If you have been a Christian or been around Christians for very long it would have become apparent that forgiveness is a fundamental attribute. More so, it’s a very clear command (Luke 6:27-36). But what does real, heartfelt forgiveness look like? I think this is where we, I have gotten it wrong for so many years. This is how a Christian, myself, a believer for 2 decades got it wrong.
I have heard many many messages on forgiveness. After all if you do not forgive those that have done wrong, how is it you can expect your Father in heaven to forgive you (Matt 6:14,15)? We must love our enemies, and not repay evil with evil.
But what does this look like in real life? You know, life behind our front door-in our homes- or every day happenings, like holiday dinners with family? What does it look like when we know what was done is absolutely wrong and we have the need to see justice? After all it’s clear wrong is wrong, and right is right. If there is a law it should be kept, right? A father that abandons his children and owes more then can ever be paid in support should be in jail because the law says so, right? An ex that slanders out of hurt and hate should be made to pay, after all we have the right to sue, to punish if you will, right? When your disabled son is told he is evil and has demons out of ignorance, that church should pay for the hurt he will feel for the rest of his life, right? The mother that forces her children to live in filth, to live in fear of police, to live so isolated, to live in fear under her constant threat of suicide, she should face consequences, right?
Fact is if we hold others to the law, we ought to be held to the law as well. That does not mean that we never report abuses, it does not mean that criminals should not be held accountable in the court of law. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about in our own hearts, minds, and actions. There are agencies that have been given the duty to pursue injustices. Even if they are not doing their job, it is not OUR job to seek justice. This was personally one of the toughest ones for me to digest. Forgiveness has NOTHING to do with justice. In fact in order to love your enemies it is the exact opposite action as seeking the justice WE see fit. You can not do both. Justice is not up to us. It is not our fight to fight. If we are wrapped up in earthly battles, God can not use us for His heavenly purpose. This is why justice is up to Him and those in authority to do so — without us. If we do not trust Him in regards to justice then we are not living a life with him as Lord. ~~Ouch~~
Forgetting does not equate forgiveness. We can not simply push down, ignore, or forget the wrongs. We can not simply act as if it never happened and call it forgiveness. Forgiveness must be received by the offender in order for it to be legit. How can they receive your denial? They can not. Forgiveness is not hinged upon an apology. It has nothing to do with the offender accepting your forgiveness, or apologizing so that you can move on. Forgiveness is not a duty or a chore. Forgiveness is a gift, therefore nothing in return should be expected.
We can not just be courteous or polite. We can not just duck and cover from the flaming arrows aimed at our heads and loved ones by crazed ex’s. We can not just be gracious with our words when speaking of those that have hurt us oh so deeply. This is not forgiveness. This is exactly how one can be a Christian for many years and yet not grasp the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not kindness or the exercise of good manners.
“…Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you….” (Luke 6:28) Bless them? Do you realize what this means? Well, I looked it up, let me tell you. “To bless” means “to confer or invoke divine favor upon”. Crap! “Invoke divine favor”!? That means we can not just erase the bad memories, be nice to those that are mean, bad, wrong, whatever and move on. “Invoke”…do you know what that means? Well, I looked that up too. It can be taken two ways in this case: “To make an EARNEST request for” or “To put into effect or operation”.
So putting this all together what this means is that rather then continuing the pursuit for jail time for that father that abandoned his children, I need to make an earnest request that God bring him favor. Taking that farther, if the Lord provides me with a way….anyway to bring him favor, I must do so. After all as my Pastor put it today….if he needed a shower and he goes and read about it but then did nothing what good was it unless he takes action and actually takes the shower he read about.
If I were to say that I was thrilled to find out that all these years of being “nice” wasn’t good enough and now I have an ever growing list of people to bless would be sarcastic. So would you think that God just would leave it at that, oh no. He took it further with me today.
REJOICE! We are to rejoice in the Lord. So now I am supposed to be happy about it? No, that is not what this is about. It’s about remembering that if we are going to say Jesus is Lord of our lives we must believe it in our hearts (Ro 10:9). He is sovereign and has total right to take all the negative junk (I actually have another word for it but it probably isn’t so appropriate) in our lives and use it as He see’s fit. It will be for our good, you can be guaranteed of that (Ro 8:28)!