“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.
When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.”
I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes."
2 Corinthians 2:5-12
Have you ever had to deal with the issue of forgiveness? How about living with the consequences of sin caused by someone else? These can be hard things to work through when you have experienced any kind of pain. As followers of Christ, we have to learn how to resolve the conflict that has occurred in our past by forgiving those who may have hurt or offended us. If you’re anything like me, you hear the words forgive and immediately think, “Why should I? You have no clue how bad they hurt me.” Problem is that forgiveness is not an option. God requires it and our relationships with others have to be established by the same criteria for which God bases His relationship with us.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]”
God calls us to love and He calls us to forgive. A lack of forgiveness towards another leaves the door open for Satan to gain entrance into OUR life. That’s right. We may not be the one who caused the pain but if we do not forgive, we become a prime target for Satan to use us. It is a form of entrapment and forgiveness is necessary in order to avoid it. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 This is tough stuff to hear. Especially if the hurt you have experienced runs deeps.
Sometimes when we are dealing with hurt, people tell us that we need just to forget about what happened or what was said in order to forgive. Forgiving is not forgetting. In time, God may remove that hurt where it is no longer at the forefront of our mind but forgiveness does not mean we forget what was done. Forgiveness does not mean that we must tolerate sin of others and allow someone to use us as their doormat. We should lovingly confront those who hurt us, making them aware but still forgive the past sin. At the same time, we should also take a stand against their future sin as well.
Now it must be understood that taking a stand does not mean seeking out revenge. As much as this hurts to say, it does mean that we are to “let them off the hook”. I shudder at the thought but am then reminded of a just God who promises to make everything right in the end. “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Here is what forgiveness means as a Christian. It means that we have to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Whether we choose to forgive that person or not, the consequences caused by their sin will always be our reality. Example: Someone in your church gossips about you all over town. They then come to you, confess and ask for your forgiveness. You cannot retract the gossip. It is out there and cannot be taken back. No matter how you respond to this persons request for forgiveness, you will ultimately have to live out the consequences of their sin and bad choices.
That can be a very hard truth to swallow. We all want to believe that God’s justice, His revenge will avenge us and make things right. That is not always the case. We all have and are having to live with the consequences of someone else’s sin. We all are living with the consequences of Adam’s sin. We have a choice. We can choose to live in the bondage of bitterness or we can choose the freedom that comes from forgiveness.
As the victim, we find ourselves saying, “I just can’t do it. I cannot forgive these people.” The problem with this thinking is that as long as we remain stuck in that frame of mind, they will still be able to hurt us. There is only one way to stop the pain. Forgiveness is the only key that will unlock the door and free us from our past. In order to find healing, you have to forgive. We do not choose to forgive for the sake of others but instead for our good. Those who have caused harm may never know the damage they have caused and may never be aware of the fact that you chose to “let them off the hook” but God will. From that choice, He will bless you and begin to heal the hurt within. From there you will experience a new beginning, a new joy and a heart that will find healing.