May 5

Radical Forgiveness, Part 2

Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

We know that difficult forgiveness is not something limited to Jesus. When Peter asked Jesus how many times we have to forgive, implying the receiving of many grievances, Peter seemed to think that up to seven might be a reasonable (and spiritual) number. Jesus blew him out of the water by saying 70 times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), an impossibility in one’s own strength. Then in Acts, the first martyr Stephen echoes the words of Jesus: “Lord, do not charge them [those stoning him to death] with this sin” (Acts 5:60). As Jesus did, his followers are called to do.

Most of us struggle in this area, at least with someone or some event. Why is it so hard sometimes when other times it’s been relatively easy? Unforgiveness remains in us because of a stubborn truth or a stubborn lie:

• We’re afraid that if we forgive, the person will “get away” with it. (Lie—justice is in God’s hands. Forgiving is a separate issue.)

• If we forgive, it’s like we’re saying it was OK that they did something. Or not a big deal. (Lie—see above, plus the issue is the unforgiveness remaining in our hearts, not the apparent size of the offense.)

• It’s the last bit of control that I have over the situation. (An illusion many of us hold onto. If you realize that you think that, then also realize that in this situation, it’s unforgiveness that has control over you.)

• I’ve been able to go on, so it must be OK. (Usually a lie. Surviving isn’t forgiving, and being able to move on doesn’t mean your heart is free.)

• I don’t want to revisit the pain. (True. No one enjoys the process, but Jesus only works redemptively, and His grace and power are only found in reality, not in avoidance.)

• If I forgive, I have to trust them again. (Lie. We’re called to forgive—end of story. But trust is earned, and that either takes time or may never happen again. These are separate issues.)

Comedienne Lily Tomlin is attributed with a famous quote that is pertinent here: “To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past.” Sometimes we are not resisting forgiving as much as we are resisting tearing down the last defense against something we don’t want to deal with. Maybe there is a terrible lie of the enemy lying in wait in that place that we haven’t been ready to face down yet. If we haven’t forgiven completely, there is something to be faced, but even more so, a treasure awaiting us in God. The enemy wouldn’t be putting up such a fuss if there wasn’t something worthwhile in the Spirit to be gained.

Even the world knows the foolishness of unforgiveness, which is often compared to drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We weren’t created originally nor were we born again to hold on to offenses. There is only grace to forgive, not to hang on to hurt.

Prayer: Father, take me to the painful place if it will bring about forgiveness. You tell us to forgive, and I am yours. I give up my choice not to forgive. Thank you that while I fear and avoid at times, I know that there is a blessing awaiting me as You take me through the process.

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