March 25, 2016

Forgiveness is…

Today’s thoughts are on forgiveness. This is a very delicate subject in the life of an abuse survivor. So I wanted to explore it by turning it around and examining it from many perspectives.

First, let’s define forgiveness itself. Forgiveness is the offer of willingly setting aside the just punishment someone is due for an offense or debt against you.

When we look at the word of God, we see that forgiveness is often preceded by confession and repentance of the wrong before forgiveness is given (1 John 1:9; Mark 1:4; Luke 17:3-4; Luke 24: 47; Acts 2:38) There is an awareness and brokenness on the part of the perpetrator that sees they have done wrong against you, and desires to make restitution for the wrongs they have committed or the debt they owe. Repent and be forgiven is the message.

But I want you to also consider Jesus’ mission to earth to die for and have our sins forgiven. We must consider in what state WE were in when He came. The Word says that we were still sinners, enemies of God, actively suppressing the truth of Him (Romans 1; Romans 5:8). He does change our hearts and give us eyes to see our sin, repent of them and believe on Him to forgive us our sin debt. But He did not come BECAUSE we repented and called for Him to come and save us. Even from the cross He offers forgiveness to those who don’t know what they are doing in killing Him. They don’t even see their sin, let alone confess, repent, and be forgiven. He asks the Father to do so anyway.

“32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:32-34)

Forgiveness is a choice. A choice to willingly free this person from the obligation to repay or make right what they owe or have taken. It is a choice done with the understanding that they will still have to give account to the Lord one day (He has a book where He keeps record of these: Hebrews 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5). Even Jesus, who forgave sinners from the cross, was entrusting Himself to the Father who judges justly (1Peter 2:21-24). You see He was releasing them from HIS judgment and need to defend HIMSELF, laying them before the One who would avenge His murder on those who perpetrated it. Forgiveness left His heart free to do His Father’s will on our behalf.

Forgiveness is not forgetting or allowing others to continue to have the potential to harm you. It is not forgetting what they did and receiving them with open arms. We must pray for discernment about how to proceed in our relationship with them. It can mean we expose the sin/abuse to the authorities – consequences – so they do not have the ability to hurt others. Or it can be an offer of forgiveness with healthy boundaries. If they repent and show fruit of repentance in a changed life over time, we can rejoice and draw closer. I have a person I know whose parent repented and their life has dramatically changed, so my acquaintance has the ability to remain close and they have great compassion and love for their parent.

I am very aware that this does not happen in many situations. Many abusers won’t admit it even happened or make excuses for why it happened, which include blaming you. This leaves you no other choice but to extend forgiveness, pray for them to repent, and walk away entrusting them to the Lord. They are not safe for your heart to be around or your family to be exposed to. However, you have made a choice to live forward with healing and confidence in Christ to do what you cannot in their lives – lead them to repentance.

On this Good Friday, as we believers in Christ remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that paid for our sin before God, I want to remind us of all we have been forgiven in Him – undeservedly so. The Father was satisfied by that payment and I live every day in the reality of that gracious act of declaring my debt paid in full. I am still a sinner, just forgiven to go live a different life in right relationship with my God. I have forgiveness from God.

What am I doing with that gift of grace if I choose to withhold that forgiveness from those who have sinned against me? What is it doing to my relationship with God and with others when I withhold forgiveness? Is the cost worth it? My answer was, “No,” and the Lord enabled me to extend forgiveness to my abuser. They still need Christ, their life is a mess, but I see them with God’s eyes now and it empowers me to help others do the same.

Can’t imagine that ever happening for you in your life?

Trust Him and watch Him work. His heavenly math far surpasses what we can ever think or imagine.

“20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

His math is fueled by His righteous goodness, holy love, perfect trustworthiness. May you release your wounded past into those very hands, and with it the one or ones who hurt you, opening your heart to extend His forgiveness to them, letting Him be their judge.

It is indeed freedom to leave that weight at the cross. Live free of fear, anger, and bitterness today. Choose to let Him heal your heart, your mind, and your life, so you can move forward with expectant and joyful confidence in Christ for your tomorrows.

    • Make a list of all the Lord has forgiven you of. What happened in your heart when you began writing them out?
    • Where are you at in this journey from woundedness to forgiveness?
    • What do you still need to understand about God to extend forgiveness and heal?
  • In what way could I come alongside you and support you on this path?