How far does Forgiveness go?
Does forgiving mean forgetting and does it mean you always go back for more? First and foremost; What is forgiveness? Is it an action? Or is it a matter of Heart? A by-word?
Webster?s dictionary defines forgive as a verb: to give up feeling angry or wanting to punish; show mercy to; excuse or pardon.
Mercy is defined as: Kindness, especially to a wrongdoer or enemy, that is greater than might be expected.
Pardon is defined as: Free from further punishment.
In my opinion, and what I?ve found to be true with many people, in searching the text of the Bible, we can, if we look hard enough, find Scripture to support most any argument we may have. For example in the Old Testament legalism forbade the breaking of bread with sinners. Which would support not "going back for more" wouldn?t it? However, in the New Testament, Christ Himself supped with sinners. This is one of His practices that was used to condemn Him.
I?ve struggled with forgiving a family member that I love beyond words, and at the same time, this family member won?t speak to me now. Does that mean my level of forgiveness is not sufficient? I don?t believe so. In my heart of hearts, and to the very depth of my soul, I know I have forgiven her. Can I forget? I believe the hardness of man?s heart and the sinfulness of man?s nature makes it impossible to forget. Can a mother forget the pain of childbirth? ? The memory will fade, the pain a distant memory, yet she will never forget.
So, can a person forget the pain of betrayal, degradation, despair, loneliness, unacceptance or whatever the hurts? The more love we have for a person the harder to forget the pains because we feel betrayed. The harder it is to bury them. At the same time, I firmly believe it is not necessarily the memory, or inability to forget, that is the problem, I believe it is what we do with the memories.
We know the Scriptures that show what Christ did for us, how through Him the Father will not remember what we have done, because of what His Son did for us. He looks at us through Jesus Christ. I often have to remind myself to look at myself and others through Christ as well. And when I do this, I see not the bad, I see the Good of Him. When I feel that my remembrances are causing me to feel the old anger again, I go in prayer. I beg forgiveness from the One Who always Forgives. No matter how many times I ask. No matter how many times I commit the same sin. He is Faithful to Forgive.
Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living says there are five steps to forgiveness: (and I have enclosed the Scripture that I found to verify what he says the steps are)
- First realize forgiveness is risky. Even a repentant offender is likely to fail again, perhaps in the same way.
(Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 18:22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.")
- Second rely on God. Cry out, "Lord, I lean on You for the grace and strength; to forgive this one who has hurt me and to want and to work for what is best for him."
(1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. )
- Third cancel the debt. Through prayer, express to God that you relinquish the right to collect on the debt on any level and that you release your bitterness.
(Colossians 3:13 "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 4:32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.")
- Fourth, evaluate whether you should tell the offender what you have done before God.
(2 Corinthians 7:8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it-- for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while-- 7:9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.)
- Fifth, if appropriate, verbally offer forgiveness. If they repent, your relationship can resume. If not the relationship cannot be resumed; but with forgiveness offered, good can be returned for evil
(Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.)
There comes a time when we have to "Let go and Let God" because only He can truly heal the wounds. If, after much prayer, you feel the Lord is leading you to remain in touch and proximity to the individual who hurts you, then there is a reason. Only He knows what it is.
After much prayer, I feel the Lord is still leading me to reach out to my family member and I do. Because that gesture is not returned does not mean forgiveness is not complete. On the other hand, I have also forgiven another individual who I felt did me harm, and I do not feel led to reach out to that person.
I guess it comes down to this, are we reaching out because of our own "righteousness" and "purity" or are we reaching out because of His Righteousness and Purity?
May His Truth be your Truth, Theresa Leavitt
Ps: all Scripture I?ve included here is the NASB version