Reflections on Forgiveness

22 Jan
How many of us have trouble forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us?   Or perhaps has even abused us?    Please tell me I’m not alone.  Sometimes, I have gotten an apology before I’m even done processing my “mad”.  But then again…..
Forgiveness is what God extended to us by Christ’s death.   He paid our payment.
We are not God, and therefore WE CANNOT extend faultless perfect forgiveness as God does.  However, he commands us to forgive.  In my studies of what the word meant in the original culture of the Greek N.T. –  it meant then – and still needs to mean now – that you let the person “off the hook”.  There is no debt, nothing owed.  You release them from your “right” to justice.   For many of us, that is the difficulty.  It can feel like we’re saying they don’t deserve punishment for wrong-doing.  That’s not what forgiveness says.  It really says, I won’t punish.  I won’t hold a grudge or seek to destroy or harm them in any way.  God has that covered – He is God – We are not.  And since all wrong-doing is against God it is HIS right, not ours. (See Psalm 51)
So you forgive them.  It is hard.  Sometimes very hard.   It is a choice of the will.  A MIND choice.   It is also a heart choice  –  yet sometimes the feelings of the heart are out-of-step with the heart and mind choice to forgive.   That is OK.  Feelings can catch up if fed proper perspectives.
Perhaps that out-of-step feeling is because everything did not “go back to normal”.  Perhaps it is because forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.  Forgiveness releases you to let them experience the justice of God, and releases all your or my claims against them for justice.  We get no “pay-back”, no “I told you so”, no “satisfaction”.  That is what forgiveness does.  No claim against another for their guilt. For their actions.  Ouch.
Forgiveness on our part is mandatory. 
Reconciliation on the other hand requires confession and repentance on the part of the offender.  The offended alone cannot reconcile, but they can take a step to make it possible.  They (we) can go one-on-one to the other person and explain how we hurt as a result of their choices and/or actions.  We can remain loving and kind.  The offender when confronted must accept responsibility, confess (agree) that what they did was wrong (at least against you, the offended one), and if at all possible make reparations or repayment.
Without those steps by the offender, you can forgive, but you cannot truly reconcile.   Reconciliation brings a relationship back to the point where it can be restored – if both parties desire.   NOTE:  The relationship  may never be the same, but the possibility exists to return to level footing only after confession and repentance.
Reconciliation is on the part of the other person – the person who hurt us.  If they do not confess, apologize and seek to make reparation, we are to continue in forgiveness and do not hold that decision against them either; but the relationship will likely continue to be strained due to the ongoing sin.  There must be a turning away from wrong for reconciliation to truly occur.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfkhqpl81NA
So, what is our responsibility – if the offender will not change position? The most you can aim for is from within your own heart – meaning be at peace with the person as much as is possible – be able to be in the same room, environment,  or worship session with them without any animosity or negative thoughts on your part.  I call that sometimes remembering and forgiving again – every time until the pain of the memory is gone.   However, the relationship will not be on equal footing as they may continue to hold a grudge; sometimes due to the confrontation of the hurt they caused you, sometimes due to a guilty conscience.  You can do nothing in that instance.  Be available if you feel led to do that.  Walk away if the relationship was abusive and there has been no repentance.  Repentance as in turning away – changing actions and direction.
I hope that helps you understand the difference between our responsibility and the command to forgive and the hopeful outcome being reconciliation; recognizing that is not always possible.  Reconciliation takes both parties agreeing.  By the way, forgiveness is not forgive and forget.  It’s remember and forgive again anyway.
Think about:  Remember how often Jesus has forgiven us?  Remember how many times he answer Peter’s question?  At a time when the cultural norm was 3 times to forgive – then you were “out”, a holy person might forgive up to 6 times.  Peter, to be safe added another when he asked his questions of “forgive 7 times?”  But Jesus gave an absolutely outrageous answer — essentially a limitless number — when he said “70 times 7”.   When we struggle to forgive, put the offense under the umbrella of God’s grace toward us.  The perspective of will it matter in 5 years?  If not, do not waste even 5 minutes in anger.  Simply forgive, release and more forward.

2 Responses to “Reflections on Forgiveness”

  1. Shattered in Him January 25, 2017 at 12:17 PM #

    I shared this on the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/shatteredinhim/

    • sm honey February 3, 2017 at 10:46 PM #

      THANK YOU. I believe forgiveness is one of the hardest aspects of Christian living for us to live out on a daily basis. Especially for those of us who have been shattered by others and in Him. Thank you for sharing.

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Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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