What Forgiveness is Not

October 3, 2009

Forgiving someone that has hurt you is tough.  Here is RT Kendall’s list of what forgiveness is not, along with a few comments of my own.

What Forgiveness is NOT:

1.  You Don’t Have To Approve of What They Did: Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, but he didn’t approve of what she did.  He also forgives us, but he doesn’t approve of what we do.  We don’t have to say “it’s ok.”  They hurt you so it’s not “ok,” but you still have to make the choice to forgive in the face of their wrong.

2.  It’s Not Making Excuses For Them: They hurt you.  You don’t have to say, “It’s how they were raised” or “I deserved it.”

3.  Don’t Justify What They Did: God never tries to justify our sin.  There is no excuse for what we do, yet he chooses to forgive.

4.  Don’t Pardon Them:  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you don’t testify against them if what they did was a crime.  We can forgive them, yet they may still have to face consequences for their actions.

5.  You Can Forgive Without Reconciling:  Forgiveness is not required for both sides.  You aren’t responsible for their attitude. If they have hard feelings against you, that’s out of your control. You are only responsible for you.  Also, if they are still intent on continuing their pattern of sin against you, you may have to draw boundaries and keep them at a distance.  The point is to get rid of your bitterness towards them, not necessarily to invite to your birthday party if they continue their pattern of transgression.

6.  Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean Denying What They Did: Love keeps no record of wrong but it doesn’t deny that there was a wrong committed.

7.  You Can’t Forgive and Forget:  We are human.  We remember.  The challenge is that when we do remember, we make the choice to forgive.  This may be on a daily or even hourly basis at firt.

Total forgiveness is often not possible without God’s help.  Maybe your prayer should be “I forgive them God.  Help me to forgive them.”  Bitterness will affect your health, relationships with others, and your relationship with God.  Holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness hurts us more than it does the person that we are bitter against.

An old friend and I were driving down the road recently when he asked me a question that I had to think about.  There was a mutual “friend” that was really a jerk to me years ago.  I really haven’t seen or thought much about this guy, good or bad, for several years.

284344-main_Full.jpg The Jerk image by boomhowser_2008

The question that my friend asked me was, “Eddie, did you ever forgive Bob”  I really had to think alot about his question.  Bob hasn’t even been on my radar for years.

My immediate answer was “yes,” I had forgiven Bob, but it really made me think.  Was that the truth?

How do you know if you have really forgiven someone?  People talk about “forgiving and forgetting.”  Even though I had seemingly forgotten, did I still have unforgiveness in my heart?

RT Kendall says in his book “Total Forgiveness,” that one way to determine if you have REALLY forgiven is if you wish them well.  That doesn’t mean that you invite them over for Christmas dinner or go on vacation with them.   It doesn’t mean that you buy them a birthday present.  You may still have to draw your boundaries, but we all have to let go of unforgiveness if we are to grow in our relationship with God.

We can’t even get away from it when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Wow!  I want God to forgive me better and quicker than I forgive others.

We’re all forgiven much, so we do need to forgive others too.  Hey Bob!  I wish you well!

Why is it hard to forgive some people?