Part 5 of 5. We are going to explore a spiritual formation practice through my blog. The first week, I explored basic information about the topic of forgiveness. This past week, we actually began the spiritual practices. Each week now we will explore these themes more deeply not as a formula but as a means of grace.
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to quiet our hearts and minds and bring to mind one individual or group of people who has offended or hurt you.
God’s Spirit may bring to mind people from your childhood, people who are no longer alive, or people or groups you dislike because of their looks, their habits, their beliefs, or their lifestyles.
If no person or group came to mind, try again tomorrow. Sometimes it takes more than one time of quiet prayer for the Holy Spirit to unearth the people you need to forgive.
If a person or group did come to mind, let’s do the steps together now.
Step 1: Determine in your heart that you want to fully forgive this person or group.
Step 2: Ask God to help you release your feelings of bitterness, resentment, or hatred.
Step 3: Acknowledge that it is God’s role, not ours, to judge this person (or group) for his or her actions.
Step 4: Ask God to help us release this person (this group) from our judgement.
Step 5: Pray that God blesses the person (group) you are forgiving.
- In forgiving, it is not enough to cease the negative act of judgment; I must also act positively to bless the person.
- God does not give individual Christians the right or duty to judge those who have harmed us, or to punish them. Instead, God calls me to do the opposite: to release them from my judgment, and then to bless them. In Luke 6, Jesus teaches this shocking response to those who have harmed me: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
- Billy Graham once said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
- To forgive and bless someone who has injured me is well outside the normal. It stands out, like a city set on a hill, or a light in a dark room. This unusual response says to the world that Christians are different—we don’t do what is expected, but what is godly. Instead of holding grudges, we forgive. Instead of speaking badly of someone we speak words of blessing. Instead of hurting back, we heal, we love. This kind of unusual difference is attractive to unbelieving people and points them to God.
- My human nature wants to judge, to curse, and to strike back. When I forgive and bless and love instead, I act not out of my human nature but out of the merciful nature of God. (Luke 6:27-36)
- Each time I forgive, my soul gets a little lighter. Each time I bless, my character shifts a little toward the good. Each time I love an enemy, I look a little more like Jesus. Each time I pray for someone who has hurt me, my heart is a little more free from the hurt I’ve experienced.
Now that you’ve determined that you want to forgive this person or group, asked God to help you release your feelings, acknowledged that it is God’s role, not yours, to judge this person or group and asked God to help you release this person (group) from your judgment, do Step 5—pray that God blesses the person (or group) you are forgiving.
You’re going to be amazed at the power that this process has. But let’s be realistic. No doubt as we work through the steps of Forgiveness, we’re going to have problems and failures along the way.
Forgiving is one of the hardest parts of good relationships, so don’t expect perfection. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go quite right. Stay the course.
That’s how we learn: we do the steps over and over until we get the process right and it becomes part of our Christian life.
I encourage you to pray this prayer….
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.