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Forgiveness improves lives
Pastor's corner
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Over the years, I have encountered many who walk around with unforgiving hearts. In fact, you would be surprised at the number of people who harbor ill feelings toward others and refuse to extend forgiveness. There are family members, friends, coworkers and even Christian brothers and sisters who avoid speaking to one another for years because of a silly incident.
I am convinced forgiveness is the key to living a happier life. Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”
As children of God, we are instructed to love and forgive — two actions that help us maintain meaningful relationships. Think about it. How can you love someone you refuse to forgive and how can you forgive someone who you do not love?
We are given the gift of salvation because God loves us and He was willing to forgive us our sins. Where would we be today if God had refused to forgive us?  Even though we are sinners, He died for us. He extended his love, forgave us and sent His only son to die on the cross for our sins. In other words, our broken relationships were mended through God’s willingness to forgive us. Christ is the example we must follow if we are to mend broken relationships. We must learn to forgive one another.
Life is too precious to waste. Harboring grudges, wishing others harm or misfortune and refusing to forgive people will poison a man with spiritual and emotional sickness. An unforgiving spirit does not hurt others. It hurts us. Withholding forgiveness damages our personal relationships and our relationship with God.  
In Mark 11:26, Jesus says, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
We need to be realistic about forgiveness. It’s not easy, but it is necessary. Forgiveness goes against human instinct. It is not in our nature to simply forgive others. We tend to love those who love us and hate those who hate us. However, when you commit your life to God, He makes you a new creature. He changes your nature and gives you the ability to love and forgive.
“It is the spirit within me that allows me to forgive others. Therefore, if I walk in the Spirit I want fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
It may take time, but start today to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness. Allow God to cleanse your heart and fill it with love. The next time someone offends you or even hurts you, immediately forgive him or her from your heart. Resist every inclination to fight back, either on the outside or on the inside. Ask God to give you a gracious attitude, and treat that person with love. You will discover forgiveness brings liberty and joy, while hatred creates misery and bondage.
I encourage you to try forgiveness. Forgiveness will make your life better and improve your relationships with others.

Jackson is pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church and president of the United Ministerial Alliance.

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