Summary: During the war in Kosovo in 1999, three Americans were captured and held hostage for more than a month. After intense negotiations, a breakthrough occurred and the prisoners were allowed to go free.

How The Holy Spirit Helps Us Receive and Give Forgiveness

Ephesians 1:7-1:18 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)

Let the Holy Spirit Help You Give and Receive Forgiveness (Eph. 1:7-18)

Illustration: Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. . --Ephesians 4:32

During the war in Kosovo in 1999, three Americans were captured and held hostage for more than a month. After intense negotiations, a breakthrough occurred and the prisoners were allowed to go free.

Roy Lloyd was part of the delegation that secured their release. He reported, "Each of the three young soldiers was very religious. One of them, Christopher Stone, would not leave until he was allowed to go back to the soldier who served as his guard and pray for him."

Here was a young man who knew something about the principles of Jesus. He could have resented his circumstances and hated his captors. He could have developed a bitter, vengeful spirit. He could have carried a burning rage out of that difficulty. But following the command of Jesus (Matthew 5:44) and the example of Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:25-34), he forgave his captor and ministered to him.

In a world where retaliation is common, believers are called to be different. We are to pray for our persecutors, forgive them, and minister to them.

Jesus’ principles for His followers are challenging, but with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us we can choose to have a forgiving spirit. —DCE

For Further Study

Why should we forgive? (Matthew 6:14-15).

Whom should we forgive? (Luke 17:3-4).

How can we forgive? (Galatians 5:22-25).

We are never more Christlike than when we choose to forgive. (Our Daily Bread)

1. The Holy Spirit helps us understand, appreciate and live out God’s unconditional forgiveness in Christ. Paul wrote, "In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." (Eph. 1:7) Ask the Lord to help you more fully understand, appreciate and live out the truth of God’s forgiveness and grace.

2. The Holy Spirit teaches us that unless we learn to forgive others God will not restore our fellowship with Him. Jesus said, "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matt. 6:15) Ask the Lord to help you to stop holding grudges, resentment or anything against anyone so as not to hinder your fellowship with the heavenly Father.

3. The Holy Spirit allows the grace of Christ’s forgiveness to penetrate to all the corners of our emotions, mind and perceptions. Many people only allow God’s grace to be appreciated on an intellectual level without it piercing to all the layers of their emotions, attitudes, and perceptions. These people tend to be very critical of others because they have not fully appreciated how much God has forgiven them. Paul encountered such people in the Galatian church when he wrote,

"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?... It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 4:8,9; Gal 5:1)

Application: Ask the Lord to help you allow Christ’s forgiveness, grace and freedom to penetrate to all the dimensions and layers of your life, relationships and ministries.

4. The Holy Spirit helps us forgive others as He teaches us to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy." (Matt. 5:7) Ask the Lord to help you to be less critical, judgmental and harsh with people remembering how much God overlooks your faults.

5. The Holy Spirit helps us heal from past rejections, accusations and abuses through His grace. We all have experienced terrible adversity in our past experiences. Instead of dwelling on these past hurts the Holy Spirit has a way of using them to give us greater empathy for those who are going through similar hardships. Paul wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Cor. 1:3,4)

Ask the Lord to help you heal emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and spiritually from your past hurts. David wrote, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psa. 147:3)

6. The Holy Spirit convicts us when we try to have a higher standard than God for accepting others. Paul wrote, "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:3,4)

Application: Thank the Lord that He has given you the Holy Spirit to be the determiner of what is proper, appropriate and beneficial for each individual.

7. The Holy Spirit helps us to resist the temptation to be vengeful while helping us to live by the Golden Rule - Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31) Jesus said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... Love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great." (Luke 6:27-35)

Application: Ask the Lord to give you a greater appreciation of His unconditional love and forgiveness so you can treat even your opposition the way Jesus would if He were in your shoes.

8. The Holy Spirit helps you to avoid reacting out of your hurt emotions and directs you to objectively think before you speak, act or respond. The Holy Spirit has a way of transforming us through the power of the word of God so that we are able to respond in love even when provoked. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21) Ask the Lord to help you overcome any persecution complex.

9. The Holy Spirit helps you take responsibility for your own faults and failures without succumbing to the temptation to blame others.

James wrote, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:1-8)

Ask the Lord to help you take full responsibility for your own faults, failures and improper attitudes.

Conclusion: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. --Eph. 4:32

If somebody killed your child, could you ever forgive him? By God’s grace the raging desire for revenge might eventually die down within our hearts, but most of us would probably prefer never to see that person again nor to help him in any way.

Yet that was not the reaction of Walter Everett, a Methodist pastor in Hartford, Connecticut. When Michael Carlucci was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Everett’s son, the bereaved father set an example that challenges all of us who claim Christ as Savior.

Walter said he forgave Michael because people "won’t be able to understand why Jesus came and what Jesus is all about unless we forgive." Was that mere rhetoric? Not in the least! Michael became a believer while in jail, and when he was released and wanted to be married, Walter performed the ceremony.

If we have experienced the wonder of God’s forgiveness, we will forgive others as He has forgiven us through Christ (Mt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32). It may require an agonizing emotional struggle and fervent prayer on our part. And full restoration of the relationship may not occur. But with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we can forgive--because we are forgiven. --VCG

Forgive we now each other’s faults

As we our faults confess,

And let us love each other well

In Christian holiness. --Westendorf

We can stop forgiving others

when Christ stops forgiving us. (Our Daily Bread)