There sure are a lot of wrong theories and sayings about forgiveness out there, these days! Most people have heard them all, too many times. And although logic tells us something is wrong, we strain to forgive according to all we’ve heard, and cannot figure it out. Nothing seems to happen and several of our victimizers do not stay forgiven very long at all.
To get a grasp on exactly what we are supposed to do, let’s first eliminate all wrong thinking upon which some people may be trying to convince us to act. For instance:
Forgiveness is NOT saying, “Oh, it’s okay.” When someone has done hurtful wrong against you, IT IS NOT OKAY! It should make us feel all rotten inside to say it is. Why? Because spreading wrongful hurt is not okay; it is sin. Sin is not okay with God; how could it be okay with us? Saying it is, is denial. It’s just plain ol’ living a lie.
Only say, “It’s okay,” when it was not sin, was not intended as sin, and was not received as sin. Only say, “It’s okay,” if you would be okay with it happening again.
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. How can anyone forget something on purpose! We have miraculous brains that function largely by memory. We do not have back-space keys for our brains. God can decide to forget something, if He wants, or cause us to forget something, but we do not have that kind of power.
Thinking we must forget, in order to prove we have forgiven, sets us up for making excuses. We say, “I’ll never be able to forgive that, because I could never forget such-and-such.” Or we think we have not forgiven because memories keep resurfacing, so it must be hopeless to try. What a wide-open door for excuses!
It is neither safe nor wise to trust someone who has proven himself to be untrustworthy. To send a youngster back to a bullying classroom or molesting teacher, to lend more money to someone who has not repaid, to tell a secret to a gossip, is just plain folly.
We must forgive those who sin against us, but we do NOT have to trust them again, in order to prove we have done so. We certainly do not have to feel guilty for helping put such a one in jail, if his sin was illegal.
Besides, trust, by its nature, must be earned, cannot be demanded.
So What IS Forgiveness?!
If we look up the word, “forgive,” we can find the original meanings of its ancient parts: to give far away.
Think: Where would you put all that pain, if you could download it? How far away would be far enough? The farthest possible distance from this existence is: in God’s hands. When He takes it, it’s gone.
Giving it to Him can feel like work, but it is forgiveness and is far less work than dealing with the current agony.
- Forgiveness is SAYING, “I forgive you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Yes, it is like writing a check on His checkbook to pay a debt, which we cannot actually do unless we are His.)
It is a transaction, like writing off a bad debt. Our feelings may be screaming, but it is not about feelings; it is about getting past this great wrong and moving on with this life. It’s about positioning ourselves for the next life beyond.
- Forgiveness is REFUSING to remember the sin against the sinner.
Yes, it was a bad debt; no, we will NOT mentally send bills to “debtor’s prison”. That part is over.
- Forgiveness is MINISTERING to the sinner.
Maybe the only safe or possible thing we can do is pray for him, but because we, ourselves, have been forgiven by so marvelous a God, we are freed and filled with power to do so.
Seeing this is a mark of true forgiveness.
Now we have dealt with the why’s of suffering and forgiveness, and we have defined terms. Come on by tomorrow and get the HOW-TO and some FAQ’s.