How to Forgive as God Forgives

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Forgiveness is likely one of the hardest things we do in life, but it is certainly one of the most freeing things we can do.

It is why the Bible has so much to say about the power of forgiveness.

Problems arise when we begin to adopt a secular philosophy about forgiveness that does not agree with Scripture.

Philosophies like:

  • Just because you forgive, doesn’t mean you forget
  • Forgiveness isn’t something we do for the other person, it’s something we do for ourselves

So often we follow the path of forgiveness part of the way, but never achieve the true blessings it gives because we didn’t really forgive as God forgives.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Colossians 3:12-13 [emphasis mine]

If we are to forgive as Christ forgave us, how do we do this and what danger do we encounter if we don’t?

How to Forgive as God Forgives

The lesson in forgiveness is never more clear than in the story of Jacob and Esau.

From their birth they were at odds with one another.

Genesis 25:23 says, “And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’ Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.”

Jacob’s name means “deceitful”, and he lived up to his name.

Immediately after the story of their birth in Genesis 25, we read the story of how Esau sold his birthright.

While Scripture clearly illustrates Esau’s lack of responsibility in this action, we shouldn’t overlook Jacob’s sin in taking advantage of Esau’s weakness.

Jacob saw an opportunity for himself and used Esau’s hunger and flippant attitude toward responsibility to cheat him out of his birthright.

In Genesis 27, we see Isaac is old and knows that he will soon die.

He instructs Esau to hunt some game and make him his favorite meal before blessing him with the blessing of the firstborn.

This time, Jacob takes advantage of Isaac’s poor eyesight and Esau’s absence, and does what his mother Rebecca urged him to do – cheat his brother out of his blessing.

Jacob puts on animal fur to make it seem like he was as hairy as Esau, and Rebecca made a meal that tasted similar to what Isaac had requested.

Jacob then brings the meal to Isaac pretending to be his brother, and receives the blessing of the firstborn.

Jacob had barely returned from receiving the blessing when Esau comes home from hunting and cleaning his game.

He then prepares a meal for Isaac, only to discover how he had once again been cheated.

Jacob had gone too far this time.

Esau was brokenhearted. He had neither the birthright nor the blessing that belonged to him as the firstborn.

His younger brother had cheated him out of both.

His anger and bitterness toward Jacob were now so great that he began to fantasize about killing him.

Rebecca gets word of this and urges Jacob to run away to his uncle’s place until Esau could cool off.

From here, we don’t read much more about Esau until Jacob begins his journey back home with his family, and he knows he will meet Esau on way.

He’s not sure if Esau still intends to murder him, so he sends Esau a gift in hopes of diffusing any anger Esau might be harboring against him.

And it seems that Esau had forgiven Jacob.

Or did he?

We read a little deeper about this in Hebrews 12:14-17

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

This is a serious warning for all of us of what happens when we allow anger and bitterness to rob us of God’s grace and blessing in our lives.

When we refuse to forgive as Christ forgives, it puts a wall between us and the blessings of God.

It’s not so much God withholding His blessing as much as it is us erecting a wall between us and the blessings God has for us.

And this comes with serious consequences.

1. Pursue peace and holiness

Hebrews connects this with the pursuit of peace and holiness. When we pursue peace and holiness, we will eventually come to the place where complete forgiveness can no longer be avoided.

The danger in trying to avoid it is this part “…without which no one will see the Lord.”

Do we really understand the true implications of unforgiveness and bitterness?

Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

If our sins are not forgiven, we cannot see God.

True and complete forgiveness of others is directly tied to God’s forgiveness of us.

Jesus further illustrated this in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

So while salvation is a free gift that we cannot earn or deserve, if someone claims salvation but remains unforgiving and bitter toward another, the validity of their salvation comes into question.

Unforgiveness and bitterness are a sin and salvation requires us to turn from our sin.

2. Walk in God’s grace

As children of God, we have an unending, eternal fountain of grace that enables us to do what would ordinarily seem impossible.

Forgiving as Christ forgives is impossible without God’s grace.

