Forgiveness. Perhaps the foundation issue to living in Christ and for Christ. Oh, we are all plenty eager to accept the forgiveness of our sins from Jesus. However, when it comes to forgiving others…well, I don’t know about you, but that is an area of struggle for me far more often than I like to admit.
Recently, one of our Elders came to me in between services to pass along some information regarding a particularly nasty complaint. The Elder was apologetic for doing so at that time, but felt it was important enough to have the mini discussion with me right then. I love this Elder dearly and am so glad for his leadership and his example of Christ-like love. The nature of the complaint he was passing along is irrelevant, but the impact it had on me…well. I got through the next worship service, and then gathered a few guys to discuss the situation. Let’s just say that the party who was “guilty” of the “offense” handled it in a much more mature manner than I had.
As I have had a few days to pray about this situation, as well as to discuss it further with a few trusted brothers and sisters in Christ, I know that first and foremost, I must forgive the “complaint-ant.” What they said was extremely immature and extremely hurtful. You might even say it was blackmailish in nature. My initial reaction was no better. I was angry and bitter. I am repenting through many steps including writing this blog post in the interest of transparency and seeking forgiveness. I am also extending forgiveness unconditionally.
As I continue my Bible reading plan, “Immersion Into Colossians,” This verse has been screaming loudly in my ear since Sunday morning:
I need to do better in the forgiveness business. I believe that true forgiveness has a few characteristics that set it apart from merely accepting an apology or some other half measure.
Forgiveness is NOT excusing sinful behavior. Remember when Jesus spoke with the woman “caught in adultery” (John, chapter 8)? The crowd had dispersed, and Jesus asked if anyone condemned her. No one did, and Jesus said that neither did he, admonishing her to go and leave her life of sin. She was forgiven unconditionally, but told to repent and start her life anew. My job is not to save anyone from their sins, but to forgive them and point them to Jesus by the way I live my life.
Forgiveness is healing. When we extend forgiveness to others, the burden of anger, bitterness, resentment, etc. is alleviated. We are free from emotions that will take us further away from Christ, and can therefore concentrate on walking more closely with our Lord.
Forgiveness is unconditional. Even to the point of not needing an apology from the party which has offended you. Forgiveness is a willful act of love extended even to someone who doesn’t ask for it (or deserve it).
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. While God forgives and forgets, it pays for us to remember even after forgiveness has been issued. We may need to put ourselves in position to not allow a similar set of circumstances to occur in the future. Remembering wrongs done to us while truly forgiving the offender is simply a safeguard.
Okay, so what other characteristics of forgiveness would you add to this list? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comment section below.