I’ve been studying Romans 12 and found some great truths that I think can help us to be more forgiving.
1. Speak well of and pray for the person who hurt you.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
To bless is to speak well of and wish good things for a person. To curse is the exact opposite. It’s hard to continue to hate someone for whom you are praying and speaking well of.
2. Empathize with the person who hurt you.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Do you know it’s easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice? Why? Because bad things happen to all of us and we all know what it feels like to lose something, but good things don’t always happen to all of us and that reality is fertile soul from which jealously can easily grow. Jeremiah wondered as he praised God, “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1) If we want to forgive someone, then we can start by finding reasons to empathize with what they might be feeling.
3. Choose to make beautiful music with the person who hurt you.
16 Live in harmony with one another.
All notes are valuable and important individually but they are even more valuable and important as they are blended by the master into one tune. You and I need to remember that we are unique, but not designed by God to resonate absent of each other. You need that person who hurt you and they need you to be all that God wants us to be. Harmony requires that all of the “notes” submit together to the will of the master.
4. Don’t start taking yourself too seriously, because–if you do–you’ll start not taking God and others seriously enough.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Pride is poisonous. In my experience, true humility comes by standing next to the cross. That person who hurt you is not of less value than you. That person stands next to you as an equal recipient of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus died on the cross, not you, so you and I have no right to decide who is and who is not worthy of forgiveness.
5. Let God handle revenge.
Romans 12:17, 19
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
19 Beloved,never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
We are not God. It is not our place or responsibility to punish the people who hurt us. If we take revenge on people we are pushing God off of His throne and asserting authority that is not ours to assert. When it comes to revenge, God has both the authority and responsibility. Find peace in that and let His peace reign in your heart.
6. Be a peacemaker.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Note that Paul tells us to live peaceably with “all” not “some.” Christians are not permitted to identify people or groups of people with whom we will not live peaceably. Also, we need to remember that Jesus calls us to be “peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9) not “peacekeepers” which means that we are to be proactive in making peace. If someone has hurt you then you need to proactively pursue a path of peace with that person. A peacemaker who is hurt by someone sets up a time to meet with the offender and talk with them face to face about the situation. A warmonger stirs things up by gossiping about the person and situation behind the offender’s back.
7. Identify ways to satisfy the needs of the one who hurt you.
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
When I’ve been hurt by someone, I’ve fixated on how to hurt that person in return. God wants us to do the exact opposite. When we are hurt, God wants us to find ways to help that person. Often we feel hurt because we are focusing too much on ourselves. Forgiveness begins with taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on the needs of others–and in particular, the needs of our enemies.
8. Remember, forgiveness is a choice–and the good one at that.
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
When someone hurts us, we have a choice. Are we going to choose to get revenge, to gossip about them, or to try to hurt them in return or are we going to make the good choice and choose to be good to them? We are not animals. Some dogs will bite you if they get cornered, but we must be better than that because we are better than that. We are followers of Jesus, not followers of our impulses. Yes, evil will come, but good will overcome.