If we are to have healthy relationships with others, we have to be able to
forgive as a lifestyle. All of us are imperfect and we also differ from one
another in myriads of ways, and so whenever we come close, we ultimately
end up rubbing others the wrong way at some point. Sometimes we do so
deliberately and other times without intending to. Whatever the case, for
us to maintain good and lasting relationships with others, we must make up
our minds to be forgivers. I use ‘forgiver’ to refer to someone who
forgives as a way of life, not when it is convenient or when they feel like
doing so every once in a while. Forgiving is usually an act, not a feeling.

God is a God of relationship and in His Word, He gives us a lot of
instructions on how to have good relationships with Him, with ourselves and
with others. One of those instructions is that we have to forgive again and
again and again.

In Mathew 18:21, Peter asked the Lord Jesus how many times he was to
forgive his brother (i.e. someone in close relationship with him; a loved
one) who kept pissing him off: seven times? Peter thought forgiving his
loved one seven times would be very generous indeed. But in reply, the Lord
told Peter he was to forgive his brother not just seven times, but seventy
times seven times. That was a way of saying he had to forgive infinitely,
as a many times as his brother would need forgiving. He was to never stop

And then to illustrate this point, the Lord told a parable of a servant who
owed his master 10 million US dollars (according to the Amplified Bible
rendering), and had no means of paying the money back. The master, in
compassion, decided to write off the servant’s debt, totally forgiving him.
But then that same servant was owed just 20 dollars by his fellow servant.
Right after being forgiven a debt of 10 million, he went and threw his
fellow servant into prison for failing to pay him back 20 dollars. When
their master heard of it, he was enraged at the heartless servant who after
being forgiven so much couldn’t pass on the same grace to his fellow
servant and forgive him so little. So the wicked servant had to be
delivered to *‘the tormentors till he should pay’* (Mathew 18:34)all that
he owed. And then the Lord concluded the parable with *‘So likewise shall
my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not
everyone his brother their trespasses’*(Mathew 18:35).

In several other places in the gospels, the Lord taught that we are to
forgive others, otherwise our heavenly won’t forgive us either (Mathew
6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26).

Forgive because you have been forgiven

In Ephesians 4:32 Paul wrote: *‘And be ye kind one to another,
tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath
forgiven you’.*Now, I want to draw your attention to the difference between
what the Lord Jesus taught as the reason why we should forgive compared to
Paul. The Lord said we are to forgive others else our heavenly Father will
not forgive us either. But Paul says we are to forgive, not so we can be
forgiven, but because as believers in Christ, we have been forgiven so

The reason for this seeming difference for the motivation to forgive is
that Jesus was speaking before He shed His blood for the remission of sins.
Until Christ gave His life to avail God’s blessings on the basis of grace,
people had to earn things from God through their good works. And so the
Lord taught the people, who were still under the dispensation of the Old
Covenant, that they had to forgive to earn forgiveness from God. But after
the Lord paid the price for our sins, we now do not forgive so we can be
forgiven. In Christ, we are already forgiven, not by our forgiving others,
but because in Christ, *we have redemption through his blood, even the
forgiveness of sins’ *(Colossians 1:14). This side of the cross, we forgive
because we have been forgiven, not in order to be forgiven.

One of the reasons many people struggle with forgiving others is because
they are doing it out of fear, the Old Covenant way, not out of love. They
think God is mad at them, and so they endeavor to master within themselves
the will and ability to forgive, so they can escape the wrath of God,and
they just keep failing. You see, it is supposed to be that because you
understand how God has loved you and forgiven you so much; because you have
received so much grace from God, that you turn around and give that same
grace and forgiveness to others. And that is a lot easier. Actually, it is
the only way that works. Forgiving to be forgiven is of the flesh, not of
the Spirit.
[b]Your sin against God is greater than others’ sins against you

When we justify our bitterness toward others as being valid because of the
great magnitude of their sin against us, it is evidence we have not yet
understood how terrible our own sin against God was. No matter what any
person does against you, it doesn’t even come close to your sin against
God. The very worst sin committed against you is still like 20 dollars
compared to your own 10 million dollar sin against God. And yet Papa God,
in His love, compassion, grace and mercy totally and completely forgave you
all of your sins, and on top of that, gave you riches and blessings that
only His Son deserves. Today, you are saved, forgiven, righteous, and it
isn’t because you paid up for all your sins, but because God in His love
for you, sent His Son to pay up your debt that you could never pay. And so
He expects and commands that you must give the same love, grace and
compassion toward your fellow human beings who sin against you. That makes
a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Our sin against God is so bad that we can never pay for it ourselves. That
is why people who go to hell never come out of there. They keep paying for
their sins for eternity because no one can ever pay enough for their sins.
The only Person who paid sufficiently for sin was Jesus, because His
payment wasn’t like of just any man. He was God Himself paying for our
sins, and the payment was more than what was required, because of who He
was. That was why after 3 days in the grave, He rose from the dead having
totally settled our sin accounts with God for eternity. We cannot do
anything to pay for our sins, and therefore we must never demand that
others must pay fully for their sins against us. They can’t!!

