“So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Matthew 9:6a NLT)
Jesus often tied forgiveness with physical healing or other very practical issues. The paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus by his friends likely wasn’t thinking of his need of forgiveness, yet that was the priority for Jesus. One reason is that His will for us is to walk in wholeness of life – physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.
There’s a sense in which physical healing is incidental to walking in harmony with the Lord yet should enhance and multiply our effectiveness for Christ if we’re healthy. Forgiveness of sin should open a door of opportunity for us to seek health in every avenue of our lives, especially in our relationships with ourselves and others.
Related to that, today I’d like us to consider what forgiveness should look like for us if we’re the one needing to forgive someone who has sinned against us. I believe there are some misunderstandings that when seen in their proper light can liberate us to forgive, thus freeing ourselves to live a more fruitful and enjoyable life for the Lord.
Pastor Rick Warren used a helpful quiz in a recent devotional entitled What Forgiveness Really Is (05-21-22). How would you answer the following questions?
1. A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.
2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused.
3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
4. You haven’t really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.
5. When you see somebody hurt, it is your duty to forgive the offender.
All five are false.
On some levels, forgiveness isn’t about the other person, so waiting for someone to ask for forgiveness just prolongs your own suffering. Also, forgiveness doesn’t demand relationship. Forgiving someone who has hurt you physically, financially, emotionally, or otherwise, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to continue or begin a relationship with them. In a marriage or family situation, restoration may be a desired end, but learning to trust that person again may take a long time, if ever.
Another factor that is commonly misunderstood about forgiveness is forgetting. Forgiving someone doesn’t in and of itself mean you must or even can forget. Depending upon the severity of the trauma that was caused by their sin against you, you may never forget.
The picture that comes to mind when I think of forgiveness is letting loose of the “stranglehold” we have on a person’s throat. Our tendency is to want to hurt them like they hurt us, but God says: “vengeance is Mine” (Romans 12:19). What’s helped me is to understand there is nothing I could ever do to a person that would punish them as severely as God can. Nobody gets away with anything in God’s sight. They may avoid prosecution from the penal system, but they’ll never escape God’s justice.
Also, it doesn’t mean the hurt or pain they caused is immediately gone, it just means you commit them into the capable hands of God. Neither does it mean that what happened is being minimized in any way, it just means you’re allowing the Lord to take responsibility for the consequences of their sin in their life.
Holding a grudge or continually hoping there was a way to do to them what they did to you, at least from the standpoint of the pain they caused, is a dead end that only cripples you. Take a step towards healing by releasing your hands from their neck and placing them in the hands of your Savior.
He will guide you on the path of healing, enabling you to live in the freedom of the responsibility to punish another person. That’s God’s job. Please, for your sake, let Him do what only He can do.
Blessings, Ed 😊