For some people forgiveness is just a matter of surrendering theirr desire for retribution. It is simply repentance, a turning, a change of mind that’s needed. Some hold on to unforgiveness like currency. With that currency – with that unforgiveness – they can control others.
For others, the pain and hurt is way down deep and forgiveness is significantly more difficult. That’s ok. But there is something that everyone must do: begin the journey.
God tells us many hard truths in his word, and one of those is that we can’t experience forgiveness unless we forgive. And that is a tough pill to swallow. Because we all want to be forgiven but we don’t all want to forgive. But there it is in plain red letters on a white page. We know that there are things for which each of us needs to be forgiven and we know that there are many things that we need to forgive. So that’s where we need to start.
Let’s be clear about what forgiveness is not…
Forgiving does not mean that what was done to you was right. Some of you have been terribly hurt and abused in unimaginable ways and will carry the scars of that hurt for your entire life.
It does not mean that there should be no consequences for the sinful actions of others against you.
It does not mean that you allow someone to hurt you or take advantage of you again in the same way.
It does not mean that there aren’t going to be some boundaries between you and the person you’re forgiving.
But it does mean that you let go of the hold that their actions have on you. A hold that is causing you to be angry, a hold that is causing you to be cynical, a hold that is robbing you of energy, and robbing you of faith. It’s robbing you of the joy that Jesus Christ wants you to experience IN HIM.
“For when God commands us to wish well to our enemies,” Calvin said, “he does not therefore demand that we approve in them what He condemns, but only desires that our minds shall be purified from all hatred.”
You may have someone to forgive today, so why not begin that journey? We often sin against each other and we have all sinned against God. Ultimately, all sin is sin against God. When we become reconciled to him we will become reconciled to each other.
When you forgive it means that you are giving up your desire to personally punish that other person in any way. You are leaving that in God’s hands, as the only righteous judge who will see that justice is ultimately done.
You may need to forgive someone this morning. It might go back to your first memory, when you’re three or four, or it might go back to this morning on the way to church. Put it all on the table.
And do remember this: the power of your prayer for forgiveness is limited by the degree to which you obey the command to forgive.
This post is part a series on forgiveness, based on a sermon called “Forgive and Be Forgiven”. You can listen to the sermon audio here (or right-click and “Save As…” to download)
Other posts in this series:
Part 1 – Don’t Be a Hypocrite
Part 2 – A Prayer to Be Recited?
Part 3 – Giving Up the Desire to Punish
Part 4 – Don’t Be Like the Unforgiving Servant
Part 5 – The Older Brother Syndrome
Part 6 – Living the Forgiving (and Forgiven) Life
Part 7 – What Forgiveness Isn’t…