We call it a grudge or a falling out, the pain of a discussion that goes awry. Maybe someone abandons or abuses us, causing hurt. In either case, sin has been committed either by us or to us. The results of sin are broken relationships and spiritual death (Romans 6:23). Forgiveness of sin restores relationships and brings life through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:42-45).
According to psychological studies, God designed our bodies to forgive. When we hold grudges and withhold forgiveness of sin, our bodies release stress hormones and deteriorating health can follow. When we forgive, our moods are elevated; we're more optimistic and our bodies can guard against anxiety and depression when we practice forgiveness.
When I was a young girl going to church, I heard the word "forgiveness" and didn't fully understand what it meant. I asked the Sunday school teacher and my parents, but their answers were too complicated for my young brain.
Here is a paraphrased definition: To forgive is to cease to feel anger against an offender because of a wrong act. I don't know about you, but if someone offended me by doing something wrong or unlawful against me, don't I have the right to be angry about it? Therein lies the dilemma. How do we forgive what is wrong and unlawful? Answer: Only through and by Jesus Christ.
For Christians in West African countries like Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana, forgiveness is hard and many have strained relationships in their homes, towns, and workplaces. The Jesus Film Project® team in this region ministers to the believers in the police and military by using small group Bible studies related to the video series, "Walking With Jesus." The five-episode series, written and produced by African Jesus Film Project staff and African theologians, is designed to help African new believers grow in their faith.
In a West African nation, there was a "Walking With Jesus" event that 300 of the top female military leaders attended. "I will never forgive my husband," Ekua* yelled as she jumped out of her seat, startling the women sitting around her.
Ekua was successful in her job but faced problems at home. Her husband, Kayode*, another military officer, had abandoned her and their children. Without emotional or financial support from her husband, the burden of being the sole caregiver for their children and household weighed heavily on her.
The next day Ekua and the rest of the women viewed the second episode of "Walking With Jesus." In the film, the village chief realizes he wronged many people and decides to make his relationships right— not only because God has forgiven the chief of all his sins, but also because Jesus calls His followers to do the same.
The Bible study leader challenged the women to fix any disunity in their lives. "Whoever has sinned against you, forgive them," he said. Ekua began to cry. After praying, she ran out of the large conference room to phone Kayode. "I've just called you to let you know I have forgiven you, and I want you to know I love you," she said.
Kayode shouted cheerfully! Within minutes, Kayode's heart softened, and he transferred money for the first time to help his family. When Ekua returned to the conference, she was a thankful woman dancing for joy.
Forgiveness is significant to the gospel message and to a believer's everyday life. Jesus said to His followers, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV). We experience God's love and forgiveness at a deeper level by stepping out in faith, as Ekua did, and forgiving others as we have been forgiven. How to Forgive Others is a great article if you want to read more about forgiveness.
*Names changed for security