The Issue of Forgiveness –
There has been a long lived confusion on the issue of forgiveness (well at least in myself). Some believe that we are not required to “forgive” until the offender turns from the offense and asks. Others believe that we forgive regardless the circumstances.
As a Christian, here is where I have landed on this issue:
I think more often than not it’s our idea of the meaning of forgiveness that causes the problem.
Let’s look a little deeper.
Ah ha, you say! I don’t have to forgive unless the person who offends me stops the offense and asks for forgiveness.
How about this statement found in Colossians 3:13: Forgive even as Christ forgave you.
Oh yeah! I hear the debate brewing. One side protesting “Christ didn’t forgive me until I asked for it!” The other side stammering back “He died for you before you even committed the first sin. So He really did forgive you before you asked.”
Oh man! I have wrestled with these verses too.
Here is the definition of the word forgive from the Greek Lexicon: to let go; to free a debt (or your right to collect on that debt); to restore a relationship.
Now let’s wrap up!
In Romans 12:19, which reads, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God,” we are told to let go of our right to repay a hurt. Sounds like an act of forgiveness, right?
In Ephesians 4:31, we are told to check our own hearts, attitudes, and actions. It states: Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
Ephesians 4:32 goes on: Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
This is a command on what our lives should look like, and we still can’t escape this idea of forgiveness.
The ‘restoring a relationship’ type of forgiveness takes two people (the example I believe that is given in Luke 17:3) One willing to let an offense go and the other willing to ask that it be let go. Then there is the ‘release my right to collect on a debt or right a wrong’ type of forgiveness. It’s usually a one sided process. It starts with Romans 12:19 and us surrendering our desire for revenge. Then, it continues in Ephesians 4:31 with a personal appraisal and cleaning of ourselves. Finally, it is completed in Ephesians 4:32. This is where we are “as Christ”. Where we make a way. A way for the offender to freely come and find a restored relationship.
Where are you with forgiveness? Have you been carrying the wrong responsibility?