FORGIVING THE PEOPLE WHO’VE HURT US PART 4

I’m looking at some popular misconceptions that people have about forgiveness. We looked at four of them in my last post, now here’s another three.

            5. YOU DON’T NEED AN APOLOGY BEFORE YOU FORGIVE.  When we go to the Lord for forgiveness, God requires us to repent and confess our sins. It’s kind of like an apology. Brethren, we need to apologize and ask for forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong. If we’ve wronged the Lord we need to apologize to the Lord. And if we’ve wronged someone we need to apologize to that someone. Apologies are required!

But from our perspective as the wronged or offended party, we don’t need to wait for an apology before we forgive the offender. JUST BECAUSE THE GUILTY PERSON HASN’T APOLOGIZED OR ASKED FOR OUR FORGIVENESS DOESN’T MEAN WE DON’T HAVE TO FORGIVE! Forgiveness, I’m saying, doesn’t wait for an apology before it will forgive.

Do you remember one of the last things Jesus said as He hung on the cross? Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). Do you suppose Jesus ever asked for something that the Father refused to give Him? Now get this. Jesus has been crucified by the Romans and the Jews. None of them–aside from Jesus’ followers maybe–were asking God to forgive them for that crucifixion. And yet Jesus was asking His Father to forgive them! Didn’t these crucifiers of our Lord need to apologize and ask for forgiveness before God forgave them? Why, then, was Jesus asking His Father to forgive them when they hadn’t yet asked for forgiveness?

Make no mistake. Like I said already, IF A PERSON HAS SINNED AGAINST, OR WRONGED, SOMEONE, THEY NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR IT. But from our perspective as the offended party, we forgive even if an apology hasn’t yet been made. We forgive even in the absence of an admission of guilt or wrong. And we forgive even in the absence of a request for forgiveness.

Why should we forgive even in the absence of an apology? Because as humans, FORGIVENESS KEEPS US FROM  BEING   RESENTFUL   OF   WHAT  A  PERSON  HAS  DONE TO US.  If we’re already resentful, forgiveness puts an end to that resentment. Do you see what I’m saying? We forgive even when the guilty person hasn’t yet met his responsibility of apologizing because forgiveness keeps us from having, or holding on to, bad feelings and attitudes toward this person. In a sense, WE FORGIVE NOT ONLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE OFFENDER, BUT FOR OUR OWN BENEFIT AS WELL.

So does the absence of an apology mean we don’t have to forgive? If it did, we would be waiting a long time to forgive, and perhaps forever, because some people take years to apologize–if they apologize at all. The result? The sin goes unforgiven and we ourselves remain unforgiven by God. Brethren, don’t wait for an apology to forgive. Whether an offending person has met his responsibility or not, God still says, Forgive!

            6. BEING INNOCENT IN AN OFFENSE DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN WE’RE INNOCENT.  Just because we’ve been wronged and are consequently the innocent party in a trespass doesn’t automatically mean we’re entirely innocent in the eyes of the Lord. You see, unforgiveness itself is a sin. And though we’ve suffered wrong, having done no wrong; that doesn’t mean we’re totally innocent in the sight of the Lord. UNFORGIVENESS MAKES US EVERY BIT AS WRONG AS THE OFFENSE THAT WAS COMMITTED AGAINST US! Being unforgiving, we’re wrong just like the offender! Brethren, don’t wait for an apology before you forgive. Forgive and don’t open the door to unforgiveness. Forgive because without it you yourself stand in need of forgiveness for the sin of unforgiveness. Friends, NO CRIME COMMITTED AGAINST YOU, NO SUFFERING INFLICTED UPON YOU, IS WORTH BEING UNFORGIVEN BY GOD. IT’S JUST NOT WORTH IT.

7. FORGIVENESS ISN’T DEPENDENT ON FEELING OR EMOTION.  Many people wait to feel good before they forgive. This is, in part, why it takes a long time for people to forgive. I suppose it’s part of the healing process. They say time heals all hurts. But the thing we must note is that forgiveness isn’t dependent on a feeling or emotion. It’s not something we do when we feel like doing it. Forgiveness is a duty or obligation we have from God. We forgive because God tells us to forgive. Now, as we shall see in our following commentary, there’s a lot more to forgiveness than just duty. But what we’re trying to emphasize here is that we forgive because we have to–not because we feel like it. Make no mistake. It’s nice to feel like forgiving. But forgiveness isn’t dependent on a feeling. We don’t wait to feel like forgiving before we forgive.

THE MEANING OF FORGIVENESS

There are several Hebrew and Greek words used for forgiveness and the essence of them all is pardon. To forgive someone means to pardon, spare, or release them from the penalty or punishment of sin.

Sin, you see, carries with it a penalty or punishment. From God’s point of view, that punishment is eternal death or damnation in Hell’s fires.  We are told in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. When God forgives us He frees us from having to suffer that punishment. The consequence? We don’t have to go to hell. Forgiveness, you see, pardons and frees us from having to suffer the penalty of our sins.

Now from our point of view, when someone sins against us there are all kinds of punishment possible. Speaking strictly as a human being and not necessarily as a Christian, we can kill them, injure them, harass them, divorce them, file a lawsuit against them, exact  financial compensation from them, and so on. TO FORGIVE SOMEONE, THEN, MEANS WE DON’T PUNISH THEM FOR WHAT THEY’VE DONE TO US. Forgiveness pardons the offender and releases or spares them from suffering the penalty of their offense. And, in the same measure, our FORGIVENESS RESTRAINS OR PROHIBITS US FROM RETALIATING OR INFLICTING HARM UPON THOSE WHO HAVE HARMED US.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 5. Some eye-opening insights into the nature of forgiveness. If you’re having a really hard time forgiving someone this next post could well hold the key that frees you from the shackles of unforgiveness. Come on by and be a part of D Day.

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