor Him. Let us agree to disagree in a gracious way. Let us vow to put the interests of Christ above our own. May we uphold His name in the midst of our conflicts and be a bold positive testimony to the women in the church and community.
5. When we forgive, we will be able to share our story of forgiveness with friends who do not know Him.
We will never win lost people to Christ with hard hearts and hostile spirits. We need tender, compassionate, and forgiving hearts to lead others to a saving faith in Jesus.
When We Do Not Forgive
We read in Matthew 18 what happened to the man who did not choose to forgive. The one who did not practice forgiveness was sent by the king to the tormentors. The tormentors came back time and time again and harassed him. Those of us who do not forgive will also be faced with tormentors. The tormentors may come to us in the form of sickness, depression, weaknesses, guilt, and even mental anxiety. (Note: These issues are not always caused by a lack of forgiveness; life itself can cause us to experience these.) Why would we put ourselves in such torment when God’s forgiveness brings complete freedom and peace?
The Bottom Line
Women, let’s choose to live with hearts that are tender toward the things of God, with minds to think as God thinks and relationships filled with God’s compassion, love, and forgiveness.
Dr. Cindy Townsend serves as the Minister to Women at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Cindy’s passion is equipping women and students to discover their full potential in Christ Jesus. She has served in a variety of ministry and leadership positions throughout her career, including service as a student minister, minister of music, minister of discipleship and education, as Executive Director of Woman’s Missionary Union and Women’s Ministry for two Baptist state conventions, as Director of an international ministry group, and as the founding Director of the Global Leadership Institute at Jackson Preparatory School. She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of two adult children.