One of the hardest things we’ll ever face as followers of Christ is Jesus’s command in Luke 6:27: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
Cultivating a love for those who have wronged us is the work of the Holy Spirit; but we have a part to play as well. After all, we can’t love those whom we haven’t forgiven. So how do we let go of unforgiveness? Instead of offering a multitude of tips or practical advice, let’s start here: we release unforgiveness by looking at the example of Jesus.
Consider this: in every way that we will ever be hurt or offended, Jesus was as well. When you are betrayed, remember that Jesus was. When we are falsely accused, remember that Jesus was. When you are humiliated, misunderstood, wronged, and abused, remember that Jesus was.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take the necessary actions to protect ourselves and others. After all, forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation, forgetting what happened, or condoning the wrongs committed against us. But this DOES mean that we have a responsibility to show love towards others even in the midst of being wronged. While it’s so much easier to take the bait of unforgiveness—bitterness, resentment, hatred—Jesus did not.
Jesus didn’t take the bait. Even when He was rejected, abused, humiliated, hanging on the cross, He loved. Satan was hoping He would take the bait. Instead, He said, “Father, forgive them. For they don’t know what they’re doing.” In the midst of all of His pain, and the injustice shown to Him, Jesus didn’t take the bait.
In that moment, Jesus taught us that the hurt, pain, and disappointment we face will only go on as long as we are unwilling to forgive. The good news is this: Because He didn’t take the bait, we have His power inside of us to stand up to temptation. We have the power to forgive instead of choosing bitterness, resentment, and hatred. While we’ll still be wronged in this world (and wrong others), His power inside of us gives us the ability to move on from these wrongs, forgive, and love those who have fallen short.
After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.