A lot of people are confused what forgiveness truly means, says Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Because of this, they go through all kinds of misconceptions about forgiveness and hold "onto past hurts at an unhealthy level."
"The Bible clearly calls us to forgive others. Galatians 6:1 says, 'Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted,'" Warren writes in an article for Charisma News.
Since God expects Christians to forgive others, how does one go about doing so? What does biblical forgiveness look like? According to Warren, here are the four steps people should take in order to truly forgive:
1. Recognise no one is perfect.
"When we hate somebody, we tend to lose our perspective about that person. When we're filled with resentment, bitterness and hurt, we tend to dehumanise the offender. We treat them like an animal. But we're all in the same boat," says Warren.
Even the Bible reminds people that no one is free from sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: "For there is not a righteous man on earth who only does good and refrains from sin." (Eccl. 7:20)..
2. Relinquish your right to get even.
Warren says that someone who really wants to forgive other people is not bent on getting vengeance. Even though a person deserves justice, Christians must not commit to carry out revenge plots. It might not be fair, but it will be healthy for a person spiritually and emotionally.
"This isn't a one-time decision but a daily one that may even require moment-by-moment decisions," says Warren.
3. Respond to the evil with good.
"This is how you know you've fully released someone from the wrong that has been committed against you," says Warren. Of course, this is nearly impossible because humans fall short of God's goodness. But with His help, Jesus will be able to fill all the gaps so that goodness will prevail.
4. Refocus on God's plan for your life.
First of all, people must stop focusing on the wrong things inflicted on them and focus instead on God's purpose in their lives. Warren assures that this is greater than any problem a person might be facing.
"As long as you continue to focus on the person who has hurt you, that person controls you. In fact, you can take it a step further. If you don't release your offender, you will begin to resemble your offender," warns Warren.