Most us need a second chance from time to time. Maybe it was at swinging a baseball bat, riding a bike, taking a test or falling in love. As we look back over life, we can all recall a time when we wish we could say, “Do over!” That is exactly the point of forgiveness.
    The Bible is filled with story after story about forgiveness. And though you would agree there are times when you need forgiveness, you would have to admit that giving forgiveness is hard to do. When a friend betrays our confidence, a coworker slanders our reputation or someone physically or emotionally abuses us, forgiveness is hard. But the exciting truth is that forgiveness can be learned; and as with all learning, forgiveness takes time and much practice.
    {mosimage}One key to learning to forgive is learning to handle your anger. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26, “be angry and do not sin.” Being angry is not in itself a sin. The sin comes in how we manage that anger, what we do with it. Our words can often be very damaging. Our actions and responses can also be damaging. Instead of being hurtful and harmful, seek to restore the relationship. In the same passage, Paul says to “speak the truth.” A final lesson on managing anger is learning to deal with it swiftly. Paul closes out verse 26 saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” In other words, deal quickly with the issue so that anger does not brew and make you bitter.
    A second key to learning to forgive is learning to build up instead of tear down. Forgiveness is an active response. When we forgive someone, we are seeking to not only restore them, but to build them up. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “no rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.” Words can tear down, but words can also build up. This is not referring to puffing up someone’s low self-esteem. Rather, encourage them with your words. Tell them they are forgiven. Affirm their intentions although their actions may have been premature.
    And the final key to learning to forgive, which really is the first key, is to remember that God has forgiven you.         There are times when you will be hurt by someone who does not deserve your forgiveness. Perhaps their offense to you has never been paid for, restituted, or even acknowledged … forgive them anyway. Why? Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:32, “forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, our offenses toward him had never been paid for, restituted, or even acknowledged by us…but he died to forgive us anyway.
    Go and do likewise this week. Find someone who needs your forgiveness, and give them a second chance. Aren’t you glad God gave you one?
    The Rev. Chris Dickerson is the pastor at Green Springs Baptist Church.
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