“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
As a young child, it was my heart’s desire to please my dad and make him proud. When I was in middle school, I was heading to meet my friends when my dad caught a glimpse of my skirt and called me into the living room to talk about the appropriateness of my outfit. As a rule-follower who rarely got in trouble, I was devastated. I will never forget how my heart sank when I felt like I had disappointed my daddy.
When I think of that distant, middle school memory and the longing I had to please my earthly dad, I cannot help but think how much more we should want to do everything we can and know to do to please our Savior–– including forgive those who hurt us.
Yet, forgiveness is often easier to talk about than practice, even for pastors’ wives. When our husbands are criticized, people leave our church, and others set unrealistic expectations for us or our children, our hearts are wounded. These scenarios can make forgiveness challenging and forming friendships undesirable because of the risks of being hurt. But it is still God’s expectation that we forgive. Thus, we do need to know why and how to do so.
Why Do We Forgive?
First, we are called to forgive because we have a forgiving God (Ephesians 4:32). Second, we can and should forgive because we are empowered to do what God calls us to (2 Peter 1:3). And finally, we forgive because we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus and now live to serve him (1 Corinthians 6:20).
How Do We Forgive?
Many people do not forgive because they do not know how to get to that place of forgiveness. So, I want to suggest five steps to help us practice forgiveness as pastors’ wives.
1. Confess Your Own Sin to the Lord and Ask for His Forgiveness
In Matthew 7:4-5, Jesus tells us to take the “log” out of our eye before confronting the “speck” in another’s eye. Before we confront the sins of others, we must confess our own sin to the Lord. This step is so crucial that if we do not focus on our own sin and our need for forgiveness, we will struggle to forgive others. We must remember that in comparison with the perfection and holiness of God, we fall short. We are great sinners (Isaiah 53:5).
But here is the good news––1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess our sin to the Lord, he will forgive us. Once we confess our sins to the Lord and receive his forgiveness, our hearts are softened and prepared to extend forgiveness to others.
2. Choose to Forgive in the Context of Prayer
In Matthew 6:12, Jesus teaches us to pray in this way: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” It is important to practice the discipline of speaking our forgiveness of others in the presence of God naming (1) the offender, (2) the offense, and (3) the damage he has done. As we talk the details out to the Lord, our hearts will begin to heal.
3. Release Your Offender to God Trusting Him to Enact Justice
Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” The Bible forbids revenge, so it is not an option no matter how horrible the offense against us. Instead we must release our offender to God, trusting he will enact justice in his timing.
4. Choose Either to Overlook the Sin or Confront the Offender
Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” While we recognize a sin has been committed against us, it should be our default to overlook or minimize someone’s sin privately in prayer (Proverbs 10:12; 12:16; 17:9, 14; 1 Peter 4:8).
Yet we also see throughout Scripture there are times when God calls us to confront (Proverbs 9:8, 27:5-6; Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). In Luke 17:3, Jesus says, “If your brother sins; rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Confrontation is not comfortable for most of us. But Proverbs 27:6 tells us a true friend is actually willing to wound a friend through the ministry of reproof. Each time we are offended, we need to wisely and prayerfully decide whether or not we need to bring the matter up to the one who offended us.
5. Choose to Do Practical Good to Your Offender
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” While this idea might sound unreasonable to you if you are in a place of hurt, Romans 12:20 tells us the evil others do against us, as well as the evil in our hearts, is overcome when we take this step of forgiveness. It is a huge help in the process of reconciliation for the repentant offender. And for the unrepentant, it is our hope that kindness will bring about his repentance (Romans 2:4).
So, let me ask you, sweet friend and pastor’s wife—where are you in your journey to forgiveness? Even if your heart is not in a place where you are excited about forgiving, it is my prayer you are willing to grow in your practice of forgiveness, knowing you are called and empowered to forgive. I do not know about you, but I want to hear my Lord Jesus say, “Well, done good and faithful servant. I put you in the ministry, and you were hurt a lot, but you forgave well.” May it be our hearts’ passion as pastors’ wives to do that which is pleasing to Christ by practicing the ministry forgiveness.