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Forgiving Others

Matthew 6:14-15New International Version (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

Forgiveness is probably the most prickly and provocative issue of faith. There are two sides to this:
The meaning of forgiveness 
Its implications and the question of who has a right to forgive and what is forgiveable.
The more the severe the offence and the greater the pain that is inflicted, be that physical, psychological or even financial pain, the harder it is to forgive, no matter what the background is. 

However the background is not irrelevant either - since the relationship that existed between the person wronged and the wrongdoer before the offence was committed, will mean that the pain is increased. Also, the attitude of the wrongdoer afterwards will often be a crucial factor in deciding whether or not to forgive.  

It is hard to make generalisations in relation to this topic because situations vary so much, but I will try and concentrate of the issue of forgiveness and not get into the intricacies of circumstances, but recognise that such intricacies are very complex.

Hearing some explanation from the person who caused the offence, can sometimes help to diminish the pain caused, if for instance, the person explains that the action was accidental and they had not intended to hurt the other person, or it may only serve to inflame the situation because, the person may be perceived as "making excuses" or blame shifting.

But how do we as Christians respond to this unequivocal call by Jesus to forgive those who wrong us? Because it is hard to look at and deal with this issue in the abstract, it may help for you to think of an occasion when you were wronged by someone. I am going to put a few questions to you, which you can reflect on.  There are no right or wrong answers. it might help for you to write down your answers. This is not supposed to be a navel gazing exercise, and I encourage you to try and restrict yourself to reflect only on one incident, rather than on any time you have ever been unfairly treated. At the end I will share a suggested prayer, to help you navigate this path of forgiveness. 
1. What happened? Who was involved? Was a law broken, and if so, did the person face prosecution? What was the outcome of that prosecution? 
2. In what ways did what happened hurt you, cause you pain? (This may sound like a redundant question, but i think it is useful to consciously state what that hurt was.) When you are experiencing physical pain, and you see a doctor, the doctor will ask you to describe the pain - where does it hurt? What kind of pain? (burning, stinging, heaviness?)
3. Now, as you think back on that incident, what is your emotion? Do you still feel anger when you think about what happened? (Anger in and of itself is not wrong or sinful, but it can often cause us to act sinfully). 
4. At the time, you became aware, how did you react? Especially how did you behave towards the person you held responsible for the issue? How do you feel about  that reaction now?
5. Do you want to forgive this person? 
5a. If you do, how has that gone for you. When you reflect on what you answered to questions 1 to 4, do you feel that you have forgiven this person.
5b. If you don't want to forgive the person or you feel such that you can't forgive the person, what is it that makes you feel that way? 

FORGIVENESS has to happen internally and be an act of the will (You have to decide to forgive someone because you believe that is the right thing to do) or it will not be forgiveness. Just SAYING you forgive the person does not make it happen. 

 Forgiveness is a journey, and it can be a very rough road, especially if the thing that needs to be forgiven is a long established pain.  I believe that we need God's help to reach that point, and so I am sharing with you a suggested prayer.

Dear Lord,

You are the God who forgives my sins but you also want me to forgive others when they do wrong to me. 

I am struggling with this situation. I am still [upset/angry] with [name] about [explain the situation]. 

When I think about this person I feel...

I know I should forgive this person but I don't want to because...

Lord I surrender that situation to you. 

Please heal my pain? 
I receive your healing. 
I give you my resentment of ...

Lord, you said you give us a peace that the world cannot give. I receive that peace. 

Lord, with your. help, I can forgive ... . I seek your help.  I ask you to me find in my heart, Love for that person, and bless them every time I think about them. 

In the name of Christ who forgives us,

Amen..

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