I thought I knew what forgiveness was….until………

I had always been taught to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Easy enough? Boy, I was ever deceived!  Forgiveness isn’t always easy or the outcome. I had never been so challenged as I was recently when I wrote a letter of repentance to someone that I had hurt and who had hurt me. We both really did in a very serious way hurt each other. I am not talking about light offenses. I did not really bring up their hurts against me and just asked them to forgive me for my sins against them.  It was a lengthy letter trying to be honest and cover everything.  I really wanted them to know how sorry I was.

Yes, when we violate or harm another person in a disrespectful way it is a sin against them and it is a sin against GOD.  I had already talked to my Father in Heaven about it and come clean with my sin.  Praise the LORD that He does forgive.

I wrote this letter asking forgiveness and I am not sure what I thought would happen but it must have been much different from what did happen.   
My prayer was that Christ in me would come through in my words to restore what I had so badly damaged. I just knew it was something I had to face and amend but I did expect a Godly response because they are a believer.   I was surprised that not only had my letter been perceived in a way that the other person placed the blame on me but also that they took no responsibility for hurting me. They wished me well at the end of their response but respond to others regarding me in a way that is not truthful and even mockery. Ouch!  

Flesh, pride, self, all rear their ugly head when we are mocked.  Avoid the trap of allowing another person’s disobedience to be a stumbling block to you. There will be more about that in a future  article. The bottom line is once  you have asked forgivenes and made whatever restoration you can, they are responsible to God about the matter now, and I do pray for them daily. My heart hurts for them.  There must be something going on there that needs healing deeper than my saying I am sorry. God and your offender or the one you offend will need to work through it. 

This event sparked my desire to know GOD’s heart for the matter. I was hurt by the response and subsequent mockery. After a bout with bitterness in my life which distracted me from the Lord in the past, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap.  I also wanted to be sure that I had handled asking forgiveness the right way. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to this person because I loved them regardless of all that has happened. It was very uncomfortable to face my offenses and admit to them.  The most important thing is the other person in forgiveness, but the result is you find freedom in seeing the truth of some matters and dealing with them.

That leaves us with one choice, to see what GOD says about the matter and examine our heart and die to whatever this brings up. Small order and huge task!!  Oh, my flesh wants to cry for justice, but my heart knows God’s will is that we glorify Him and that what comes into our lives is to molds us into His image even if it is those who offend us.  We can’t do that if we do not handle these issues the right way.   Lord, help me to continue to learn this. Amen.

There is an inequality in human forgiveness. We might say we have forgiven people when we really don’t.  We might ask for forgiveness just because it is the right thing to do and we are not really repentant. So what does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a supernatural response to an injustice. It is not being a doormat and does not absolve the person of God’s justice.  They are still accountable to God for their actions and reactions.  It is a choice and act of the will, not a feeling.  We offer forgiveness even if it is never received.  It is unconditional and a mandate from God who is our perfect example of forgiveness.  Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, James 4:17, Matthew 5:23-24

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
   
Matt 5:23-24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you.
  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

 Forgiveness can’t be neglected in light of the Bible, but what do you do when you are so horribly offended? 

James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin

 Well it is clear God’s desire for us is to forgive. Your heart is broken, you are sometimes confused even not sure of why the person hurt you. Do you have a right to hold that against them?  You have said you are sorry and they won’t forgive you . They misrepresent the facts and events. All of these get tangled in our  relationships and we sometimes can’t untangle them all when  another is not in agreement with us about the matter.

We can only look at the Bible and see that God’s heart for us is to be free, to worship Him in Spirit and Truth, and to not let bitterness settle into our lives as well as overcoming evil with good.  Again, tall order.

Heb 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
        

John 4:24

        

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.

 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.

 20 BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Forgiveness is as we said in the beginning, supernatural. Being a new creature in Christ, I knew it was outside of my ability to forgive.  My flesh doesn’t naturally want to be forgiving.  This is a hard task sometimes when you have been hurt. I am not talking to you from the vantage of always getting it right. In the past I have not handled myself wisely and even now confess, I am still learning and growing. I wanted to understand my responsibility to God and those I have hurt.  Because Christ is in me, the grace needed to love and forgive and release another from any debt or repayment for their offense is also in me.  I have to understand God has forgiven me, and that the other person regardless of their repentance or restoration of the matter, has to be forgiven. My Father wants me to forgive as He does.

If that person wants restoration then you can again fellowship. Do not expect anything in return for asking forgiveness.  Being like Christ, being transformed, renewed, and restored will help you release another person’s offense for their sake as well as yours.  You don’t have to carry condemnation of another’s offense. God hates all sin, and if they sinned against you, God hates that. Just as you have been forgiven though, He is willing and ready to forgive them. That should be our prayer, to reflect Christ, and love them unconditionally. Again, I can’t do that but Christ in me can. I have to say I may never understand my situation and may never be forgiven. I just have to trust the LORD in times such as these when I can’t explain. 

 Phil 2:1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  

11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.