This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
Sometimes I know I have forgiven someone for sinning against me because we are reconciled – everything is hunky-dory again, hugs and air kisses all round, it’s like it never happened. Pukka.
What about when there is no chance of reconciliation? What if the person who hurt me has moved to another country? What if they’ve died and I’m hoping they’re in hell? Is that forgiveness? What if they offended me indirectly by hurting someone I love? Do I still have to forgive them?
The Bible teaches us to forgive, not because it is easy but because it is godly and good for us. We were God’s sworn enemies when He extended forgiveness to us. This is the costly and painful model of forgiveness – to forgive as the Lord forgave me (Ephesians 4:32).
There is great freedom in forgiveness; the alternative is bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). If we are struggling to know if we have forgiven someone, it might be easier to spot bitterness in our hearts instead.
In the case of my mythical offender who has moved away, I still need to forgive them. This does not mean sending a Christmas card or giving a false compliment and then patting myself on the back for being forgiving. Publicly it looks like forgiveness (“Oh look how brave Sharon is, forgiving when she was so hurt by XYZ!”) but inside I’m looking for a carving knife to stick in her back, or at least a chance to accidentally spill my drink down her dress…
Dear friends, this is not forgiveness. This is bitterness disguised (very poorly) as forgiveness.
Real forgiveness is a choice, often a daily choice, a painful choice, not to go over that person’s sin internally and keep it fresh. Not to rehearse vengeance privately. Not to drag it up at every opportunity. Not to look for ways to remind them of it. Not to hold it against them. Forgiveness is a choice to let God deal with someone and humbly allow God to be God.
Forgiveness is a chance to rely on God’s power at work in me, to ask his Holy Spirit to break down the pride in me that will not let this offence go and pray for his blessings on the offender.
It may be unwise to resume a friendship with someone if that will put me in harm’s way; it may be impossible to reconcile if they have moved away or died. Jesus’ command is still to forgive one another, to make the daily choice to forgive and have a heart attitude that prays God’s blessing for those who wrong us.
How do I know I’ve forgiven someone? When I remember that Jesus died for them as much as he died for me. Jesus died for them; Jesus considered them worthy of forgiveness; who am I to set my standard higher than God?