You see, it is either pride or ignorance of the sacrificial work of Christ
that will keep a believer in un-forgiveness. You cannot truly be receiving
God’s forgiveness and still justify yourself for staying mad at others
forever. God is no longer angry with you over your sin; therefore you have
no right to stay angry with another over their sin against you. God is no
longer demanding that you pay up for your sin against Him; and you must do
the same toward others. To forgive means you stop being angry with and you
stop demanding that someone who has hurt you be punished in any way for
what they have done. I have seen people who said they had forgiven but when
they heard that some calamity befell the one who hurt them, they rejoiced
and said, ‘God is punishing them for hurting me. Serves them right!’. That
just showed they never forgave. God Himself has so totally forgiven you
that He doesn’t even remember your sins against Him, and He never rejoices
when bad things happen to you.

You will find forgiving others hard if you are only comparing their sin to
yours, because you will always feel you come out better them. But when you
compare your sins against God’s standard of perfection, you will discover
that you come out just as short as those who hurt you. And so we all need
mercy, not justice.

Forgive yourself

It has been said that the person you will find most difficult to forgive is
yourself. Well, not if you have a revelation of how much God loves you and
how so fully He has paid for your sins. Again, it is actually pride for
someone to keep claiming that even though Jesus died for their sins, they
will not forgive themselves. Hey, if God Almighty has forgiven you, who are
you to keep holding to and trying to pay for your sins by endless guilt and
self-condemnation? You are not greater, holier or wiser than God, are you?

Friend, God has never been surprised or taken aback by any dumb thing you
ever did. Some people think when we do stupid things, God holds His head
and laments ‘I never saw that coming. I never expected this fella would do
such a wicked thing’. The very reason Jesus died for you 2,000 years ago,
long before you even existed, was because He knew you were going to come to
earth and do dumb stuff. He died for the ungodly (Romans 5:9). So when you
miss it, don’t run away from God or everybody else, and go hide in some
corner blaming yourself over and over, crying over the milk you have
spilled, and feeling like you can never recover. If you fall, get up, dust
yourself up, learn your lessons, and keep going. God loves you, man,
unconditionally. He knew you were going to mess up and He already provided
a way of escape (2 Corinthians 10:13). Papa God has forgiven you of all
your sins – past, present and future. Forgive yourself too and move on.
That honours God a lot more than you hanging your head down for months or
even years because you got pregnant out of wedlock, or messed up in
ministry, or destroyed your marriage, or whatever. You cannot do anything
about your past, but with God, you still sure have a great future ahead of
you. Do not kill your future by wallowing in the mire of self-condemnation
and guilt over past mistakes. That’s flesh!

Unforgiveness opens doors to the devil

In 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, Paul wrote thus about the danger of
unforgiveness: *‘To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I
forgave anything, to whom I forgave it; for your sakes forgave I it in the
person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not
ignorant of his devices’. *Satan knows nothing about forgiveness. He has
never been forgiven and will never be. All he is full of is bitterness,
anger, hatred, malice, revenge, etc. And when we allow such traits to take
root in us, we align ourselves with him. We open for him doors to keep
company with us. And then He takes advantage, gains the upper hand and
begins to afflict us in all kinds of ways.

As believers in Christ, we do not forgive so we can be forgiven. We have
already been forgiven freely by grace. But we must be forgivers, because if
we aren’t, the devil will come into our lives and kill, steal from and
destroy us. Unforgiveness will result in all kinds of problems. It is a
documented fact that many believers are taken ill because of refusing to
forgive, but once they let go their bitterness, they are immediately
healed. Why? Because their unforgiveness was giving the devil a foothold
to afflict them with disease.

