Daily Success
Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 32 : Forgive Offenders | Day 222

Forgive Offenders Fully!

A bitter wife began explaining to me all of the hurts that she had received from her husband over many years. She had them memorized and was able to provide many examples of his insensitivity, unkindness, and selfishness! I interrupted her discourse with the question, "Have you forgiven your husband as Jesus commanded us to?" "Oh, yes!" she replied. "I have forgiven him many times, but he keeps hurting me!"

In her mind, any new offense was grounds for digging up all past offenses that she had "forgiven" and adding them to her arsenal. It was obvious that she did not understand the true nature of forgiveness. Jesus made it clear in this command that we must forgive from our hearts. (See Matthew 18:35.)

We may extend forgiveness with our lips, but until it comes from our hearts, it will not be full forgiveness.

Forgiveness is more than just saying the words "I forgive you." It is fully releasing the offender from our judgment against him. If a new offense occurs, it should be treated as a new offense and not added to the "stack" of previous offenses. God's example of full forgiveness is the model we should strive to follow: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he [God] removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).

Because the wounds from an offense can often be deep and painful, giving verbal blessings is an extremely beneficial aspect of full forgiveness. Sincere blessings come from the heart, and it is the heart that rules the mind, emotions, and tongue. Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. (See Matthew 12:34.)

When I told one hurting wife that she would never be free from her emotional wounds until she was able to verbally bless her husband, she looked at me in disbelief. She did not feel like blessing him; she wanted to punish him!

I explained to her that blessing an offender does not mean you are asking God to give him a happy and carefree life. Instead, it reflects a genuine desire to see good come to his life by asking God to develop in him the character qualities that he needs. If this woman's husband had been mean and selfish, she could ask God to bless him with a spirit of kindness, compassion, and genuine love.

"Forgiveness is not an emotion ... . Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart."—Corrie Ten Boom

Perhaps the most hurtful offenses are verbal assaults--especially false accusations from our loved ones and friends. James describes these verbal missiles as poison and as fire that is set ablaze from hell (see James 3:6-12). We cannot allow this verbal "venom" to go untreated. It will damage our fellowship with God and others through the bitterness that will take root in our lives.

If there is someone whom we are having trouble fully forgiving, let's discern what character qualities he is lacking. Then, from our hearts, let's ask God to bless them with the ability to develop these qualities and watch our attitudes toward them change as we invest in their lives.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard