The first and most important step in forgiving someone else is remembering how much we need forgiveness: It is only through pride that we could hold a grudge against someone else. When someone wrongs me it's so easy to think ". . . how could they . . . they need to apologize to me first . . . I don't deserve this . . ."
When in fact I do deserve it--we all deserve the very worst.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
I know that I was broken and lost before I knew Christ, but my heart winces at the description of who I once was: Dead. Following the ways of the world. Gratifying the cravings of my sinful nature. The object of wrath. This is the bleakest way to describe the brokenness in those that don't know Christ. And I once was one of them.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
I did absolutely nothing to deserve God's forgiveness. When I was still dead, an object of God's wrath because of my wickedness; that's when He saved me and He gave me life. God did showed me grace so that His grace will be shown through my life... but how is it shown? God's grace is exemplified in my life when I humiliate myself and remember what I was saved from--when I truly forgive.
Now that I remember my wretchedness, the next step is is forgiving someone else.
Forgiveness is so much more than words spilling from your lips as you tell someone that they're forgiven--forgiveness comes from the heart, and forgiveness is complete. Once you forgive someone, that sin is gone. You've wiped clean their impact on you, and you can no longer hold any hatred or pain over them.
This seems like a good idea in print, but in practical life it seems a little extreme. How do you forgive someone that killed a family member? How do you forgive the person that cheated on you? We so easily justify our grudges when it comes to the deepest pains in our lives, but the Bible doesn't allow room in the margins: It's about radical forgiveness.
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matt. 5:39) --- Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) --- But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:13)
When someone hurts you, forgive them; let them hurt you again, and forgive them again. In love. Any sin that someone else commits against you pales in comparison to the sins that God has forgiven us for. We wallowed in unpardonable sin, and through Christ's sacrifice we were pardoned.
I won't pretend that I have this all figured out... when it comes to forgiving others, I still grapple with when to surrender and forgive. But God is teaching me forgiveness and working in my heart as I forgive those who have hurt me.
As you walk away from this, I hope you're asking yourself: who do you still need to forgive??