1. FORGIVENESS APPLIES ONLY WHEN A TRESPASS HAS BEEN COMMITTED.  Many people say, “I’ll never forgive him for what he did to me,” or  “I can’t forgive her for what she said about me.”  People, I’m saying, have a hard time forgiving someone because of what this someone did to them. But that’s precisely the point! FORGIVENESS HAS MEANING ONLY IN THE CONTEXT OF SIN OR WRONG. A person who hasn’t done anything wrong doesn’t need to be forgiven. Who stands in need of forgiveness? Who do you forgive? Those who have done something wrong! In your case, the person who hurt you is the person you need to forgive.

Brethren, THE FACT THAT SOMEONE HAS DONE YOU WRONG ISN’T REASON OR JUSTIFICATION FOR YOU NOT TO FORGIVE THEM: IT’S ALL THE MORE REASON FOR YOU TO FORGIVE THEM! If they didn’t do anything wrong to you, you wouldn’t need to forgive them. But now, because they have done something wrong to you, you must forgive. You forgive them because they’ve done something wrong to you. Forgiveness, you see, has meaning only in the context of sin or wrong. No wrong, no forgiveness. And the thing of it is, their trespass against you gives rise to your need to forgive them. They offend, you forgive.

Now make no mistake, no one is condoning, excusing, or justifying the trespass that was committed against you. WHAT’S WRONG IS WRONG. But the fact of the matter still remains: the commission of a trespass creates the need for forgiveness. No trespass, no forgiveness. But with the trespass comes the need for forgiveness.

            2. FORGIVENESS MEANS YOU DON’T PUNISH OR RETALIATE.  What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is pardon from punishment. It’s pardon, not punishment. For the offender, it means no punishment suffered. And for the  offended,   it   means  no   punishment   inflicted.   FORGIVENESS,  MY FRIENDS, MEANS YOU’RE NOT GOING TO PUNISH THOSE WHO’VE HURT YOU. Just as a state or presidential pardon stops or prevents a prison warden from executing a criminal, in like manner, forgiveness stops or prevents you from punishing the offender. The pardon that forgiveness gives prohibits you from retaliating and taking vengeance against those who have done you wrong. Forgiveness means pardon. And pardon, for the offended, means there will be no punishment meted against the offender.

Brethren, do you find yourself wanting to retaliate against those who’ve hurt you? Are you wanting to see the offender punished? Do you long to see the offender suffer for what he’s done? Do you find yourself wanting to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner?  If so, then you haven’t forgiven. No matter how many times you say “I forgive,” and no matter how many times you tell yourself you’ve forgiven, YOU HAVEN’T REALLY FORGIVEN UNTIL YOU’VE LET GO OF THE STONES, LET GO OF THE SWORD, AND RESOLVED IN YOUR HEART THAT THERE WILL BE NO STONING OR EXECUTION OF THE OFFENDER, NO PUNISHMENT METED–NOT FROM YOUR HAND. Leave the punishment to God and the authorities. Let them decide what punishment, if any, is due. Quit thinking of ways to get even or get back. Quit longing to see the offender suffer. FORGIVENESS, BRETHREN, DOESN’T THINK IN TERMS OF PUNISHMENT: IT THINKS IN TERMS OF PARDON. When you forgive somebody you’re making a conscious and willful decision not to punish that somebody. You’re relinquishing your self-appointed right to take vengeance and hurt in return. Brethren, God doesn’t ask you to punish: He commands you to forgive.

            3. FORGIVENESS HARBORS NO RESENTMENT TOWARDS THE OFFENDER.  When God forgives you He forgets all about your sin. He blots it out of His mind and memory (Jeremiah 31:34). He takes your sin and dumps it in the deepest depths of the sea (Psalm 103:12, Micah 7:19). Can you, with your naked eye, see what’s at the bottom of the sea? Of course not. When God dumps your sin in the deepest sea it’s His way of saying He removes your sin from His sight, He doesn’t see it, He forgets all about it. The blood of Jesus wipes away the sin, it covers the sin, so that God does not see it.

Brethren, when you forgive the offender you must forget the offense. This is something that’s not easily done, especially when the Devil and the flesh like dredging things up so that you can get all mad and bitter again. But it’s something you’ve got to apply yourself to and, in many instances, it takes time. Some things are never forgotten. But they can be forgotten in the sense that, like God, you get the offense out of mind and out of sight. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t bring the subject up. Refuse to dredge up past wrongs and injustices. Leave the past in the past. And leave what’s forgiven and under the blood, forgiven and under the blood.

LOOKING BACK AND REMEMBERING, OR MEDITATING ON, PAST WRONGS IS WHAT FUELS RESENTMENT AND BITTERNESS.  You’re resentful and bitter because you remember the wrongs and injustices you’ve had to suffer. And the cure for those maladies of the soul is to forgive and forget. Read what our Lord said in Mark 11:25, And when ye stand praying, forgive, if  ye have ought against  any:  that  your  Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. In other words, our Lord is saying if you have anything against anybody–a resentment, grudge, or hard feeling–the thing to do with that is forgive. FORGIVENESS PUTS AN END TO RESENTMENT. You see, forgiveness means you’re not only relinquishing your self-appointed right to take vengeance: it also means you’re relinquishing your self-appointed right to be bitter or resentful. You’re giving up your self-appointed right to hold a grudge or wear a chip on your shoulder. As I already said, that’s not easily done. But with the Lord’s help, you can do it.

And most importantly, perhaps hardest of all, brethren, YOU MUST LOVE THOSE WHO HURT YOU. That’s not natural! It’s supernatural and it takes the grace of God to do that. But the thing of it is, you can do it with God’s grace: you can love. Friends, FORGIVENESS BEGINS WITH LOVE. YOU CAN’T FORGIVE WITH HATRED IN YOUR HEART. You can’t forgive, not truly, without love. Why is that? Because love, the Bible says, covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Hatred stirs up strifes, but love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12). All sins. Love does. What the blood of Jesus is to sin in God’s sight, so love is in our sight: love covers all sins and removes them from our sight. Brethren, quit trying to uncover the past wrongs of others. Leave them covered. Love. Love covers. Forgiveness pardons and forgets. Love.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 6. In this final installment in forgiving others I continue looking at the nature of forgiveness. It’s hard and crucifying, but it’s the medicine that cures an aching heart. Bring the cross. God will give the grace.

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