We must live a lifestyle of loving others unconditionally in order for our faith to work (Galatians 5:6) and remember faith (1) is essential for our prayers to be effective. This is because by loving others when they do not deserve it we cause our own spiritual hearts to believe that God loves us enough to help even when we do not deserve it. The result is our having the confidence to ask God for what we need, want, and desire independent of our circumstances. However, loving others must not be just words alone but rather with actions that are done without false pretense and conditions (1 John 3:18-24. James 2:15,16).
This principle can be seen in the fact that we hinder our prayer life when we do not walk in love with our spouses because faith works by love (Malachi 2:13-17. 1 Peter 3:7). Remember, without faith, we cannot receive anything from God including healing (James 1:6,7. James 5:16).
As Christians, we are to be willing to die not only physically but have the attitude of dying spiritually, without Christ, so that others might attain salvation (John 13:34. John 15:13. Romans 9:3. Exodus 32:30-32). We will never be asked to do this, nor could we, but this must be the attitude of our heart. This is how the world will know that Christians are different – by God’s love in our lives – not by anything else (John 13:35).
The definition of this unconditional love of God (1) can be found in these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Furthermore, this describes God for He is love Himself (1 John 4:8).
We cultivate this lifestyle of loving others in learning the Bible by spiritual heart (1 John 2:5. 1 Timothy 1:5). Then the Holy Spirit will keep our spiritual hearts full of the unconditional love of God so that we might give it to others (Romans 5:5. Luke 6:27-38). Furthermore, this love of God in our spiritual hearts will result in our generous giving to others (2 Corinthians 9:7). When we give generously to others then our hearts will be ready to receive our answers to prayer generously (Galatians 6:7).
We have more to do with the forgiveness of others and ourselves than we have ever realized. For example, if we refuse to forgive – others or ourselves – then God will not forgive us (Mark 11:25. Matthew 6:15). Furthermore, in this condition there is nothing others can do to help you as evidenced by God’s instructions to not even pray for a fellow Christian in this condition of un-forgiveness:
If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. (1 John 5:16)
Why? Again, because we stop our own forgiveness from God when we fail to forgive others! (Matthew 18:21-35) Without living to forgive others we walk in condemnation and fear of judgment; therefore, we lack the confidence and faith to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer.
Forgiving and accepting others simply means that we won’t hold them accountable to us for their failures. We continue to respond to them with grace, mercy-love, and compassion. It does not mean we become doormats for everyone to walk over or ignore their actions.
Forgiveness frees us from the destruction others cause. We can forgive someone who is abusive without continuing to subject ourselves to that abuse. Furthermore, forgiveness does not mean we should keep silent if that person seeks to hurt others.
Forgiveness does not absolve people of their responsibility to us. Forgiveness does absolve people of their accountability to us. However, they are still accountable to a merciful and just God for what they have done.
Forgiveness protects our relationships from the damage of the past. It frees us from the demand for perfection as it overlooks faults and offenses. If we are constantly receiving the forgiveness of God we will naturally stop holding others to a standard they cannot meet by themselves.
Remember that hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by others. Be quick to forgive realizing that love melts pain (Proverbs 25:21,22. Romans 12:19-21).
In Bible times an oriental needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to ensure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbor for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container, oriental fashion, back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness. If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning. The one injured would be returning kindness for injury. (2)
Be ready to accept others where they are. Be willing to walk with them on their journey. Accept people as they are – trusting God will change them. This does not mean we condone their behavior or beliefs. It means you respect their humanity enough to let them work through the process. People run from those that are always trying to change them into what they think they should be. People open their lives to those who accept them the way they are. People do not need us to fix their problems. People simply need us to be there with them. Realize, forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things: Forgiveness frees others from my judgment, vengeance, and desire for retribution (Matthew 7:1-5. Romans 12:14-21).
Forgiveness frees me from bitterness and overcomes hurts others have caused. However, forgiveness does not absolve from sin. Forgiveness does not have anything to do with future trust. Consequently, the offer of forgiveness does not mean that trust has been restored. In most cases trust has to be re-earned. Consequently, a forgiven person may still be an untrustworthy person. Reconciliation is a process of healing between the offender and the offended. Reconciliation demands that the offender recognize their offense, understand the pain it caused, offer restitution and assurance that the offending pattern will change. Reconciliation is not always possible; however, we can and must still forgive (Ephesians 4:32).
Do not be discouraged when forgiveness does not come easily. Forgiveness is less of a choice than a process. We must choose to forgive; however, God must work in our hearts to remove the bitterness and pain which may be hidden in layers (like an onion). Consequently, our choice to forgive may be contrary to our real, deeply buried feelings. Therefore, we must choose to forgive every time one of these memories surfaces. If we by faith chose to forgive each time the memory returns, then God will cause the memory of the hurt to fade until it is gone (Genesis 41:51).
Not forgiving is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die – Anne Lamott
Nevertheless, if we see a fellow Christian commit any other sin than unforgiveness or someone sins against us then we must intercede for God to give them an opportunity to repent (1 John 5:16. Colossians 3:12-14. 1 Peter 4:8. James 5:19,20).
Lastly, we need to follow the example of our Lord Jesus who after being mistreated and while dying on the cross (1) made asking forgiveness for those crucifying Him a priority (Luke 23:33,34).
Heavenly Father, cause us to suffer long and be kind; to not envy; to not parade ourselves, to not be puffed up, to not behave rudely, to not seek our own, to not be provoked, to think no evil, to not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth, to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, to never fail. Amen. (Based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Discover Pray Series:
1. We Must Ask (1)
4. Pray in Faith (1)
7. Be Persistent (1)
8. Power Dressing for Prayer (1)
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume 1, Romans p. 220, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan 49502