In the walk of faith, one of the most challenging yet essential practices we encounter is forgiveness. As a pastor, I’ve heard many express their struggles with this concept, especially when dealing with repeated hurts or deep wounds. Their questions often reflect a mix of pain, confusion, and a longing for resolution. Let’s explore four common sentiments about forgiveness and find guidance through the wisdom of Scripture.
1. The Pain of Repeated Forgiveness
Firstly, it’s crucial to distinguish between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is a unilateral act of releasing someone from the debt they owe us. It can occur without the offender’s repentance, but reconciliation is a two-way process that involves repentance, a changed pattern of living, and the rebuilding of trust. When we forgive, we lay the foundation for potential reconciliation, but it does not automatically mend the relationship. It’s okay to set boundaries and seek professional counsel if an offender shows no signs of change. Remember, forgiveness is a sacrificial act, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to immediate reconciliation.
2. Overlooking vs. Addressing an Offense
The Bible tells us it’s our glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11), and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). However, overlooking an offense should stem from a place of love and forgiveness, not fear or avoidance. It’s about genuinely releasing the person from their debt to us. Sometimes, loving confrontation may be necessary for the offender’s growth, but the decision to overlook should always be grounded in love and forgiveness.
3. Forgiving the Undeserving
It’s a profound truth that none of us deserves forgiveness. The biblical perspective on sin is severe; even the smallest sin warrants eternal separation from God. Yet, God’s forgiveness towards us is immeasurable. Through Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35), we see the magnitude of our own debt forgiven by God—a debt we could never repay. This realization empowers us to forgive others, not because their sins are minimal, but because we have been forgiven much. It’s a reflection of the extravagant mercy and grace we’ve received through Christ.
4. Forgiving but Still Hurting
Forgiveness is often misunderstood as forgetting the offense. However, forgiveness is a decision and a process. It doesn’t mean we instantly forget or that the pain vanishes. Like the scars Christ bears, our wounds may heal, yet leave marks. If new layers of hurt surface, it’s normal to go through the process of forgiving again. This doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven; it simply acknowledges the ongoing impact of the offense and the continual need for God’s grace in healing.
In conclusion, forgiveness is a complex and often painful journey, but it’s a path laid out for us by a God who has forgiven us infinitely. It involves releasing control and entrusting justice to God, our righteous judge. Unforgiveness can trap us in a cycle of hurt, but through forgiveness, we find freedom and healing. It’s a reflection of the boundless forgiveness we’ve received in Christ, a testament to the depth of His love and the hope we have in Him.