Little kids are quicker to forgive than anyone I have ever met.
I am not a perfect parent, a fact no one knows that better than my kids. I seek the Lord daily for wisdom when it comes to parenting, but I mess up, and when I do I make it a point to seek their forgiveness. As quickly as I can say “please forgive me” they wrap their arms around me and say “I forgive you!”
I, however, find it difficult to forgive others when I have been wronged. Sometimes it is easier to stay angry.
The Apostle Paul knew better than most what it felt like to be betrayed by those closest to him. He tells Timothy of one instance of betrayal.
At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me… 2 Timothy 6:16a
What Paul referred to was the first major phase in sentencing him to death, a time when friends would be expected to come to his defense, but no one stood with him. At a time of desperate need the people he had risked everything for were no-shows.
Paul’s response was unlike any that we would have had in the same situation:
…May it not be charged against them. 2 Timothy 6:16b
The situation called for resentment, but Paul chose grace. Anger was justified, but Paul chose forgiveness.
The verses that follow give us four keys to extending forgiveness:
1. Understand your position in Christ. “but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”(v. 17)
Paul was far-sighted enough to see that no matter what others around him did, the Lord would stand beside him, never leaving nor forsaking him. When we take hold of the fact that the Lord will stand with us, it makes it easier to extend grace to those who betray us.
2. Stay focused on the true purpose behind your circumstances. “…that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.” (v. 17)
Not only did Paul understand his position in Christ, he understood his purpose. We must always keep in mind the purpose behind our difficult situations. Doing this helps us realize how important it is to God’s plan for us to extend grace and move on.
3. Remember the grace that Christ extended to you. “Also I was also delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”(v. 17)
Notice the past-tense of the word “delivered.” He remembered that God had shown him a tremendous amount of grace in his past, making it much easier to extend grace himself.
4. Understand that His grace continues. “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.”(V. 18)
Paul realized that grace is not just for the past, but for the future as well. This is a constant reminder that we ourselves are in constant need of grace.
Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.