“Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.”—COLOSSIANS 3:13.
1, 2. Why should you think about whether you are willing to forgive others?
THE Bible helps us to learn what Jehovah thinks of sin and how he reacts when we sin. But it also tells us about his willingness to forgive. In the previous article, we learned why Jehovah forgave David and Manasseh. They were very sorry about what they had done, confessed to Jehovah, and were determined not to repeat their sins. They were truly repentant, so Jehovah was again willing to show them favor.
2 Let us now discuss our own willingness to forgive others. How would you have felt if one of your relatives had died because of what Manasseh did? Would you have been able to forgive Manasseh? Today, we live in a wicked, violent, and selfish world. Why should we learn to be forgiving? If you are treated badly, what can help you to control your emotions, react the way Jehovah would want you to, and be willing to forgive?
WHY WE NEED TO BE FORGIVING
3-5. (a) What story did Jesus use to show us that we need to be forgiving? (b) What do we need to learn from Jesus’ words at Matthew 18:21-35?
3 We must be willing to forgive those who offend us, whether they are part of the Christian congregation or not. Doing this helps us to keep peace with our family members, our friends, other people, and Jehovah. The Bible shows that we are required to forgive others no matter how often they offend us. Jesus told a story about a slave who owed his master a lot of money, and this story helps us to see why we must be forgiving.
4 The slave owed his master so much money that it would take him 60 million days of work to pay it back. His master forgave him and told him that he did not have to pay the money back. But what would this slave do in a similar situation? He had loaned money to another slave. It was the amount of money that a worker could earn in only 100 days. He refused to forgive that slave and demanded that he pay the money back. The second slave begged for more time to pay the money back, but the first slave had him put into prison. The master, who had shown mercy to the first slave, got very angry. He told the first slave that he should have shown mercy to the other man. So the master had the slave put into prison until he could pay all the money back.—Matthew 18:21-34.
5 What does Jesus want us to learn from this story? He explained that Jehovah will not be willing to forgive us if we do not truly forgive others. (Matthew 18:35) We are imperfect and sin often. It is not possible for us to obey Jehovah perfectly. But he is willing to forgive us. In fact, he is willing to act as if our sins never happened. So if we want to be a friend of Jehovah, we must forgive other people. This is what Jesus meant when he said in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matthew 6:14, 15.
6. Why is it not always easy to forgive?
6 You probably agree that we should forgive other people, but you may feel that it is not always easy to do so. That is because we can have strong emotions when we have been offended by others. For example, we might feel angry or betrayed. Maybe we feel that we need to make sure the person is punished for what he did, or maybe we want to make him suffer as we have. We might be so upset that we feel we will never be able to forgive the other person. If you have similar feelings, what can you do so that you can be willing to forgive others, as Jehovah asks us to do?
UNDERSTAND WHY YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU DO
7, 8. What can help you to be forgiving when someone treats you unkindly?
7 When we are treated badly or think that we have been treated badly, we can get very upset. One young man described what happened once when he got very angry: ‘I walked out of the house and said I would never come back. It was a sunny summer day, and I walked down a lovely little road. In this quiet and beautiful place, I started to calm down. Later, I went back home, feeling sorry that I got so angry.’ If you take some time to calm down as this man did, you can think about your situation more clearly instead of responding in a way that you will later regret.—Psalm 4:4; Proverbs 14:29; James 1:19, 20.
Bible principles and prayer can help you to change your feelings
8 But what should you do if you still are upset even after you took time to calm down? Think about why you are upset. Is it because what happened was unjust? Is it because someone was not polite to you? Or is it because you think that the other person tried to hurt you on purpose? Was what he or she did really so bad? If you try to figure out why you got upset, you can figure out what Bible principles will help you to change those feelings. Then you can react in a way Jehovah approves. (Read Proverbs 15:28; 17:27.) When you think carefully about the facts instead of about your feelings, you may be more willing to forgive. Even though this can be difficult, the Bible can help you to understand your real feelings about the situation and to imitate Jehovah’s willingness to forgive.—Hebrews 4:12.
SHOULD YOU FEEL OFFENDED?
9, 10. (a) How might you react when you feel offended? (b) How will you feel if you learn not to be quickly offended and are willing to forgive people?
9 There are many situations that can make a person angry. For example, while you are driving, maybe another driver nearly drives into your car. How will you react? Some people get so angry that they attack the other driver. But as a Christian, you would certainly not want to do that.
We may not know all the reasons someone made a mistake
10 It would be much better to think before reacting. Maybe you did something wrong when you were driving because you were distracted. Or maybe the other driver had a problem with his car. We can be less angry or upset about the mistakes of other people if we try to understand why the mistakes happened, realize that we may not know all the reasons for the mistakes, and are willing to forgive. We should not be easily offended. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” Many times we may think that others have done something on purpose to offend us. But because they are imperfect, they really just made a mistake. Or we may not have understood what really happened. So try to remember that you may not know all the facts about what someone does or says. Be willing to show love for the person and to forgive him. You will be happier if you do this.—Read 1 Peter 4:8.