Unforgiveness is not at all smart. It will destroy you long before God
ever comes on the scene. Some people believe when they stay in
unforgiveness, God Himself comes down and afflicts them, or even takes
them to hell. God has never taken a believer in Christ to hell for not
forgiving others. We do not go to hell because we do wrong but only because
we reject Jesus as the payment for our sins. However, a believer who holds
on to un-forgiveness will experience all types of ‘hell’ right here in this
world. Our bodies are not meant to put up with the tension that comes with
negative emotions like bitterness. If you do not forgive, your body might
break down. Someone has said staying in unforgiveness is like drinking
poison hoping the one you hate will die. Unforgiveness hurts you far more
and deeper than the one you stay mad at. And also unforgiveness lowers you
to the level of the one who has hurt you and in a way justifies their being
mean to you. Whichever way you look at it, unforgiveness is dumb. But
forgiving brings rich dividends: peace, reconciliation, fruitfulness,
physical and mental health, etc.

Unforgiveness will destroy relationships faster than anything else. Nobody
can endure relating intimately with someone who keeps reminding them of
their faults, or keeps demanding that they pay for their past mistakes. The
reason we can be so comfortable with and around God is that He forgives us
once and never ever brings up our faults. I know some people say He does,
but He doesn’t.

Beloved, God loves you. God has been good to you; be good to others. God is
not mad at you; stop being mad at others. Yes, people have hurt you but so
have you hurt others. People do not understand you, but you don’t
understand everyone else either. You must give others mercy because you
need mercy too.

Don’t be a doormat

Now as I bring this to a conclusion, I must point out that being a forgiver
doesn’t mean you have to just allow others to keep hurting you and walking
all over you. You must forgive always, but if the offender is one who just
wants to take advantage of your generosity and never has remorse or regrets
over their ungodly acts, or keeps threatening to harm you, you must not
just hang around and be destroyed in the name of being a forgiver.

In John 8:59, we read how some people took up stones to throw at Jesus. The
Lord loved them and had no bitterness toward them, but He didn’t just stand
there and let the people stone Him. He hid himself by mixing with the crowd
and found His way out of the temple. He protected Himself from being hurt
by people who were determined to destroy Him. Likewise, when He sent out
His disciples to preach, He instructed them that if they went to a city and
persecution rose against them, they were to flee to another city. They
weren’t to stay there and say, ‘We love the people. We forgive those who
sin against us. We are not bitter with anybody. So we shall stay in this
city and they can come and kill us because we are forgivers’. No! And
finally, while on the cross, the Lord Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of
His killers: *‘Father, forgive them for they know what they do’ *(Luke
23:34). But since that time, He has never again exposed Himself to be
killed some more!

If you are relating with a determined abuser, it would not honour God to
just keep exposing yourself to being hurt indefinitely. You must forgive
but you may need to keep a safe distance, just like Jesus did. I heard a
pastor testify how a member of his church kept coming to him and asking him
to let her separate from her husband who was constantly beating her up, and
abusing her in other ways and threatening to kill her. The pastor told her
to keep forgiving and praying for her husband. One day, the man carried out
his threat and killed the woman. That wasn’t God’s will. That woman should
have got out of that relationship long before.

God Himself never uses us as His doormat and He doesn’t want us allowing
others do that to us.

I am not here suggesting that we have to run out of every relationship the
moment someone hurts us or tensions arise. With that attitude, you can
never relate with anybody. The Bible teaches us to put up with one
anothers' human flaws and weaknesses, to be accepting of others
unconditionally just as God has done to us (Romans 15:7), to forgive our
brother 490 times a day i.e. indefinitely. That is the only way to have
peaceful and fruitful relationships with others. We must strive with the
help of the Holy Spirit to keep peace and live in harmony with others. But
if the other party is obviously determined to not work for the relationship
and you are exposing yourself to possible irreparable damage, then you must
forgive but also run for your life.

So beloved, God in Christ has forgiven us so much. He is so merciful and
gracious to us. He never gives up on us. When we fall, He doesn’t dig a
grave to bury us in (like it so often happens with people, including in the
Church) but He comes alongside us, lifts us up, teaches us what we need to
learn, and continues to walk with us in this journey of life. Since He is
so good to us, and blesses us with so much that we never deserve or merit,
we must at the very least do the same to others. Forgive others, just as
God in Christ, has forgiven you. Let us share this life of love. Do not pay
evil for evil (Romans 12:17). Let us overcome evil with good. We have the
power to do it because of the love of God poured out abundantly into our
hearts. The rewards of being a forgiver are so rich that you don’t want to
miss out.

Your friend

Peter Odoi