Q: I know we’re supposed to forgive people who have hurt us, but in my case that’s just not realistic. Even if I wanted to forgive the people who have hurt me, they’d just laugh at me. And anyway, what difference does it make? — Y.Y.
A: One reason God commands us to forgive others (even if they refuse to accept our forgiveness) is because he knows the damage an unforgiving spirit does to us. Let me explain.
Think for a moment what happens to us when we refuse to forgive someone who has hurt us. Instead of being concerned about them, we allow anger and hate to consume us. Instead of wanting God to bless them, we hope they’ll experience loss or hurt. Instead of seeking ways to help them, we look for ways to exact revenge on them. Instead of dealing with our own sins, we focus only on their sins. We find it impossible to carry out Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
In other words, an unforgiving spirit never lives alone; it always gathers around it jealousy, anger, depression and a host of other hurtful and negative emotions — emotions that cut us off from God and from one another. Remember: An unforgiving spirit is an unforgiven spirit. Jesus warned, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
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How can you learn to forgive others? The first step is to understand what it cost Jesus Christ to forgive you. You and I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but because God loves us, Christ gave his life for us. Accept his forgiveness today, and then ask him to help you forgive others the same way he has forgiven you: freely and fully.
Write to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201 or go to BillyGraham.org.