Forgive the Person, Not Their Actions
Scripture: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34
One of the most important distinctions to make when learning about the practice of forgiveness is to forgive the person, not their actions. Playing the sequence of someone’s wrongful action over and over again in the mind is a terrible hindrance to obeying God’s command to forgive. When we continually reflect on how wrong an action was, our thoughts act as a blockade between our hearts and God’s heavenly compassion.
John 13:34 tells us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” God forgives us because he loves us, not because our actions are ever worthy of forgiveness. He forgives us because he values restored relationship with us over our sins. He forgives us because he is filled with love for us, not because our acts of confession demand forgiveness from him. And he says, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” When Peter denied Jesus three times, he offered him relationship and another opportunity to serve him. When Thomas was filled with doubt, Jesus offered him his nail-pierced hands. And when we sin against God, he offers us forgiveness that we might receive the full depths of his love again.
Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Our job is not to judge or condemn the actions of another. The only one worthy of passing judgment is already seated on his throne. God alone is perfect and able to offer sound judgment. He alone carries the burden of being King of kings and Lord of lords. And he continually chooses to show mercy and compassion on the undeserving. He continually offers forgiveness to the unworthy and sinful. He continually runs out to meet us in our sin, like the father of the prodigal son.
Showing compassion for the wrongful actions of another is not easy, but it is necessary. If we are to live a lifestyle of continual forgiveness the way God commands, we must look to heart of the person and receive God’s compassion rather than taking up the seat of judgement. If we are to love one another as God has loved us, we must value relationship over worldly justice and give grace where none is deserved. May we obtain access to the heart of our heavenly Father today as we seek to love as he loves. May we be filled with compassion for others after reflection on the overwhelming grace we’ve been shown. And may we be filled with courage and strength to reach past a wrongful action and forgive the person from our hearts.
1. Meditate on God’s command to “judge not.” Allow Scripture to renew your mind to the important command to forgive others.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9
2. What action has been deemed unforgivable in your mind? Where are you struggling to forgive a person because of the way they’ve wronged you?
3. Ask God to give you the ability to look past a wrongful action to the heart of the person so that you might have compassion and offer forgiveness. Spend time in his presence removing yourself from the seat of judgment so that you can offer grace and forgiveness.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:10-14
When we offer forgiveness where none is deserved, we are placing our hope for justice and reconciliation in God rather than ourselves. When we offer mercy we look to heaven for all things to be set right and renewed rather than looking to this fallen and folly-filled world. There is no perfection in this world. There is nothing we can do to completely rid this world of its inherent depravity. So we must look to our heavenly Father to work and heal as he wills and follow in his footsteps. We must carry an atmosphere of grace so that heaven can meet earth through our lives and draw people into the fold of God. May we have the strength and perspective to place our hope in heaven and offer mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to the wrongful, destitute, and proud.
Extended Reading: John 13
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