Are You Forgiving Like Jesus Forgives?
By: Ashley Wheelon
One look in my son’s eyes told me he was lying. I like to think it’s a gift God gives to mamas.
While my little one’s words were saying that he had no idea how the missing piece to his sister’s brand new scooter ended up at the bottom of the street drain, I knew he was responsible.
Trying to put myself in his place, I could easily forgive his fear of getting in trouble for what was probably an accident. But lying? That’s where I put my foot down.
I only got angrier as I lowered my voice, looked directly at my son, and told him he had “one more chance to be honest or else.” Tears started flowing, and the confession quickly followed.
How humbling it is for the Lord to use your children to model what His love for us looks like.
He didn’t know how the piece broke off the scooter, but when it did, he threw it in the drain so he wouldn’t get in trouble. I listened as he apologized to his sister then filled with pride when I heard her comfortingly say, “It’s OK, buddy. I forgive you.”
But as I looked at the little boy who had lied to me, my anger came rushing back and I sent him inside for an early bedtime. I wish I could say I forgave as quickly as my daughter did. Or that it didn’t take me long to realize how much more she resembled Jesus in that situation than me.
If I’m being honest, it took days for the Holy Spirit to get my attention. How humbling it is for the Lord to use your children to model how He loves us! Taking a deeper look at how Jesus forgives is exactly what I needed in that moment.
5 Facts About How Jesus Forgives
Jesus' forgiveness changes us.
Holding on to anger and unforgiveness causes bitterness and only harms the one who refuses to forgive. When we forgive, we’re choosing to let love take precedence over our feelings (Proverbs 10:12). That choice makes us look more like Jesus each time.
When we forgive, we choose to let love take precedence over our feelings.
Jesus' forgiveness is available to everyone.
God gave up His Son for all of us. If you’re human, Jesus’ forgiveness and love is a gift offered to you (1 Timothy 2:4). Our forgiveness should be extended in the same way — to everyone. No matter how tempting it is to justify our anger, we’re called to forgive everyone, not just those we feel like forgiving.
Jesus' forgiveness is a fact, not a feeling.
In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul writes, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you…” It doesn’t say, “Forgive when you’re ready, as the Lord forgave you when He was ready.” We don’t have to wait on the Lord’s desire to forgive us. His forgiveness is part of His character and just like He forgives us quickly, we are called to forgive others quickly.
Jesus' forgiveness precedes repentance.
When Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t just die for sins that had been committed up until that point. He died for all the sins of the world — past, present, and future. He died for us while we were still sinners, knowing the choices we would make, and still choosing to love us (Ephesians 2:1-10). When we adopt that same philosophy, deciding to forgive those we love even before they hurt us, it makes the act of following through in mercy just a little easier.
Jesus' forgiveness has no limits.
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the story of a servant who refused to forgive another’s debt after being shown mercy in an even larger debt that he himself owed. Jesus commanded us to forgive 77 times, which in His day, meant an endless number of times. Jesus extends His forgiveness and mercy toward us time and again with no limit. Because of the grace He shows us and the work He does in our hearts, we are also able to forgive without limits.
When we look at Jesus’ example of forgiveness, our relationships start to change. We start to love ourselves a little less and love others a lot more. Forgiveness frees us from anger, bitterness, and self-righteousness, allowing the Lord to replace those feelings with compassion, love, and self-sacrifice.
As a parent, I want to lead by example, apologizing when I’m wrong and forgiving when someone has wronged me. Sometimes though, the examples are set by those around us — in my case by my daughter. I’m thankful for a God who loves me enough to gently humble my heart to see His work in His children of all ages.