It was a Saturday college football game and I was doing what I like doing best—not watching the game but observing people. My seat was on the end of a long row of Carolina blue bleachers, and a steady flow of fans walked up and down the concrete steps. After a while, I noticed that four out of five people walking up the stands tripped on the step right in front of me. At halftime, I measured and discovered that the step was about a quarter-inch higher than the others. So, the people tripped.
Forgiveness is like that step. It’s just a little bit higher than anything else we practice as Christians. Unfortunately, it’s the one step a lot of us seem to trip on the most. But we can do it. Just pick up those determined feet a little bit higher, and let’s keep going.
The high step of forgiveness is at the very core of the Christian faith and a foundational theme in Jesus’ teachings. Here are just a few examples:
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV)
“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3-4 NIV)
Throughout Old Testament times, God’s people offered sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins, but their sacrifices were never enough—every new sin required another sacrifice. Jesus died as the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. His sacrifice was enough for all, for all time. I love how author and pastor Brian Zahnd describes Jesus’ forgiveness as “grace that takes the blame, covers the shame, and removes the stain and the endless cycle of revenge.”
But we aren’t merely recipients of forgiving grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; we are also called to be givers of that forgiving grace. As C. S. Lewis said, “To be Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
My home growing up was writhe with anger, heartache, and pain. As you can imagine, a lot of forgiveness went on after I (and later my parents) came to Christ. It didn’t come all at once, but in stages. The decision to forgive happened in an instant–like a pellet sinking to the bottom of a glass of water. The revision of emotions happened over time–like a pellet sinking to the bottom of a glass of thick oil.
When something from the past triggers hurt in our hearts all over again, we can stop, remind ourselves that we have already forgiven that person, and ask God to help us deal with our emotions.
We can also remind ourselves of Paul’s words: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV).
“As the Lord forgave you.” Let that sink in for just a moment.
In teaching His followers to forgive, Jesus identified no exceptions—no loopholes that let us off the hook from forgiving.
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He mentioned no crime too heinous, no abuse too perverse, no act too vile to warrant holding on to unforgiveness.
When we make the costly choice to forgive, we not only live out a foundational tenet of our faith, but we also put a stop to the endless cycle of revenge or the desire for revenge. When we release the burden of bitterness, we make the world more beautiful through grace.
I want to be a part of that. I think you do too.
Father, I’ll admit, I’ve tripped on the step of forgiveness. Help me pick up my spiritual feet just a little higher to forgive others quickly and completely. Help me to not trip over my own sin of unforgiveness but walk the path without stumbling. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Are you ready to finally let go and forgive that person who hurt you? If so, click on comment and say, “I’m ready.”
Did someone come to mind as you read today’s devotion? Someone you need to forgive? If so, click here for a free resource to walk you through the steps.
Forgiveness is one of the many ways we can change the ending to our stories. Friend, you don’t have to carry around the burden of a broken story any longer. You can have a better one. Grab a copy of my book, When You Don’t Like Your Story: What if Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories to find out how.
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