This is the first in a series of blogs about forgiveness. For a rough overview of talking points I’ll be covering, check out my “preface” blog to this series: The Top 10 Most Prevalent Lies About Forgiveness.
Besides personal experience, I will be basing many of my ideas on Matthew 18, specifically verses 21-35. If you aren’t familiar with the parable of “The Wicked Servant,” or you just want to brush up your memory, you can read it here. Or, you could just read ahead. This series will make sense either way!
WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?
Forgiveness is the legal absolution of debt.
Sure, there are instances where a quick, “Sorry about that,” and a, “No problem,” are appropriate, particularly in the case of minor wrongdoings or mishaps, but when it comes to forgiving anything from hurt feelings to physical harm, what we’re saying is:
“I forgive you. I’m not going to demand payment. I’m not going to seek revenge. I’m not going to publicly humiliate you by telling everyone what you did. I’m not going to rub this in your face for the next 10 years every time you annoy me. You’re absolved.”
When it comes to God forgiving our sin, it’s also matter of legality.
Sin = We Broke God’s Law
Penalty = Banishment From God’s Presence (Heaven)
Repentance = We Realize Our Offense, And Ask God For Mercy
Atonement = Jesus Pays Our Penalty Because We Can’t
Forgiveness = We Are Legally Absolved of Our Crimes Against God. We Are Debt Free, Because Jesus Paid the Bill We Couldn’t Afford To Pay
FORGIVENESS IS NOT A STAMP OF APPROVAL
Forgiving ≠ forget and/or pretend like nothing ever happened.
You can forgive someone and still not trust them. You can also forgive someone, but impose limits on your relationship with them.
“I forgive you for wrecking my car. I know you can’t afford to pay the repair bill, and I don’t expect you to. It’s OK. But I don’t feel comfortable letting you drive my car again.”
“Dad, I forgive you for abusing me as a child. I’m not angry at you anymore, and I’m not expecting you to somehow make everything better, but I can’t let you babysit my child.”
“I’m really sorry things got so uncomfortable, and I forgive you for lying to me. But you have to understand that from now on, it’s going to be hard for me to trust you. We’re going to have to work on rebuilding our relationship. Can we do that?”
“Last time we trusted you to watch the house while we were out of town, you threw a party and some things got stolen. I forgive you and I’m not angry. But this time, when we’re away, we’re going to hire someone else.”
“Honey, I love you, and I forgive you for hitting me. But you shouldn’t treat me like that, and the kids shouldn’t have to watch you hitting their mom. You have some serious issues you need to work out, and until that happens, you need to go live somewhere else.”
Yes, God expects you to be merciful, but he’s not asking you to play the fool either.
That’s all for now folks! In future blogs I’ll be covering topics including:
- Who Should Be Forgiven & Who Should Not?
- Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean We Should Put Up With Evil
- Why Is It Good To Forgive People Who Aren’t Sorry?
- How Do I Forgive The Unforgivable?
To suggest additional talking points, please comment below. For notifications of future entries, please subscribe to my email list here or click “follow” in the top right corner of this page.
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
— Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience