Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Isn’t it funny that an entire Spiritual revolution (the one called Christianity) can be founded upon the concept of forgiveness but the concept itself can be one of the most misunderstood concepts for those of us who are a part of the revolution? For so many in the Western church today, it may as well be written in Chinese (for those of you who actually read Chinese, my apologies, the illustration loses some punch with you).
Sometimes when I am counseling with someone about forgiveness, especially when it is someone who has been hurt deeply by another person, he/she will say something like this to me: “I know I need to forgive them, but I’m just not ready to forgive yet.” Most likely, what this hurting person is conveying with that comment is that he/she is not yet ready to start trusting that person again, because trust is a process and it takes time both to earn it and to give it. But I don’t think of forgiveness in that same way. As Christians, I think it is better for us to think of forgiveness as a promise. It is not something we wait to do, it is a commitment we make right up front, just as soon as the pain has occurred. That’s how God forgives us, and we are instructed to forgive others in the same way God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
I think too often we wait to forgive. We wait until it feels right to do so. But forgiveness (in the way the Bible describes it) is not a feeling at all. If we wait until we feel like forgiving, it will never happen.
Forgiveness is more about wiping away a debt. It is saying to a person, “You owe me nothing more…no money, no apology, no hugs, no sympathy cards, nothing…I really am no longer looking for any of that from you…you are released from any moral or ethical or legal obligations to me for this pain…as much as is possible, we are going to move forward now and I will not be holding this over you any longer, waiting to hit you on the head with it if you mess up again…I will not be keeping score because where I am concerned your slate is now wiped clean…I wish the very best for you and God’s blessings on you.” Forgiveness isn’t something we wait to feel, it is something we communicate to the person who hurt us irrespective of how we feel.
And it is hard to do. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. But it is not easy. This is why the very act of forgiveness tends to separate Christ’s church from the rest of the world. It is a distinguishing characteristic of Christ followers. We have been forgiven much, so we forgive.
So while trust may be a process, the promise of forgiveness is not. But though trust and forgiveness are two different things, there is a definite relationship between them. Making the promise of forgiveness is what triggers the beginning of the trust process. Without forgiveness, there can be no more trust. But once forgiveness is given, the process of trusting again begins. Forgiveness takes a broken relationship and places it back on track for the healing process to begin. It is the first step in the healing journey.
© Blake Coffee
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