Forgiveness is something every Christ-follower needs, and every Christ-follower has the power to give. Pastors and their families need to see the healing power of forgiveness released in their lives. Most of the problems we face in our marriages and our ministries could be significantly impacted if we were willing to practice forgiveness. In my counseling of pastoral couples, I often say to husbands and wives, “we need to see ourselves as professional forgivers.”
Yes, I have had to forgive someone who betrayed me in the worst possible way. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, I still must choose to forgive. But I can tell you, God has been faithful to bring healing to my hurt, peace to my turmoil, strength to my weakness, clarity to my confusion, and grace to my soul. I believe I am a better husband, father, pastor, counselor, and friend, because of the painful experience of betrayal and the lessons learned about forgiveness.
Here are some of those important lessons about forgiveness:
1. Forgiveness is primarily a choice.
When I choose to forgive someone, it is a decision I make, not an emotion I feel. If I wait until I feel like forgiving someone, that feeling may never come. But, when I make decisions to obey God based on the truth of His Word, the appropriate feelings will follow in time.
2. Forgiveness is obligatory.
As a person who claims forgiveness from God, I am obligated to forgive others. This is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Essentially, I am asking God to treat my sins the same way I treat the sins of others.
3. Forgiveness is grace-based.
I don’t forgive others because they deserve it. I forgive them because they need it and so do I. God forgives us freely, completely, fully, and He commands us to do the same.
4. Forgiveness means “release”.
Forgiveness means that I refuse to allow bitterness to set up camp in my life. I am releasing that person from any debt I believe they owe me. To forgive is to release that hurt, that pain, and that betrayal to the Lord. In releasing others, I am releasing my own life from the destructive effects of unforgiveness.
Because of the power of Christ in me, I now have the capacity to forgive others. When I choose to obey God and forgive those who have wronged me, I will release the power of Christ in my life.
5. Forgiveness expands my capacity for ministry.
When I practice forgiveness, God builds my character, my compassion, my understanding of grace, and my capacity to love. Forgiveness is one of the most important lessons to learn. I am never more like Jesus than when I forgive those who have betrayed me.
6. Forgiveness glorifies God.
When I forgive those who have betrayed, hurt, or wronged me, it brings glory to God. His love and forgiveness are put on display and others can be draw to Christ. In a sense, I am preaching the gospel more clearly than ever when I choose to forgive.
Pastors, you are not alone. Care for Pastors exists to help pastors face the unique challenges of pastoral ministry. Let us help you navigate through those challenges.