To forgive.  What does that mean?

I struggled in my hurt, in my anger, waiting impatiently for God to bring justice.  In no way did I want to forgive, while they continued their behavior without remorse.

I knew that the outrage that I was holding so tightly to in my heart had turned bitter.  It was damaging me, changing my worship to something no longer sweet before God.  I knew I needed to let it go, but wasn’t quite sure what that meant. What really does it mean to forgive? Since I wanted to hear from God on this subject, I figured the best way to understand would be to read what His Book says about it.  In doing so, I realized I needed to redefine forgiveness mentally and spiritually, so that I could live in peace, a peace that comes by truly forgiving.

Matthew 18:35 (NKJV)  35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart.  It’s about what is inside us.  We all know that holding on to anger, penalizing someone for their wrong doing only hurts our self, it doesn’t change the outcome, or circumstance for the one of whom we have issue.

My unresolved anger kept me from moving forward because it locked me into a time machine, frozen on the exact moment when that offense occurred. A painful moment that I was holding so close.  Instead of moving on, I stayed… torturing myself by reliving it continuously in my mind and spirit.

Not only does unforgiveness contaminate our spirit, it is core to our emotional well-being and physical health. The emotion of anger causes surges of adrenaline and secretes other powerful chemicals that attack the body. The stress we carry when we refuse to forgive affects us in every way.

More importantly, the spiritual consequence of unforgiveness is alienation from God!!!

Where to start:

We must admit to our self our own failures, our own shortcomings.  We have ALL fallen short.  None of us are worthy of forgiveness, yet God has given what we do not deserve: His pardon. If we cannot do that, we can neither give nor receive forgiveness. It has to start with acknowledging our own need for mercy, we must face that we too are imperfect, yet have been forgiven, and because of this, have no right to withhold it from anyone else.

Misconception of What Forgiveness Means:

Some of the greatest obstacles to forgiveness are the misconceptions about what it is. Realizing what forgiveness is NOT, is important.

It is NOT Condoning the Behavior.

Once we understand that the act of forgiving does not compromise our moral standard by condoning the offense, we are in a position to forgive even the worst of sins. To forgive is not saying, “What you did is okay.” It is saying, “The consequences of your behavior belong to God, not to me.” When we forgive, we transfer the person from our system of justice to God’s. To forgive is to recognize that the wrong done against us is a debt of sin, and all sin is against God. Therefore, in forgiving, we transfer the debt from our ledger of accounts to God’s, leaving all recompense in His hands.

It is NOT Forgetting What Happened.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NIV) “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  I does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

I have sat through countless sermons, where ministers admonish that we must not keep record, describing no record as forgetting as Christ has forgotten our sins.

Isaiah 43:25-28 (MSG) “But I, yes I, am the One who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do. I don’t keep a list of your sins.

God is the only One who is able to erase sin.  We are not God, we cannot remove transgressions from someone, or take the penalty of someone’s sin from them; only He is able.  It is impossible to forget and foolish.  If we forget, we would in turn walk right back into the situation and learn nothing. God does ask us to forgive, not in the same way God forgives, but forgive just as and because we have been forgiven.  It is a gift from God given to us that we are required to pay forward.

It is NOT Restoring Trust in the Person.

Proverb 25:19 (MSG) “Trusting a double-crosser when you’re in trouble is like biting down on an abscessed tooth.”

Trust is earned. It is something we give to those who deserve it. To blindly trust someone who has hurt us is naïve and irresponsible. Scripture does not ask us to ignore wisdom, but tells us that Wisdom is from Him and calls to us.

It is NOT Agreeing to Reconcile.

Reconciliation is not necessarily the goal of forgiveness. In fact, there are some situations when reconciliation would be dangerous. Reconciliation is not appropriate when a person is unrepentant, unchanging, or unwilling.

It is NOT Doing the Person a Favor.

In Judaism, forgiveness is not required unless repentance is demonstrated and pardon is sought. But Jesus raised the standard of forgiveness to a higher level. We are to forgive even those who remain unrepentant and whether or not the person asks for it. Forgiveness benefits the giver, so we need to extend it whether or not the person asks for it.

It is NOT Easy. Forgiving is difficult enough when it involves a one-time transgression. It verges on the impossible when the offense is ongoing. Such circumstances require an attitude of forgiveness. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, Jesus gave an unsettling answer:

“Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No!’ Jesus replied, ‘seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22)

So we must KEEP forgiving… even those who continue to harm.  However, let’s be honest, sometimes we are just not capable… But God is. So when our limited resources run out and we are unable, we can ask Him to forgive. In so doing, we take one more step of obedience and allow ourselves to become a conduit of God’s grace.  Jesus prayed for God to forgive those who were crucifying him at the cross.  In Matthew 18:43-44, Jesus exhorts us to “pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us”.  In my life, learning to ask God to forgive has been a casting of care back onto God, releasing it to Him and placing my emotions in His hands as of way of trusting Him to do what is needed.  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)

We Must Look Within.

It is important to be honest to our self and with God.  Facing the depth of our emotions is part of this process.  Let us not be ashamed of our feelings but understand what drives them. This is the process that allows us to move forward. Let’s be honest, we want the person who has hurt us, or who hurt someone we love, to pay, to feel the pain we have felt, to know the loss we that we suffer through each day. But remember, forgiveness is not about the person who wronged us, but about us.  We struggle with forgiveness because we feel we are giving something away to someone who hurt us, but the reality is, it is us who is receiving when we do.  Forgiveness releases us from of our pain. God wants us to be set free, yet we dig our heels in, determined to not give this gift away because it is so precious. It is precious, and God wants you to give that gift to yourself.

Sin has its own punishment. They will have to face what they have done.  Scripture is clear, we will reap what we sow.  God forgives those who repent and He changes the forecast of our day of judgement, when we face Him, but each one of us will reap that which we have sown. When we realize this, when I realized this, I feared for the people I was so angry with.  One day they will face God, He is watching and the seeds they sow each day will come to life, and continue to grow.  It is then I began to pray for them for mercy.  Because the weight of their actions, without repentance, will be accounted for and I will not be their judge, but the most High.  This makes me tremble.

Matthew 5:44 (NKJV) “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Forgiveness sets you free and when you are set free, the power this person has over your life is abolished. Jesus weeps with us in our pain. Sometimes that pain and hurt is a daily battle.  Scripture exhorts us to “cast our care upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  He did not tell us to get over it, but to let Him carry it. Don’t listen to anyone who says that this is easy, or minimizes its process; yet we can be comforted because our Savior is with us through every step if we allow Him, if we seek Him, if we ask for healing.  He bore all our wounds and scars on His back and it is by His stripes we are healed.  I finally allowed God to heal me of my pain. By doing so, I found the freedom I sought.

Romans 12:20-21 (MSG) “Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”

So forgive, release that pain by praying for those who have hurt you.  Ask God to give them mercy and grace.  As you do this, your heart will begin to heal and He will take this battle into His hands.  Let him do your fighting for you and let Him change your heart and give you peace, because a peaceful heart is a beautiful heart.

There a times when being able to process our hurts requires opening up and finding a safe place. Therapy can be a source of healing, growth and understanding.

NetworkTherapy.com is an online source for locating psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors, and treatment centers dedicated to providing quality health care services for a broad range of mental health issues.  www.networktherapy.com