But His grace gives us the strength, power, and desire to walk this out day after day, time after time, 70 x 7.

However, it is a choice.

We can choose to do the hard thing, and embrace God’s grace and live each day choosing to forgive as Christ forgives, or we can choose to embrace bitterness.

When we reject the opportunity to embrace grace, we fall short.

3. Do not let bitterness grow

Paul said this, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

When we let bitterness grow in our hearts, or take root, it “gives place to the devil”; meaning it gives the devil and area of jurisdiction in your heart.

It gives him an area of ownership and rule.

He sets up his kingdom there. And let’s not be mistaken, the enemy will not be content with just that one area.

When given an area of jurisdiction in your life, he begins a campaign to spread his jurisdiction until he has completely taken over your life.

This is why in Hebrews 12 it says, “and by this many become defiled”. The word “many” in the Greek means “much or large”.

The writer then moves on to use Esau as an example of one who let bitterness take root in his heart unchecked, and it calls him a “profane” person – a wicked person.

He grew immoral. Two of his wives were Canaanites who were immoral and idolatrous.

The root of bitterness grew so deep in him, that in the end when he wanted to repent, he couldn’t though he sought it with tears.

Such a tragic story!

4. Choose to fully forgive

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.

When we’re offended, we are given two choices: embrace God’s grace and forgive, embrace the hurt and grow bitter.

There is no third option.

We may not feel like forgiving in that moment, we may feel justified in our hurt and offense, but we must remember that Paul commands us to forgive as Christ forgave us.

He forgave us before we acknowledged Him or asked for His forgiveness.

Then, he chose to remove our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, and remembers it no more.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people… For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34

Dear sister, it is not only possible for us to forgive an offense so fully that we choose not to remember it anymore, it is crucial that we do this.

Now, does this mean that it is no longer in our consciousness? That we have amnesia in that area of our memories?

Not necessarily.

What it means is that we do what God does, we no longer bring it up. We no longer talk about it.

When another person brings it up to us we say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. As far as I am concerned that never happened.”

We choose to no longer hold that person accountable to us for that offense, we release it from our records.

And living a life of forgiveness means we have no records.

Our records of those who are accountable to us is empty. “Love…it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

Until we begin living at this level of forgiveness and grace, we will never truly experience God’s blessing in our life to the fulness He desires for us.

This is true freedom in Christ!

The freedom to release those who have offended us from the debt of accountability we think they owe us.

Releasing ourselves from the prison of bitterness and resentment.

Releasing the free-flow grace and love of God in our lives so that we are a blessing, not a poison, to those around us.

Releasing the chains of hurt and trauma from our hands and feet, so that we can soar on wings as eagles.

Do you want this freedom today?

1. Start by making a list of all those who have offended you.

2. Take that list, and begin praying over each person saying, “God, forgive me that I did not accept your grace in that moment. I accept your grace now and I choose to forgive _______ and release all judgement against them.”

3. Pray a prayer of blessing over that person.

4. Once you’ve reached the end of your list, burn it.

5. Choose to never bring that offense up again. Each time the enemy wants to remind you of that hurt and offense, you replace that thought with Philippians 4:8-9; remembering that this is no different than the enemy reminding you of your sin that Christ has forgiven.

This is how we forgive as Christ forgave us!

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Read more articles from the book of Genesis here:

3 Things That Prevent Us from Walking With God Like Enoch

Are We Living In the Days of Noah

Prior article from Genesis: What if Noah Were My Peer?

How to Be a Woman of Great Faith

Prior article from Genesis: He Isn’t the God You Think He Is

Perfection Isn’t Your Work, It’s God’s Work

Prior article from Genesis: The Covenant of Negotiation

What To Do When the Promise God Gives You Dies

How to Forgive as God Forgives

Prior article from Genesis: 3 Ways to Avoid Becoming Like Esau

What Does It Mean to Be Touched By God?

How to Build Your Trust in God in Hard Times

5 Ways to Build Trust in God’s Plan for Your Future

6 Ways Jesus is Revealed in Genesis

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