Forgiveness can feel like an elusive goal in a world that is divided and plagued by conflict. Social media has given way to haters who can hide behind their computers/phones while spewing out things they would never say in person. It has even grown in the past couple of years to violent in-person conflicts on the streets of America that I never thought I would see. Even Christians feel the urge to attack other Christians if they disagree. However, there is wisdom in working for peace through love and forgiveness. Let's explore what the Bible has to say about it, including the understanding that forgiveness doesn't always mean re-establishing some relationships.
God is love, and love is the foundation of our Christian walk. The Bible teaches us that love transcends boundaries and compels us to love Him first and to love and treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect.
Matthew 22:37-39: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
1 Corinthians 16:14: "Do everything in love."
One of the most challenging teachings of Jesus is when He said to love our enemies. This radical call goes beyond mere tolerance and challenges us to extend genuine love, even to those who oppose us.
Matthew 5:44: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Luke 6:27-28: "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
But, how can we love those who hate us? Knowing where their hatred comes from is the first step.
Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
If our enemy is in the spiritual realm, what do we do?
Ephesians 6:13-18: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
God has given us the keys to fight our real enemy. When we know who is behind the attacks, it changes our perspective. When we fight like God tells us to, it changes everything. The sooner we realize it's not the person, it's the spirit behind the person, the better prepared we will be to wage war against our true enemy. Pray. Pray in the Spirit and be watchful.
There is great power in forgiveness. Forgiveness is a transformative force that can mend broken relationships and heal wounds. When we choose to forgive, we break the cycle of anger and resentment, paving the way for reconciliation. These verses remind us of the significance of forgiveness:
Colossians 3:13: "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Matthew 6:14-15: "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."
Forgiveness requires humility, open communication, and a willingness to restore broken relationships. These scriptures emphasize the importance of seeking reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:18-19: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."
Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
What about toxic relationships? While forgiveness is essential and possible, it doesn't always mean re-establishing relationships that have been toxic or violent. Sometimes we must forgive but walk away for our safety and personal healing. The Bible encourages wisdom and discernment in navigating relationships. You must spend time with God and hear His heart in each circumstance. Here are some verses that shed light on the importance of setting boundaries:
Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
1 Corinthians 15:33: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'"
Love and forgiveness are powerful weapons against our enemy in a broken world. Loving our enemies and forgiveness is not only obedience to God but required so our prayers aren’t hindered. Let us heed the call to love and forgive, knowing that through these actions, we can play a part in transforming our world for the better.
Remember: "Do everything in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14) While forgiveness is crucial, it is also important to understand that establishing healthy boundaries in some instances is essential.
With love, Vicky