This post first appeared on wunms
Hi guys, today we are tackling forgiveness.
I used to think that I had this forgiveness thing in the bag. It was quite simple. Someone would do wrong to me (or I would perceive it as wrongdoing), they may or may not apologise for it, but I’d convince myself and them if necessary, that it was all okay. In my mind though, I’d probably never view that person in the same way again. They were blacklisted and subconsciously this impacted how I treated them despite my efforts to be cordial. I was passive aggressive but supposedly I “forgive” them. Put simply, this is not forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not loving someone from a distance because when you get close to them you’re reminded of the hurt they caused you. Forgiveness is not feeling bitter every time you hear someone’s name or you’re reminded of a painful situation. Forgiveness is not pretending something never happened or that you are unbothered. Forgiveness is not secretly wishing for revenge or for a person’s comeuppance. Forgiveness is not being emotionally dead. All of these coping mechanisms are actually unforgiveness in disguise and it’s a dangerous way to live life.
Unforgiveness is a silent killer. It festers quickly. One minute you don’t forgive A for something that happened 5 years ago… the next minute, it’s present day and you can’t even trust B, C or D because your heart is heavy and full to the brim with bitterness. Suddenly all of your relationships with people are negatively impacted. Meanwhile A, that you still refuse to forgive, has moved on with their life and you remain stuck.
Sometimes, the person that has offended you may not even seek your forgiveness or they may even repeat their offence numerous times, displaying a lack of remorse. But this does not take away from the fact that God wants us to have a forgiving spirit, just like He does. We forgive because we were first forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), it is not conditional. This is why when dealing with situations which require our forgiveness, it is best to focus less on the person’s individual conduct and more on doing what is right for the sake of Christ. If we get too caught up in measuring how deserving a person is of our forgiveness, we are simply missing the point. Now you might be wondering when is enough, enough. Should we just forgive and keep forgiving forever?
In short, the answer is yes. Keep on forgiving those who wrong you. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35), Peter asks: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” And Jesus responds: “No, not seven times but seventy times seven” to illustrate an infinite number. This is basically Jesus’ way of telling Peter (and believers in Christ alike) that we should forgive as often as there is occasion to. In this parable, the king was owed an amount that was so large, the servant could never repay it. The servant begged the king for mercy and the king felt compassion and released the servant’s debt. When the servant left the king, he went to a fellow servant that owed him a large amount, grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. The fellow servant begged the servant for mercy (just as the servant had begged the king). But the servant did not heed to his fellow servant’s requests and imprisoned him until the debt could be paid in full.When the news got back to the king about what the servant that he had just forgiven had done to his fellow servant, the king said “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the servant to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. Jesus concludes the parable by saying: “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
The Parable is a stark reminder that those who are forgiven can be stubborn and slow to forgive others, and this should not be the case. It also brings to the forefront the underlying fact that if we refuse to forgive those who sin against us, God will not forgive us of our sins either (Matthew 6:14-15). Can you actually imagine a life whereby God has a cap on how many times He can forgive us? No Wunmi, I forgave you for that yesterday, I’m not giving you any more chances. WOW – I would be absolutely finished. We all would! If God can extend such love to us, our goal should be to reciprocate that towards those who have wronged us also. Not to be stingily counting how many “I forgive yous” we’ve handed out this month.
Stop being a stingy forgiver – it’s free.
In addition, Jesus said that we should forgive from our heart in the parable. This is sincere forgiveness, not the surface-level forgiveness that I mentioned at the start of this blog post. Our role is to show love to one another (John 15:12) and as it has been written, love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4), which is yet another indicator that forgiveness is a requirement of showing love.
This doesn’t mean that you need to surround yourself with toxic people in the name of forgiveness. Yes, forgive and forgive with your whole heart! But exercise wisdom whilst discerning someone’s true character, literally ask the Holy Spirit: Should this person remain in my life? Pray about the situation and remember that forgiveness is not synonymous with trust. In certain circumstances, barriers need to be put in place to avoid future hurt and this might even mean distancing yourself from a repeat offender/”unrepentant sinner”. God can require you to forgive someone but at the same time, remove that person from your life. It is about examining the condition of your heart and being honest about your reasons for potentially taking a step back after forgiveness – is it because you have forgiven but have been enlightened, or are you just acting on feelings of bitterness?
Forgiveness is freedom. I pray that God frees us all from the burden that is unforgiveness and replaces it with an earnest desire to forgive and to forgive quickly. Ultimately, we need to remember to choose love over hate because God is love (1 John 4:8). Amen!
I’ll leave you with this really useful picture that was shared in one of my group chats a little while back:
If a particular person was on your mind throughout reading this blog post, this is your sign – FORGIVE THEM.
God bless you!