‘MAY YOUR PEACE RETURN TO YOU’
11. How should we feel no matter how people respond to us in the ministry?
11 How can you maintain self-control if someone is rude to you while you are in field service? When Jesus sent out 70 preachers, he told them to say to every family they visited: “May this house have peace.” He continued: “If a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you.” (Luke 10:1, 5, 6) We are happy when people accept the good news we preach, because they will benefit from it. But sometimes people are not peaceable. What should we do then? Jesus said that we should still feel peaceful. We should be able to leave each door feeling peaceful inside, no matter how the householder treated us. If we got upset because the householder was unkind, we could not continue to have the peace Jesus talked about.
12. According to Paul’s words at Ephesians 4:31, 32, how should we act?
12 Do your best to feel peaceful in all situations, not just in the Christian ministry. You may be willing to forgive others, but that does not mean that you have to approve of their wrong conduct or pretend that it does not hurt others. But it does mean that you should not continue to feel upset because of their wrong conduct. You have to try to feel peaceful inside. Some people think constantly about the bad things that have happened to them and do not feel peaceful. Do not let anger control you. You cannot be happy if you stay angry with other people. So be willing to forgive!—Read Ephesians 4:31, 32.
REACT IN A WAY THAT PLEASES JEHOVAH
13. (a) How does a Christian “heap fiery coals” on his enemy’s head? (b) What may happen when we react mildly to someone who treats us badly?
13 There may be times when someone who is not a Christian has treated you badly. But you may be able to help him to be interested in what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul wrote: “‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:20, 21) When you are polite even when people are angry with you, they may change their attitude and even act kindly. If you show understanding and compassion to the person who is treating you badly, you might make him want to learn more about the Bible. No matter how he responds, your mild and kind actions could make the person wonder why you are different.—1 Peter 2:12; 3:16.
14. Why should you be willing to forgive, even when a person has treated you very badly?
14 There are some people with whom we should not associate. For example, we should not associate with people who are disfellowshipped. They were removed from the congregation because they committed a serious sin and were not repentant. If you have been hurt because someone committed a serious sin, it may be very difficult for you to forgive him. Even if he repents, you may still feel very hurt because of what happened. If you are in this situation, you should keep asking Jehovah to help you to be willing to forgive the one who committed the sin. This is important because you can never really know what the other person thinks or feels. But Jehovah knows. He knows each person’s most secret feelings, and he is patient with people who sin. (Psalm 7:9; Proverbs 17:3) That is why the Bible tells us not to treat other people badly, even if they have hurt us. It says: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Romans 12:17-19) We cannot know all that Jehovah knows, and the Bible tells us not to judge others. (Matthew 7:1, 2) But you can be confident that Jehovah will judge correctly.
15. What will help us to feel less angry with a person who has treated us badly?
15 If you find it difficult to forgive someone who has treated you badly, it may help you to remember that he too is coping with something very difficult. Just like us, he was born imperfect. (Romans 3:23) Jehovah feels sorry for all mankind because they are all imperfect. So we should pray for the person who has hurt us. When we are praying for someone, we become less angry with that person. Jesus made it clear that we should not stay angry with others even when they have treated us badly. He said: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matthew 5:44.
16, 17. How should you react when Christian elders decide that a sinner is repentant? Why?
16 Jehovah has given Christian elders the responsibility to decide whether a person who has committed a serious sin is repentant or not. These brothers do not know everything that God knows about each situation, but they try to make a decision based on what the Bible says and with the help of holy spirit. So when they pray to Jehovah to help them make a decision, we can be sure that their decision agrees with Jehovah’s thinking.—Matthew 18:18.
17 In a situation like this, we have to be loyal. We should trust the way Jehovah handles the problem and accept the decision the elders make. When the elders decide that a person is repentant, will you forgive him and show that you still love him? (2 Corinthians 2:5-8) This may not be easy, especially if his sin hurt you or a member of your family. But if you trust in Jehovah and his way of handling these problems in the congregation, you will do the right thing. You will show that you really are willing to forgive others.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
18. How will you benefit if you are willing to forgive?
18 We will have many benefits when we are willing to forgive. It helps us to feel better because we let go of anger and sadness. And it helps us to have better relationships with other people. But if we are not willing to forgive, it can make us feel sick and stressed. This can make it difficult for us to get along with others. But the most important benefit of being willing to forgive is that we will have a good relationship with our heavenly Father, Jehovah.—Read Colossians 3:12-14.