Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility
We hear the following phrase a lot: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. But often we hear it in the wrong context. Sometimes it’s delivered with a hidden agenda from an impure heart. Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be spiritually and eternally free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness; the truth that to be psychologically and relationally free, we must forgive those who have hurt us.
You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of His grace and Christ Jesus’ love. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.
So why do we fall so short, when forgiveness was modeled so perfectly for us throughout Jesus’ life? Forgiven by the Lord, we now have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up. It’s not a calling we await, or a destiny we pursue. Forgiveness is an actual decision we make: forgiving or not forgiving. When you realize it is a choice, then you must ask, “What are my options?” So let’s take a look.
Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain in denial, aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. Your relationship is disrupted. But a terrible side effect of choosing Door #1 is that people still have power over you. That’s because you are dependent on extracting some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering, painful consequences, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want … playing you like a puppet.
Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved that person of all debt. So he can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be the judge. And He is much better at determining the consequences and doling it out.
Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the powerful blood of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that truth, we have the power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom!
Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiving. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. Why experience more pain by withholding forgiveness? Remember, whether you forgive, give yourself a gift, and let God be the judge, or you are prideful and still want to be judge and executioner is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive others and myself. Sometimes I just want them to feel the pain I felt when they hurt me. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It’s about me feeling better. Most importantly, forgiveness allows me to be right with You! Thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. Hopefully they will see You and Your ultimate forgiveness shining through me as I forgive them. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32