By Lynette Kittle, Crosswalk.com
How to Give Forgiveness This Christmas
By Lynette Kittle
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” - Matthew 6:14
The above Scripture is one many Christians like to skip right over, not wanting to address what the words are instructing them to do. They don’t even want to consider how their willingness to forgive in their own lives is related to the forgiveness they receive from God. Still, let us consider one of the greatest gifts we can give to others and, most importantly, to ourselves.
Instead of brushing over, ignoring, or withholding our forgiveness to those we don’t believe deserve it, let us ask God to examine our hearts and reveal areas where we need to forgive. 2 Corinthians 13:5 explains how in examining ourselves, we discover whether we are the Christians we think we are. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
Who Is Deserving of God’s Forgiveness?
Many of us believe we deserve God’s forgiveness but with others, not so much. The truth is, none of us deserve His forgiveness, and there is no way we could possibly ever earn it or purchase it ourselves. None of us can attain God’s forgiveness on our own. It’s God's gift to us through Jesus. Ephesians 1:7 explains how “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Doesn’t God’s Grace Cover Unforgiveness?
As Ephesians 2:8 explains, we are saved by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Even though we freely receive God’s gift of forgiveness, we often feel justified in holding onto unforgiveness towards others. But being unwilling to forgive reveals whether or not our hearts have truly been transformed and created as new creations in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Being unforgiving is a red flashing warning concerning our heart’s true condition. Checking to see if we harbor unforgiveness is a valid test of our faith to see if we have truly received God’s forgiveness in our own lives. If we fail this test, it indicates we haven’t truly let His forgiveness of our sins change our hearts because if it did, we would be able to forgive others. When Mary anointed Jesus' feet with perfume, Simon the Pharisee didn’t understand her actions. So Jesus uses a parable to explain it to him (Luke 7:41-43):
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love Him more? Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.”
Love Unlocks the Key to Forgiveness
Luke 7:47 reveals the key to forgiveness.” Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Love is the key to forgiveness. Recognizing God’s forgiveness in our lives releases His love into our hearts. As 1 John 4:8 explains, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Jesus is our example of offering forgiveness to those who have sinned against us based on our love for God. “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Forgiveness Marks Us
Offering forgiveness to others is a mark of real faith in Jesus Christ because forgiving others reveals a heart’s transformed condition. If we are unforgiving, it exposes a heart that hasn’t truly received God’s forgiveness. As Scripture points out, our willingness or lack of it to forgive others is a test and indicator of whether or not our faith is genuine.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Are you willing this Christmas to give the gift of forgiveness? If not, are you willing to ask God to help you truly receive His forgiveness so that you are able to forgive others?
What Does the Bible Say about Forgiveness?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/AnnaOstanina
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.