Forgiving From the Heart

Forgiving Others

December 3 – Forgiving Others

It is inevitable that we will suffer at the hands of others no matter how righteous we live. Physical and emotional abuse can leave one feeling bitter, anger and resentful. Our old fleshly nature seeks revenge and repayment, but the Holy Spirit says, “Forgive them just as Christ has forgiven us.” “But you don’t know how bad they hurt me,” cries the victim. The wise pastor responds, “As long as you hang on to your bitterness, they are still hurting you. Forgiveness is what sets you free from your past and stops the pain. You don’t heal in order to forgive; you forgive in order to heal.”

Forgiveness is not forgetting. God says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12). That means God will not use our past sins against us in the future. He will remove them as far from us as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). We haven’t forgiven another person if we continuously bring up their past and use it against them. Forgetting may be a long-term by-product of forgiving, but it is not the means by which we forgive. Forgiving is not tolerating sin. God forgives, but He never tolerates sins. We must forgive those who have wronged us, and then we should set up scriptural boundaries to stop further abuse.

Forgiveness is resolving to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. But that’s not fair! Of course it isn’t fair, but you will have to anyway. Everybody is living with the consequences of somebody else’s sin. We are all living with the consequence of Adam’s sin. The only real choice is to do that in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. If we are required by God to forgive as Christ has forgiven us, then how did Christ forgive us? He took our sins upon Himself. No person has truly forgiven another unless he has taken that person’s sin upon himself. As long as we refuse to forgive, we are emotionally chained to past events and the people who hurt us. Forgiveness is to set the captive free and then realize that we are the captives. It is for our own benefit that we forgive others.

But where is the justice? The cross is what makes forgiveness morally correct. