Let’s say I do it. I choose. “I . . . um . . . I . . . forgive . . . you.” There. I said it. Have I now forgiven as Christ forgave me?

I’ve started, which is probably the hardest part. I’ve ignored my emotions that still scream for vengeance. I’ve committed to walk God’s path. I’ve uttered the three words that so many promise themselves they could never—will never—utter.

But the place I go next is where the light of Jesus can shine through me, where I enter the realm of divine, undeserved, almost unimaginable forgiveness.

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” In Acts 7:60, Stephen spoke these words as he was being stoned to death by an angry crowd. If step one on the road of forgiveness is a choice to “cancel the debt,” step two is when we are so free in our souls that we can look to God and say, “You know, Lord, that sinful hurt . . . as far as I’m concerned, You don’t need to take vengeance on my behalf. Don’t charge that sin to their account.”

The Father smiles. Finally, we’re getting it. Blessed are the merciful.

“Lord, I pray blessing for the one who hurt me.” In Luke 6, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27-28 ESV). That may be the easiest verse in the Bible to quote and the hardest to obey.

God asks us to participate in His plan to reverse the evils of our dark world. I am called to seek the best for the person who did me the worst. I’m asked to answer a wrong with a right. I’m told to overcome evil with good.

“Lord, I ask that You would give Your best blessing to this individual who has caused harm. I ask You to save him and set him on a path of repentance toward abundant, Spirit-filled life.”

Jesus applauds. His followers are turning the status quo of worldly wisdom upside down.Blessed are the peacemakers.

“There but for the grace of God go I.” English Reformer John Bradford admitted this candidly when he saw a criminal being led off to execution.

The moment we realize that we’re no better than the next person—that left alone without God’s grace or truth, blessing or direction, we might find ourselves acting just as wickedly as those who hurt us—that’s when we can draw near to God. That’s when we move from self-righteous Pharisee (“Thank You that I’m not as bad as that person”) to humble tax collector (“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”).

Such humility doesn’t excuse the guilt of the offender, but it does change our perspective. Instead of, “Lord, give them what they deserve,” I’m crying, “Dear God, thank You for Your great salvation
to me, for giving me undeserved favor in Your sight.”

The Holy Spirit is pleased. A humble, grateful heart is a prime candidate for His lifetransformation.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.

My choice to forgive is the beginning of a joyful journey toward restoration, reconciliation, and redemption. But why would I come this far only to abandon the process, unlatching the gate but never following the path it reveals?

In faith I’ll take a step through that gate—beyond the hurt I feel, beyond the bitterness that holds me captive, beyond my expectations of restitution . . . even beyond my initial choice to forgive.

There is so much more God wants to do. There is so much more grace.