DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: If you ask God to forgive you for something you did to someone, does that mean you also need to ask them for forgiveness? I’m a Christian now, but I’m not sure I can do it. I don’t see what difference it would make anyway, except maybe reopen old wounds. — D.J.
DEAR D.J.: It’s always important to seek the forgiveness of those we’ve hurt, even if it is hard to do. Jesus said that if “your brother or sister has something against you.… First go and be reconciled to them” (Matthew 5:23-24).
They may not forgive you, of course; they may reject your attempt or react with renewed anger over what you did, but then it becomes their problem, not yours. You will have done everything you could to let them know that you regret what happened and that you want their forgiveness. That’s what’s important to God. The Bible tells us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone” (Colossians 3:13).
Why is it important to seek the forgiveness of those we’ve hurt? For one thing, it could bring about reconciliation. After all, you were the one at fault; you alone are responsible for the hurt that resulted. But that hurt will be healed only if you seek to heal it (and if the other person responds).
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But now that you’ve given your life to Christ, you have another important reason to seek the forgiveness of those you’ve hurt. It’s this: You now have an opportunity to tell them how God has forgiven you and how he can forgive them also. No matter how much you’ve wronged others, it’s small compared with the wrongs we’ve committed against God. And yet he still loves us, and Christ stands ready to forgive us.
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