The Forgiving Heart

If there’s one word I’d like to not only have in my everyday vocabulary but also in the core of my heart’s deepest desire, it’s the word: forgiving. How I long to have a truly forgiving heart…but in certain circumstances and challenging relationships this isn’t always the case. How about for you?

Over the years I have found comfort and instruction from those I respect who not only write about the topic of forgiveness, but have lived it too. When perplexed as to the best way to handle tough relational situations, and discerning the way forward is muddy at best, I look to the spiritual leadership of others who have trod the path before me. I hope these guides will be a source of encouragement and strength to you too.

One of my prayer mentors, Rueben Job, writes, “Forgiveness is a life-and-death matter because forgiveness lies at the very heart of Christian belief and practice. To remove forgiveness from our theology and practice is to tear the heart out of any hope of faithful Christian discipleship, and it is to drive a stake through the heart of Christian community…Forgiveness can never be taken lightly by those who consider their own need of forgiveness. The words of Jesus that we pray bind our need for forgiveness firmly to our willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is not only a preposterous gift; it is unbelievably difficult and costly. That is why we may talk about it easily and practice it with such difficulty.”

From Corrie Ten Boom, “Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” Dallas Willard adds, “We forgive someone of a wrong they have done us when we decide that we will not make them suffer for it in any way.” Henri Nouwen asserts, “The authority of compassion is the possibility of man to forgive his brother, because forgiveness is only real for him who has discovered the weakness of his friends and the sins of his enemy in his own heart.”

James Howell writes, “When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he grabbed hold of vertical forgiveness, ‘O Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned’ and nailed it to horizontal forgiveness, ‘…as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ two interrelated acts of forgiveness, forming a cross. Jesus not only taught about forgiveness. He became forgiveness. He makes forgiveness possible and real.” (Matt. 6: 12, 14,15).

Wendy Wright wisely contributes, “That which is unforgiven holds us captive. We are imprisoned by the hatred and malice we clutch in our hearts…When wrongs have been committed the last thing one wants, or even should do, is claim that the transgression should be overlooked. It is a long and painful process to move through the stages of healing that must occur for forgiveness to begin. The injury must be named and claimed as part of you, the pain allowed to work for you, the injurer must rightly be blamed, and power and strength returned to the injured. Then, knowing you have experienced pain and overcome it, forgiveness can come as a free act. Forgiveness can be the great cleansing action that allows one to begin again.”

How will a forgiving heart toward others (even when it’s not just forgiving them seven times, but seventy-seven times – Matt. 18: 22) lead you into freedom, fullness, and joy once more?