The Healing Power of Forgiveness

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Before we look at how forgiveness heals relationships, notice the evil one’s scheme in tempting us not to forgive. The Apostle Paul faced bitter opposition at Corinth, with a small group attacking both his credentials and character. He walked in feet of clay, and was not immune from temptation. It would be easy to lash out, but instead Paul looked deeper than the surface, and detected an ulterior purpose of the evil one. He sought to divide the church by stirring up division in the midst. The quickest path to this goal came through grudge holding and resentment. Knowing this, Paul exhorted the members to forgive lest Satan take advantage of them.

When we forgive, we model God’s own forgiveness of us. The ancient adage rings true: To forgive is divine. We, who deserve God’s displeasure because of our sins, instead receive His forgiveness. When we forgive others, we follow God’s own example in forgiving us so much, and at great cost.

Forgiveness melts hard hearts, enabling relationships to heal. When we trust Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and fills us with love. Love, the Bible makes clear, does not harbor resentment (1 Corinthians 13:5). As God releases us from the penalty of sin, so we release others from things they have committed against us. Only God’s power working through us can produce such character. We tend to remember injuries inflicted upon us. But God commands us to forgive and seek to restore the relationship.

When we forgive others, we set an example for others to follow. As more and more people commit to a life of forgiveness, they can transform the atmosphere of a church, family and even workplace. On the other hand, harboring bitter resentment comes from the evil one, creating an environment of evil suspicions, negativity and envy (see James 3:13-18). Evil piles on more evil, until it buries all under its power. We need the grace of God working in us to enable us to radiate Christ’s love and free forgiveness. When people see and experience forgiveness from us, we can point them to God’s forgiving love.

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