The Nots of Forgiveness

Ok, so there’s this word that seems to make people wince like no other word I’ve ever known. I’ve suggested it to so many people, I can’t even keep count…and they often look at me like I have two heads or I’ve said something completely outlandish and obscene. And maybe I did because it’s the christian f-word. Forgiveness

If you think about it, suggesting we do something so extravagant for someone who has done something so earth shattering is kind of like adding salt in a very deep wound. I mean, let’s be real: how do we even begin to forgive someone who just flat out doesn’t deserve it?

I could write out the definition of forgiveness (which may or may not be helpful) or we could talk about what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is NOT:

  • Denying what happened. You don’t have to be ok, say it’s ok or try to even pretend it’s ok. My youngest used to always tell my oldest, “It’s ok. I forgive you.” I told her to drop the “it’s ok” part because it’s not. We don’t need to deny what happened or deny the pain it caused, but we can keep the “I forgive you” part. 
  • Burying it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to swallow our feelings. David sang them out in song, Jacob wrestled them out with God, Moses fell on his face and poured out his heart. Yet, we walk around bloodied and bruised and issue an “I forgive them” statement because that’s what we’re supposed to do, but then we see that person in public and turn the other way. God can’t bless what we bury. We must face our feelings to truly forgive. 
  • Releasing them from the responsibilities of their actions. Issuing forgiveness is not giving others the ability to walk away with no consequences. It’s releasing them from being responsible to you and giving them over to be responsible to God. 
  • Forgetting. We don’t have to forget what happened, we have to change the power it has in our life.
  • Becoming a doormat. The Lord asks us to forgive, but He does not ask us to keep allowing unrighteousness. 

There really isn’t anything about forgiveness that dismisses what was done to us. It’s a decision to do the hard work of healing and then not hold it against those that wronged us. Yeah, it’s not an easy task. 

It will challenge us. 

It will awaken strength in us we didn’t know was there. 

It will change us. 

Luke 6:27 (ESV) “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”

Why? Not because it sets them free. Because it sets you free.