BIBLE INSIGHTS in 500 words
Lord, Teach My Heart to Forgive
Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.
As Christians, we are not simply the recipients of forgiveness;
we are God’s partners in sharing forgiveness with the world.
Forgiveness is the spiritual air you breathe. You can only take in your next breath if you breathe out your last breath. God breathes forgiveness into your heart; you breathe out forgiveness into the world.
The bond between God forgiving us and out forgiving others is sobering.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
The Process of Forgiving: We are left with the “how to” question. The answer is not found in our text. How does one forgive the unforgivable? There are emotional obstacles, psychological processes, and human frailty bound up in the command to “forgive other people.”
Let me introduce you to the work of Dr. Robert Enright. He is a wonderful Christian that seeks to apply the Christian virtue of forgiveness in both his counseling practice as well as our lives.*
1-The Uncovering Phase; by uncovering anger, a person “gains insight into whether and how the injustice and subsequent injury have compromised his or her life.”
2-The Deciding Phase; in deciding to forgive, a person must “gain an accurate understanding of the nature of forgiveness and make a decision to commit to forgiving on the basis of this understanding.”
3-The Working Phase; when working on forgiveness, a person “gains a cognitive understanding of the offender and begins to view the offender in a new light, resulting in positive change in affect (feeling) about the offender, about self, and about the relationship.”
4-The Deepening Phase; discovering release from an emotional prison comes as a person “finds increasing meaning in the suffering, feels more connected to others, and experiences decreased negative affect and, at times, renewed purpose in life.”
The process begins with facing the truth about the harm that was done to you and your appropriate and healthy anger. Through forgiveness, the hurt and anger are transformed into deeper relationships and an authentic sense of purpose. The wounds from this world become a mission from heaven.
Jesus made the forgiveness mission clear. The cross gave life to God’s plan for forgiveness possible; upon his resurrection, Jesus turned over the implementation of the plan to his disciples.
And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:22-23).
How do we begin to live a life of forgiveness? Start with a prayer…. Here is one that helps me:
make my heart
willing to forgive,
or, at least,
make my heart
willing to become willing
*I recommend a five-minute YouTube in which Dr. Engle describes a forgiving life.