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Rediscover the Bible for Life
“The Essentials of Forgiveness Part 1”
By Dennis Lee
Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. So why are people not willing to forgive? Mainly it’s because they don’t understand what forgiveness is and why it’s important to forgive.
But before we can look at why we need to forgive, let’s understand what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness isn’t “I’ll forgive you when or if…” Whenever we attach a condition to forgiveness, then it really isn’t forgiveness. Real forgiveness is unconditional, that is, nothing is added to it. Forgiveness is something that is neither earned nor deserved.
Consider Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. It was based solely on His love for us. As he hung upon the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they haven’t a clue as to what they are doing.”
Our forgiveness, therefore, needs to be unconditional, just like God’s forgiveness for us.
Forgiveness also doesn’t pretend that the offense never occurred. That’s not forgiveness. Actually it cheapens true forgiveness.
By minimizing the offense we suppress the hurt and end up hurting ourselves in the process.
Further, minimizing the offence doesn’t help the perpetrator. It takes them off the hook for the wrong they’ve done, and it takes away their responsibility and accountability. Therefore they’ll never change and the hurt will happen again, either to us or to someone else.
Now while we are told to forgive the person the wrong they’ve done, nowhere does it say that trust is immediately restored. Forgiveness never puts a person back in harms way.
And if we’ve hurt anyone, don’t expect trust to be immediately restored, and don’t play the Christian guilt trip, “Hey, God forgave me, why can’t you?” or “They said they forgive me, why can’t things go back to the way they were?”
Trust is something that is earned over time. To rebuild trust it takes quality proven measures over an extended period.
Forgiveness also doesn’t mean that things are going to go back to the way they were, which is what led to the offence in the first place. Once harm has been done things will never return to normal, because there’s no longer a normal.
Rather, forgiveness is all about allowing a new starting point to be developed, one that will bring with it a new beginning and a new normal.
And finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. This is the biggest myth of them all. People say, “Forgive and forget.” That’s unrealistic, and oh, by the way, God doesn’t forget either. If God forgot He no longer would be God. Instead, God chooses to no longer hold our sins against us.
And that is what forgiveness is all about. It’s no longer holding a person’s sin against them. The Bible tells us that love keeps no records of wrongs, and that’s what forgiveness is all about. It’s where we no longer hold a person’s sin over their head.
Now, with this understanding, we can move forward. Next week we’ll look at the reason’s why we need to forgive, and the last one is a dozy, one that you will not want to miss.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study