When Is the Right Time to Forgive?

Daily Devotional: Day 200

“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep [died]” (Acts 7:59-60).

 When Is the Right Time to Forgive? This question assumes that you do forgive those who offend you. Forgiveness is one of the core teachings of Jesus Christ. We also know that it’s one thing to know about the teaching of forgiveness, but a completely different thing to live it. Without forgiveness, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a weak proposition, and in vain do we follow Christ.

Timing plays a vital role in making good decisions in life. The ability, for example, to make the right call at the right time is an essential part of discernment. In other words, if your sense of timing is right, you’re more likely to discern correctly. But if your timing is poor, you could make costly mistakes. The same goes for forgiveness. You may not think it important, but the timing of your forgiveness is almost as important as the forgiveness itself. This means it is possible to forgive at the wrong time. Today, let’s look at the life of Stephen – the first Christian martyr – to see when the right time is to forgive those who offend you.

Stephen rebuked the Jewish leadership and convicted them of the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 7:51). And, he paid the ultimate price for his witness. The people brought false accusations against Stephen, condemned him and then stoned him to death. While they were stoning him, Stephen cried out to Jesus, asking Him to forgive the sin of his killers. Notice two things about Stephen’s forgiveness. First, he forgave his killers and prayed for them while he was being killed – while he was in pain. Second, he prayed loud enough for the murderers to hear him praying for them.  

When people wrong you, have a short window (the best time frame) to forgive. The longer it takes to forgive, the harder it becomes to forgiveThe longer you hesitate to forgive, the greater the chance of harboring bitterness, resentment and fear. If you get to this point, you have far bigger problems on hand than merely forgiving the offending party. Unforgiveness is like a seed that falls to the ground (of the heart). If it is allowed to take root, it becomes harder to removed. The best time to forgive people is during the time frame the offense occurs, not after. When it hurts, that’s the right time to forgive. A clear sign that you’ve forgiven is when you start interceding for those who have wronged you.

Forgive by faith, not by feeling. Stephen was in pain. If he followed his feeling, he would not have been motivated to forgive. Forgiveness is an action of faith compelled by the love of Christ. Whenever the offense occurs, that’s the right time to forgive and start praying for the offender, not days or weeks after. When you forgive at the right time, you leave satan no room to exploit the situation against you. At the same time, you gain spiritual advantage over the problem. The right time for you to forgive is now.

May the Lord bless you and give courage to forgive in a timely manner. Amen.

For further study: Genesis 50:14-26

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