There’s a lot of faulty thinking about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness gets watered down, abused, and cheapened. So what is true forgiveness?
Forgiveness is not conditional. In other words, it’s not based on somebody else’s response. Real forgiveness is unconditional. It’s not earned or deserved. It’s not based on some promise that you’ll never do it again. If you say to someone “I’ll forgive you if…,” that’s not forgiveness. That’s bargaining.
Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense. There is a big difference between being wounded and being wronged. Being wounded is something that’s accidental and does not require forgiveness. Being wronged means someone intentionally meant to hurt you, and that needs forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not resuming a relationship without changes. The Bible teaches that forgiveness and restoring relationship are two different things. Forgiveness is instant. Restoring relationship means building trust over a long period of time. Forgiveness is your part in reconciliation. But for a relationship to be restored, the offender has to demonstrate genuine repentance, make restitution whenever possible, and rebuild your trust by proving he or she has changed over time.
Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened. It’s impossible to try to forget something. When you’re trying to forget something, what is your focus? The very thing you want to forget.
The key isn’t forgetting. The key is learning to see it through the lens of grace and God’s sovereignty, and discovering how he can turn bad things into good in your life so you will trust him and respond in the right way.
Peter came to him and asked, Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times” No, not seven times, Jesus replied, but seventy times seven!
Forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. So how often do you have to keep releasing your right to get even? You keep on forgiving until the pain stops. Then you’ll know you’ve forgiven that person. Every time you remember that hurt, make an intentional choice to say, “God, that person hurt me. But because I want to be filled with love and not resentment, I am choosing to give up my right to get even and wish bad on that person. I am choosing to bless those who hurt me. God, I pray you’ll bless their life – not because they deserve it. They don’t. I don’t deserve your blessing either, God. But I pray that you’d show grace to them as you’ve shown to me.”
It’s not easy. You may say, “I don’t feel like forgiving.” Who does! Nobody ever feels like forgiving. You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and you do it to get on with your life. These steps are not easy, but with God’s power, you can do it.
Be-In-Couraged! Choose to forgive.