On Forgiveness

What is the big deal with forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness is always something we seem to struggle with. One of the most popular posts I have written concerns the issue of if someone’s murderer will be in heaven. Also, I have written about if Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven or not. With skeptics, if God punishes sin, He’s in the wrong. If God forgives sin, He’s in the wrong.

When it comes to us, we always think there has to be a catch. No one just forgives. In reality, this is the Christian way. This is what we are all told to do. Why should we though?

To begin with, everyone of us who are Christians has been forgiven. We have been forgiven of divine treason. Whenever we have sinned, we have in essence been saying that we wish God was dead. We have denied something about Him to be true. We have called into question who He is.

That’s a serious charge.

Yet we are forgiven. Forgiveness was offered when we did not seek it. We definitely did not deserve it. We definitely did not earn it. There was no obligation to provide a way of forgiveness to us. God could have let us all go our own way and go to Hell and have it be He and His angels in eternity together and no one could have said, “You did wrong.”

Forgiveness cannot be earned. If it could, it’s not really forgiveness. Forgiveness, like love is a gift. What does it mean?

To forgive does not mean that there are no consequences to the action. There may be. There may not be. You can forgive someone who abused your kids. It doesn’t mean you’re going to hire them immediately to be your babysitter.

What it means is there is no personal debt they owe to you. The relationship may or may not return to normal. Sometimes it does, but it takes time, such as in cases of infidelity.

If we are hesitant to forgive though, it is because we do not realize what we have been forgiven of. We are the person in the parable of the unforgiving servant who refuse to show mercy despite the great mercy that has been shown to us.

If we put a catch on forgiveness, then we are not realizing what we have been forgiven of. Is that risky? Yes. Is it hard? Absolutely. Do we want to push against it? Yep. We have to let go of any desire for revenge or to teach someone a lesson.

As I said though, forgiveness does not mean no consequences. Someone can be in prison and come to Jesus for forgiveness, and they will still be in prison. Someone can forgive someone for murdering a loved one, but that doesn’t mean the state will drop charges. We can choose to forgive. We cannot choose the consequences.

Forgiveness is also freeing not just for the other person, but for the forgiver. It’s a way of ending the cycle of retaliation. It’s a way of letting bygones be bygones and work towards and restoration that can be of the relationship.

I also consider it important to wait for the other person to ask for forgiveness first. The gift of repentance is a great gift to give. That being said, one should always have the attitude of forgiveness. It is not always wise to approach someone you need to forgive. Sometimes, you might not be able to, such as if the person has died. Sometimes, it could be risky, such as if the person has hurt you in some serious way such as abuse. Have in your heart the mindset of forgiving them, but let them approach you before you pronounce forgiveness.

If someone says they forgive you also, try to forgive them, and if they bring it up again, let them know they gave forgiveness. Work on rebuilding the relationship if it is possible. It depends on how much the relationship is valued, but God is in the business of doing things like that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters