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If You Want to Look Like Jesus, Start With Forgiveness




In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey states, “Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not settle all questions of blame and fairness—often it pointedly evades those questions—but it does allow a relationship to start over, to begin anew.”

As a child, I often sensed something was missing in my life. I had amazing grandparents and an incredible aunt who supported virtually every endeavor I pursued. They showed up at every basketball or baseball game I played in, every quiz bowl, and talent show, no matter how far they had to travel to do so. While they were present and consistent, my father was not. I can’t remember a major moment when he showed up: over the years, mounting disappointment led to a hardened heart and resentment towards him.  

My relationship with my father remained fractured throughout my adolescence as I began to seek male guidance and acceptance. Fortunately, I had other male mentors who showed up in my life when I desperately needed to be affirmed and taught how to be a man, but this did nothing to ease the sense of frustration with the lack of involvement of my father. After I married and became a father, my father’s lack of involvement became even harder to fathom; I couldn’t imagine not being there for my kids, especially my son.  

Later in the same book, Yancey stated, “Forgiveness is not the same as pardon…you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.” 

One day, while processing my father’s lack of involvement with my mentor, he asked me a question I never thought to ask my father: Why? Why weren’t you involved? Why didn’t you show up? Why didn’t you care? My mentor didn’t just encourage me to ask my father those questions; he told me to forgive him, not for his sake, but for my own. I knew this would be difficult after years of holding on to my right to be angry, but it was necessary for any reconciliation or redemption of our relationship.  

I did the work to forgive my father. It was difficult; it took months of counseling, personal reflection, and realizing that I had been forgiven on a much grander scale. If Jesus forgave my sinfulness, how could I not be willing to offer forgiveness to others? 

At the end of the day, there is nothing that my father could say that would erase decades of frustration, disappointment, and hurt. Yet, as a believer, I knew one of the greatest indicators that I am a follower of Jesus whose life has been changed through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on my behalf is that I can forgive those who have wronged me without expecting anything from them.  

Forgiveness is far more than a means to mend broken relationships with others; it is godly. 

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

John 3:16-17 

Genuine, underserved, unreciprocated forgiveness is godly. God didn’t say before Jesus could come on our behalf that we must make things right with Him; He knew we couldn’t do such a feat, so he showed us forgiveness on a level we can’t truly comprehend. He showed us grace. God’s grace, or undeserved favor, can’t be earned and is impossible to grasp, but he gave it to all who believe in Jesus. He forgave. 

Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of a servant who owed a king a massive debt. A debt so large it would be impossible for the servant to repay. Faced with what could only be described as complete ruin, the servant fell to his knees before the king and begged for patience, offering to pay back everything he owed. At this, the king took pity on the man, forgave his entire debt, and let him go. 

Amazing! The king showed the servant mercy and grace and forgave his debt. However, the story doesn’t end there. The servant forgiven was owed a far lesser debt from a fellow servant. Instead of extending the same grace and forgiveness he was given, the forgiven servant grabs the debtor and demands him to repay his debt. When the debtor similarly begs for mercy, he isn’t met with mercy; he is imprisoned for his unpaid debt.

Word of what occurred would make its way to the king. The king, deeply disturbed by the lack of mercy exhibited by the servant, revokes his earlier forgiveness and has the servant handed over to the jailer to face the full weight of his debt. This powerful parable speaks to the forgiveness we’ve been shown by God the Father and how we should extend grace to others. 

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. 

Matthew 18:35

God has not called us to forgive just because it’s a nice thing; rather, he expects us to forgive because He forgave us—specifically, forgiveness from our hearts. This type of forgiveness is deeper. It doesn’t expect to be paid back. It’s genuine and complete. 

To be completely transparent, I struggled to do this with my father; the disappointment, frustration, and hurt were deep-rooted. But I remembered who I am: a child of God because of God’s undeserved forgiveness, which he bestowed upon me. How am I representing Him if I don’t forgive? So, I did. While my relationship with my father is still a work in progress, I have a peace about our relationship that I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Why? Because forgiveness from the heart has a way of softening the heart and healing the hurt.

Here are five points I hope you can take away from this article:

  1.     God has forgiven you, so you should forgive others.
  2.     To forgive is to show others compassion.
  3.     There is a consequence of unforgiveness. 
  4.     Forgiveness is a choice and demonstrates the condition of your heart.
  5.     Forgiveness does not guarantee reconciliation, but it does open the door to the possibility.

Forgiveness is a worthy endeavor. It’s more than a sweet or caring gesture; it’s biblical and godlike. 

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Scripture References

  • John 3:16-17
  • Matthew 18:21-35
Genaro Lawhorn Genaro "G" Lawhorn works on staff at Passion City Church Trilith as the Director of Family Ministries. After graduating from Guilford College, G received a Master's Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. With over sixteen years of vocational ministry experience, G is passionate about sharing the gospel. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Neosha, and their three children. He loves playing golf, basketball, and watching soccer.