Forgiveness

scales

Well, this is a topic we all get to struggle with…lovely, isn’t it!?!?  This is what I’ve learned from personal experience, mostly…of course, there are boatloads of books and resources out there that explain it, but it seems they can all say different things: it is an act of will-suck it up and just do it; it is not letting the person off the hook, just letting their grip on your psyche go; love the sinner, hate the sin; we can only forgive when we realize how much we are forgiven by God; in order to forgive you must reconcile; etc. etc.

Hopefully the title, “Forgiveness”, and the picture (of the scales of justice) next to one another look incongruous to you. That is deliberate on my part…forgiveness is not about justice, it is not about getting what we deserve….

This is how I understand it: forgiveness is all about wanting what is best for the one who has offended you, the one who has hurt you. We stop looking at ourselves, and look at the other and extend good will toward them, truly desire all that will be lifegiving to that person, all that will bring them into the arms of Jesus. Of course, this may involve justice, but our desire is for nothing but mercy…whatever that looks like, justice or not…

As we do this, we heal…our hearts open and we find we understand forgiveness not from a logical perspective, but from a heart place. Mercy is at the heart of forgiveness: extend mercy and discover His healing in your life, extend mercy and allow His healing to flow through you to the one who caused the pain.

Unforgiveness is a sin: we are only forgiven by God in the measure we forgive others. “Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” is a spiritual truth. Hence Jesus said to forgive again and again, no matter how many times we are handed pain…I don’t think He’s trying to make us into martyrs or doormats. I think, based on this principle, that Jesus is looking out for our best interest, He is extending good will to us (guess He extends forgivenss to us, huh? :-) in hopes we’ll accept it and do as much to each other so we can be forgiven by God (catch the big circle there?).

Can’t quite forgive? Too self-centered? Spinning from consequences of another’s ‘trespass’ that is making life really difficult? Watching a loved one hurting and resenting the one who causes the pain? How about the person in the mirror? Is that the person you can’t forgive? Yeah, I know how it goes, big time…I know unforgiveness and screaming consequences intimately, all three of us used to perpetually walk arm in arm. It sucked and I was icky–hatred was the name of the game! Thankfully God has shown me how to forgive and now it’s usually just me and and consequences, a difficult companion, for sure, but at least we stroll together without the dead weight of unforgiveness. Whenever unforgiveness, shame, resentment or bitterness edges in, I have to pray and sometimes I have to pray a long and hard…But when He comes, it is so worth it…

As an aside: some people equate reconciliation with forgiveness. As I understand it, they are two different things. Forgiveness is what you’ve just read and reconciliation involves repentance, a turning toward God and away from sin (transgressing) on the part of the one who has offended and on the part of the one who is hurt. It involves a process of rebuilding trust…

Forgiveness: not so much an act of will, but an act of good will.

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