The notion of forgiving others is a widely promoted teaching in the Christian church, as well as in the counseling field and in other secular areas. The Bible teaches the benefits of releasing bitterness and anger that appear because of life’s wounds. Some popular phrases concerning forgiveness are, “make a choice to forgive” and “forgive out of obedience because Jesus has forgiven you.” Although both of these statements are accurate, forgiveness is much more. Many times when I minister to people, they point out that “yes” they have forgiven those in their life who have hurt them. Yet, I can sense that the complete work of forgiveness inside of them is not quite finished. Why is this?
When we make a choice to forgive, it is with our intellect because we “know” it’s the right thing to do; and choosing to forgive is the first very important step in forgiving someone. But there is more to forgiveness than making a choice. Matthew 18:35 says, “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” I believe the key that has been missed or neglected is this, “from his heart.” The Greek word for heart (kardia) means “the center of all physical and spiritual life, the inmost part of anything.” Forgiving others from the heart requires a deep, intimate process between us and the Father. He must do such a healing work in us first, so that we are then able to forgive from our inmost being, out of love. After all, this is the example of Jesus. He did not forgive us out of choice and obedience only. He did make a choice and He did obey, but He was also able to forgive out of a deep, burning love for us despite our catastrophic sin. This, my friends, is the next level of forgiveness. Are we there yet?