Forgiveness Matter of Life and death

How important is forgiveness?

The greatest benefits may come from granting, not receiving, forgiveness.

article by Larry Walker

A 29-year-old police officer whose wife is pregnant with their first child is shot on the streets of New York. For days, his life hangs in the balance. He lives, but the shooting leaves him a quadriplegic. A young woman in Texas is brutally raped, beaten with a hammer, stabbed and left for dead. Although she survives, the incident leaves her emotionally devastated.

A 7-year-old Cleveland boy lives through the mysterious murder of his mother. His father is arrested for the crime and convicted in a sensational trial that gains national attention. Ten years later his father is freed from prison after the real murderer is located. But irreversible damage has already occurred. The boy’s childhood is over, his family shattered.

The victims in these three unrelated stories have more in common than having suffered tragic, brutal crimes. All three have been able to regain control of their lives by learning the power of forgiveness.

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Social Benefits of Forgiveness

Social benefit of forgiveness

An old saying reminds us, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” According to new studies, forgiveness also provides a vitally important dimension of human life, especially for those who have been victimized by life-changing tragedies.
The effect of forgiveness on social and interpersonal relationships is obvious. In marriage and families, on the job and at school, forgiveness can mend relationships torn asunder by destructive words and actions.

Forgiveness has widespread social applications. Realization of its value has led to the development of the restorative justice movement, which initiates conferences between crime victims and jailed perpetrators. More than 300 such programs are now in effect throughout the United States, including a million-dollar, religious-based juvenile justice initiative in Florida.

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Forgiveness & Health

Forgiveness and health

Recent research and examples, such as those related above, reveal that forgiveness also promotes the emotional and physical health of victims. On the other hand, holding on to bitterness, hatred and desire for revenge can cause serious emotional and physiological problems that compound the suffering of the victim. Those who nurture these powerful emotions fail to realize the damage that they are bringing on themselves. As one person put it, “Holding on to anger is like taking poison and waiting for someone else to die.”

A leader of an uprising against the Warsaw ghetto described the bitterness that remains in his heart over how he and his neighbors were treated by the Nazis: “If you could lick my heart,” he says, “it would poison you.”

Researchers are discovering that this statement may be literally true. Social scientists are learning that forgiveness can help restore emotional and even physical wholeness to suffering victims.

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Greatest Examples of Forgiveness

The greatest example of forgiveness

Forgiveness is also at the core of the gospel. If you have difficulty forgiving someone, consider the debt of sin that God has forgiven you of when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us how to deal with someone who “sins against you.” He enumerates a three-step conflict resolution process followed by forgiveness.

Headstrong Peter apparently found difficulty with the concept of forgiveness. He asked, “How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? ” ( Matthew:18:21). Peter probably reasoned that he could grit his teeth and utter words of professed forgiveness seven times if he knew that after the eighth incident, he could take actions to get even. But Jesus told him that forgiveness must not only be unlimited, it must also be from the heart.

To put the matter into a spiritual perspective, Jesus told a story of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One of his servants who owed a great sum of money pleaded with the king for mercy. The master was moved with compassion and forgave him the entire debt. But the forgiven servant then demanded immediate repayment from a fellow servant who owed him a very small sum of money. The debtor was unable to repay and begged him for mercy.

Instead of extending the mercy he had received for a much larger debt, the unforgiving servant had the other thrown into prison. When the king found out, he was furious. “You wicked servant!” said the king. “I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” The king then rescinded his original forgiveness and demanded full payment from the unforgiving servant (Matthew:18:23-34).

Jesus concludes the parable with the warning, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (verse 35).

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God's Prospective

God’s perspective on forgiveness

This parable helps us understand how important God considers forgiveness. The point is not whether the other person is worthy. Forgiveness is a fundamental quality of godly love that seeks the ultimate good of everyone.

The International Forgiveness Institute’s definition further explains forgiveness as going beyond the call of duty by “overcoming of wrongdoing with good” to offer “a freely chosen gift (rather than a grim obligation).” The definition correctly promises, “As we give the gift of forgiveness we ourselves are healed.”

Forgiveness is fundamental to healing—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jesus, the Master Healer, offered His life for the forgiveness of all the sins of all mankind forever. He set the perfect example of forgiveness to His dying breath. Never did He seek vengeance, in word or in deed (1 Peter:2:20-25). Instead He prayed regarding those who crucified Him, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke:23:34).

Jesus knew that most people do not realize the full consequences of evil. He also understood the evil potential of the human heart that yields to hostile, vengeful emotions (Mark:7:20-23). He wanted no part of the damage resulting from such emotions for Himself, His followers or anyone else.

As the Christianity Today article concludes, “For international, national, and even personal issues, researchers are finding that a practice taught by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago may be our most effective tool and response” (Thomas).

To make sure we remember the importance of forgiveness, Jesus instituted a most meaningful ceremony to commemorate His death for our sins. When we follow His instructions and partake of the symbols of the bread and the wine (1 Corinthians:11:23-26), we should remember the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and seek to practice forgiveness in every aspect of our personal lives.

Let us learn, practice and benefit from the power of forgiveness.

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Scriptures on Forgiveness

MOST IMPORTANT:
(Matthew 6:14-15) For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

(Mark 11:25)And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

(Colossians 3:13)Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

(Matthew 5:7) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

(Matthew 6:12) Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

(Romans 12:14) Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse.

(Matthew 26:28) for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.

(Ephesians 4:32) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you.

(Luke 17:4) If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”"

(I John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(Luke 23:34) Jesus said, "“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”" Dividing his garments among them, they cast lots.

(Colossians 3:13) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do.

(I Peter 3:9) not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this were you called, that you may inherit a blessing.

(Luke 11:4) Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”"

(James 5:16) Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

(Acts 2:38) Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Matthew 6:14-15) “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

(Matthew 18:21-22) Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, "“I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.

(Mark 11:25-26) Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions.
26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions.”"

(Matthew 5:39-42) But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.
41 Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
42 Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.

(Romans 12:19-21) Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.”
20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

(Luke 6:27-37) “But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.
29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other; and from him who takes away your cloak, don’t withhold your coat also.
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.
31 “As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them.
32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.
36 Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.
37 Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.

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