Perhaps one of the most difficult things we face as Christians is achieving complete forgiveness of those who have wronged us. We may try and try, but the flesh we live in keeps pulling us away from God's truth that we are to forgive others. We might even speak the words, "I can never forgive him." or the words equally as bad, "He will have to show he deserves my forgiveness."
If any of that sounds close to the feelings you have felt, then consider yourself among the huge number of us who will confess we Christians wrestle with the problem of forgiving others.
Today I looked through an older book that had gathered some dust, and came across the writings of David Augsburger, from his book, The Freedom of Forgiveness. He offers sever steps which will help us to grow and learn to be more forgiving.
1. Restore the attitude of love. In a nutshell, we have been taught to love others as we love ourselves. Then something happens or someone says something offensive, and it becomes instantly difficult for forgiveness to happen. This is the starting point....Our attitude of love must be restored before forgiveness can take place.
2. Release the painful past. We feel hurt. We were offended. We cannot dismiss the fact that a wrong has been committed and feel the need to "do something." We could harbor a grudge, or make a plan of revenge, or even sever the relationship immediately. However, the solution to the whole problem of forgiving someone starts to happen when we totally release all the bitter details. We can never learn the blessing of forgiving until we understand the past is past.
3. Begin reconstruction on the relationship. The real work of forgiveness happens here. Jesus said it like this, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4
4. Reopen the future. If we are successful in putting the past in the past and leaving it there, we are ready to discover the joy of reopening the relationship in the future. This requires some adjusting from both parties. It may take work and it may take some time, but look to see this step in the solution will keep us looking forward in renewal.
5. Reaffirming the relationship. This reaffirmation of the relationship must include a celebration of the parties because the relationship has addressed and healed all wrongdoing. There is no room for each side laying down a list of demands. The closest thing to a demand is that both will take the demand of God, that we love one another, more seriously. God longs for us be in his family, with all sharing in his love and the love of one another.