Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
These verses summarize the core of Christian living. If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive. If we have experienced God’s grace, we will want to pass it on to others. Remember, grace is undeserved favor. By giving your enemy a drink, we are not excusing his misdeeds. We’re recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins – just as Christ did for us.
When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him. Why? 1) Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation. 2) It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change their ways. 3) By contrast, repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy. Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving them will free you of a heavy load of bitterness.
Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions. If you find it difficult to FEEL forgiving toward someone who has hurt you, try responding with kind actions. If appropriate, tell this person that you would like to heal your relationship. Lend a helping hand. Send them a gift. Smile at them. Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings.