I forgive you. Few words carry such an enormous impact upon both the speaker and the listener. It’s been my observation that forgiveness can break the chains that bind us to our past like few other things can. We all know we should forgive those who have wronged us, yet coming to a place of truly forgiving another can be fearful, difficult, or at times confusing. Some find themselves in a place where they are unsure if they have forgiven or not. Still others ask, “Why should I forgive, I’m the one who was hurt?”
SETS US FREE
FROM OUR OWN
“What forgiveness is not”
Let me begin by sharing what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is NOT justifying, excusing, understanding or explaining away someone’s behavior. It is NOT denying angry feelings, forgetting about it, pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiveness does NOT require the cooperation, request or knowledge of the other person and is NOT the same as reconciliation, nor does it require reconciliation, as in cases of abuse or violence, etc. Forgive and forget is a myth. You are not capable of self-induced amnesia. We need to forgive and be willing to forget.
“What is forgiveness?”
I think the best way to understand forgiveness is to ask the One who invented it. Scripture is filled with awesome revelation of God’s incredible “transaction” with mankind. He took the sins of the world and placed then on Christ. He took Christ’s righteousness and offered it to all who would receive. Such an incredible offer, total forgiveness as well as Christ’s very life and righteousness made available to us. We first had to realize our “need,” then we entered into (receiving, appropriated) the work God had already prepared for us.
“Releasing a Debt”
This is forgiveness, a transaction whereby the debt of one is released by the willful act of another. This release is not earned or bargained for. It’s a gift only to be received. This is precisely the definitions of the two words used in the original language of the Bible that are translated “forgive.” One means, to release a debt, the other means to give a gift of grace (an unearned gift). It’s important to note that God did His forgiveness work before we asked Him to. This teaches an important lesson on our forgiveness of others. Forgiveness only takes one, reconciliation takes two.
“Doesn’t sound fair”
If we are the one who was hurt, then why should we release the other person from a debt that they haven’t paid? This doesn’t sound fair to me. Besides the obvious fact that forgiveness is a scriptural command, I find consolation in the scripture that reminds me that God forgives for His own sake. (Isa. 43:25) We are then one’s who benefit from forgiving others. Forgiveness sets us free from our own prison cell. The sad fact is, I can’t undo the past. As much as I might wish it were different, debts (hurts by others) of the past are debts that can never be paid. In areas where I’ve been wronged or hurt I only have two options, carry that hurt with bitterness or release the hurt through forgiveness. If you’re thinking that it doesn’t seem fair, you’re right, it’s not. In reality the harm done to us by others was in fact paid for by Jesus on the cross, and the cross wasn’t fair. From God’s perspective the cross is where unpaid debt of others is finally accounted for. From our limited perspective, it’s hard to see how the account is settled.
FORGET IS A MYTH.
YOU ARE NOT
CAPABLE OF SELF-
“…AS YOU HAVE
BEEN FORGIVEN” Scripture tells us to “forgive as God has forgiven us” (Eph.4:32) To briefly list how God has forgiven us would include the following. God had a focal point (the cross). He charged the debt, poured out His wrath and made a transaction. Based on that transaction, He forgave and accepted us. He then took the chance we would fail again.
“How do I forgive?”
Our forgiveness of others include all these points. Just as God had a focal point, you may find helpful to picture this person sitting in an empty chair or prayerfully giving the hurt to Jesus, after all “He bore our griefs and sorrows.” It is not required the other person be present. This is your decision, you’re deciding what you will do with your life.
* Acknowledge the hurt (ie. charge the debt) verbally.
* Acknowledge how it made you feel. This means you need to “feel what you feel.”
* Verbally release the person from the debt they owe you. (saying in effect, “I release the debt,” “You don’t owe me any more,” “You are forgiven.”) Forgiveness is a transaction based on will, not a feeling.
* Accepting the person just as they are (Ro.15:7) I am entrusting this person into God’s hands. God is now responsible for changing this person. This person is not freed from the consequences of his actions. God is in charge of letting people experience the consequences of their actions, we are not called to be enablers or rescuers.
“WE ONLY HAVE TWO
OPTIONS, CARRY THE
HURT IN BITTERNESS
OR RELEASE THE HURT
Most of us have people who have hurt us deeply and need to forgive. This list usually includes ourselves. Failure to forgive ourselves is holding onto what God has released. This is one of the enemy’s traps.
“Picket fences or Prison walls?”
When hurt, most people develop rigid protective walls. Unless we are willing to cautiously lower these walls of protection, reconciliation becomes impossible. They become prison walls rather than picket fences that serve to define healthy personal boundaries. There is always the risk of being hurt again. This will mean trusting God with the future.
The fact that passing thoughts and lingering hurt feelings may still occur proves two things. The devil is alive and well, and we still retain the memory of the hurt even after forgiveness. As we focus on the reality of our transaction, emotions slowly follow. We literally change the significance of a hurtful memory when we change its meaning. No longer a victim, we are an overcomer.
“Decision or Process?”
Is forgiveness a decision or a process? It’s both. Allow me to illustrate, almost seventeen years ago Carol and I walked into a church as single people. We said a few words, and the pastor (my father) said a few words. When we walked out we were married people. It became true because we made it true. It started with a decision, yet the implications of that wonderful decision are discovered in a lifelong process. This principle applies to forgiveness. It too begins with a decision, but it’s clearly a process of walking out our decision on a daily basis. Keeping our accounts at zero is an ongoing process.
Many people ask questions like, “What if the other person isn’t sorry for what they did, or what if he never asks to be forgiven?” These questions are more about the issue of reconciliation than forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness takes one, reconciliation takes two working toward a common goal. Scripture implies that we will not be able to reconcile with everyone. (Rom. 12:18), however reconciliations is the natural goal in mind in most cases. We are responsible for our own willingness to reconcile, but not for others. I like to use the illustration that reconciliation is like two people on opposite sides of a large river and you only have enough lumber to build the bridge half-way across. The point being, if the other person doesn’t want their half of the bridge, you won’t get across. True reconciliation won’t take place. At best what you will have is an “arrangement” not a relationship with the other person. Arrangements are where two Peoples interactions with each other are governed by unspoken but clearly understood terms of rules.
takes two… what
you have is an
not a relationship…”
“You are a forgiven person”
While forgiveness seems awkward at first, we soon discover that it is completely consistent with the new nature (2Pet.1:4) we received at salvation. In other words, we discover the truth that all believers are in fact forgiving people by virtue of God’s process of changing our hearts. Any time our daily walk becomes consistent with our new nature (Christ in us) we are on the path to freedom. Let’s walk in His freedom.
Written by James Eubanks – Grace Ministries, Inc. – Angels by Grace Publication-May 1998
Blessings to you.