God-honoring forgiveness is described in Ephesians 4. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul describes moving from unforgiveness and all the physical, emotional, and spiritual results of that in our lives to forgiveness.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiveness is at times a process for us. What are the steps we need to take? If we are believers, you and I want to be like God and emulate His forgiveness that we have experienced. This is not easy.
#1 Recognize Our Issue: We first need to realize that unforgiveness has taken root in our heart before we can do anything about it. In Ephesians 4:31, the Apostle Paul describes some characteristics of our lives that may indicate we are harboring unforgiveness. If you are dealing with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, or malice… unforgiveness may have a piece of your heart.
#2 Give Up Our Rights: I think this is the hardest part. We need to give up our right to be wronged. We must give up our right to exact revenge and make them feel bad for the bad stuff they did. We must give up these self-serving rights and adopt the right to forgive given to us by Jesus Christ.
#3 Pray for a Miracle: The only way we will forgive someone who has hurt us deeply is by praying for God to work a miracle. I honestly believe that forgiveness is not our normal nature. I personally struggle with forgiveness there for He (God… through Christ… in the power of the Holy Spirit) needs to give us the capacity to forgive.
#4 Continue Praying: I firmly believe forgiveness is a matter of prayer. An important ingredient in forgiving someone is prayer in which we honestly pray for the other person and ourselves. Now these are not prayers of “I pray they get hit by a truck,” but rather honest simple prayers for their well-being.
#5 Decide: At some point, a decision needs to be made. In Ephesians 4:31 when it says, “get rid” I read into that a personal decision is made. You and I must move from recognizing our unforgiveness, giving up our sinful rights, and praying about forgiveness to actually forgiving. Forgiveness is a decision. Decide to let it go.
#6 Work on Permanent Forgiveness: I believe that once you have made the decision to forgive someone, that this is an active decision. What I mean by “active decision” is that this is a decision of the will that must be kept up. If we get lax in our willingness to forgive, we may let resentment creep back into our lives. Forgiveness is a decision that must be a constant state of who we are and we must be vigilant against falling back into unforgiveness.