How Does Forgiveness Work?

When we are hurt, we often want to run and hide and then the enemy gets to work on us, so we can let it fester within us and if we hold the grudge it becomes like an acid eating us from the inside.  It’s a toxin in our spirits.  For those of us who have hurt others we need to ask forgiveness, and this is such a difficult thing to do because we are admitting that we did the wrong thing.

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.  My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.  Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt was gone”.  (Psalm 32:1–5)

On Sunday our preacher mentioned ‘Forgiveness’, and it was at this time that I remembered the many times in my past that I had harboured a grudge, waiting for the moment that I could hurt the person who had hurt me, and the problem was I had in my own mind wanted my vengeance to hurt twice as much.  The first bit of the hurt was to “do unto others as they have done unto me” and the second bit of hurt was to punish them, so they would not do it again.  Perhaps that mind set had come from my own upbringing during which; when I had made a mistake or done the wrong thing, I was told, “You’ll get a thrashing that you’ll never forget” which was followed by a thrashing which I never forgot and on one occasion a visit to the hospital.  And you know what else was happening, I was being indoctrinated into, “being my father’s son”, being just like him and spending the rest of my life bitter and angry at the perceived injustices done to me or offence that I had taken from someone, with never a thought about the injustices I had done to others.

Then after I had married and started my own family, I discovered Jesus, and the more I read about him, the more I was convicted.  The Holy Spirit convicted me and made me realize that I had indeed become my father’s son.  My children lived in fear of me, but God bless their little hearts, they still loved me.  I went to them in tears and begged their forgiveness; not for punishing them, but for the viciousness that I had displayed.  What really broke me up was when they said, “That’s alright Dad, we always love you.”  Oh! for the unconditional love of a child. I walked away a changed man.

So, what is forgiveness?

Firstly, it’s not a compromise of morality.  God doesn’t confuse moral values and moral responsibility with grace and forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not a violation of Justice.  God will never compromise His justice.  It’s not merely avoidance of conflict because we don’t want to share hard feelings or harsh words with someone else, so avoidance of conflict is not the same as forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye towards injustice. Forgiveness is release.  The Greek word is ‘Aphesis’ which translated to English is ‘release’.  It means to choose to take someone who you have been holding in your debt, holding in resentment and bitterness and releasing them.  Releasing them from a personal obligation to you and giving it to God to deal with.  Peter asked Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Seven times?”, (Matthew 18:21) and Jesus told him to keep on forgiving.  In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus’ message is that there is no three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.  If there was, none of us could be forgiven by God and Satan would have a sign outside saying, “Standing Room only!”

Forgiveness is a new way of looking at others.  You will see them for what they can be and what they were intended to be, rather than as they are. And yes, I have long ago forgiven my father and I love him and thank him for helping God make me a better man.  God makes good of all things.

God bless you all

John Deroule