Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? While some dreams have no meaning or make absolutely no sense — probably most of mine — I can recall a small handful of dreams in my lifetime that I felt were truly from God. I believe that one in particular was used to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.
The dream centered on an offense that had happened about four years prior. I will not share the details, but it was a big one. An offense that the world would say is unforgivable. Although many people would tell me that they completely understood why I would be hurt, as a Christian, I knew I couldn’t harbor bitterness in my heart. I needed to be like Jesus. I had had several conversations with one of the offenders and had prayed many prayers about forgiving everyone involved. In my mind, I was good. But this dream told me otherwise.
In my dream, I saw one of the people who had hurt me. When I saw them, I felt my face and chest get hot. I was overcome with rage and began running towards them, screaming. Obviously, I hadn’t forgiven this person. But then came the even stranger part. As I was screaming, I started punching MYSELF in the face. Blow after blow after blow.
“Whoa, what was that!?” I thought to myself as I woke up in a sweat. Then I felt the Lord speak to my spirit, “You haven’t forgiven them, and your unforgiveness is hurting only one person … YOU. Let it go. Put it under the blood of my Son. These are the kind of things He died for.”
Jesus died for all sin. His death and resurrection was for all the penalties of sin, for the offender and the offended. To set us free from our own sins, as well as from the hurt and pain the sin of others can cause us. His redemption is for both ends of the spectrum.
It’s no wonder then that in Matthew 18:21, 22 Jesus explains to Peter that there is no limit to forgiveness: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’ ”
The world will tell us that only certain things are forgivable. If someone crosses over the line, then we are to write them off as a person and to ban them from our lives and our love. This is not what the Bible teaches us. Should we sometimes set up healthy boundaries to protect us, our families, and even those who wrong us? Absolutely. However, we are called to be like Christ and to allow His love, truth, and forgiveness to flow from our lives.
Through this journey of learning to apply genuine forgiveness in my own difficult situation, here are a few more specific things that I took away and now try to think about when an occasion may arise.
1. Forgiveness is a heart issue.
Through my dream, the Lord revealed to me that I was still hurting on the inside. In my situation, I had “forgiven” these people. I had prayed about it, and even told them that I forgave them. But there were still wounds I was holding onto inside that became evident in my dream. I realized that I needed to “forgive from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).
This means that I couldn’t just say I forgave these people with my words and allow wrong feelings to fester. In all honesty, in my attempt to forgive, instead of dealing with my pain and anger, I had been simply pushing down the angry thoughts, allowing them to sink down deeper. To forgive from the heart, I needed to choose to let go of my resentment and bitterness and turn these thoughts and feelings over to Jesus.
2. Forgiveness is often an ongoing process.
Even after we have chosen to fully forgive a person, one of the enemy’s schemes is to remind us of the wrongs that others have committed against us at a later time. He whispers in our ears, “Remember what they did to you? They haven’t changed. How can you love someone like that?” When these kinds of thoughts arise, we have the choice to either agree with him or to instead align ourselves with God’s Word.
We must take those thoughts captive each time they surface and remember that Jesus can redeem anyone. Forgiveness is often not simply a one time thing. We have to continue to forgive. In every instance that follows where wrong thoughts arise, we need to challenge these thoughts and replace them with truth so that we can continue to walk in forgiveness.
3. Forgiveness releases Christ’s power and glory.
Forgiveness does not only bring healing and a positive change in our lives. When we offer forgiveness to others, we invite them into the same love and grace that we have found in Christ ourselves. We invite those around us to change by becoming a display of His transforming grace in situations that would otherwise be a mess. When we bear with each other and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13), we will stand out and bring other people to ask the question, “How could you forgive something like that?!”
In my own situation, when I truly gave my offense to Jesus, He set me free to live in His love again, and to reveal Him in a mighty way. Forgiving my friend genuinely from the heart enabled me to be filled with love and compassion for them. And this extension of God’s love brought about a change in our relationship. Shortly after, I also noticed a change in my friend. Within a few months, we found ourselves in a place of full restoration, hugging, crying, and praying together.
Only my Jesus could do that.
Not every relationship will necessarily end this way. Sometimes people may not even see that they have hurt us. Sometimes people may feel that they are justified in their actions. Regardless of the response or outcome, our call to forgive is the same.
Knowing this, whether the offense is big or small, let’s forgive those who hurt or wrong us and allow Christ’s forgiveness to change us all.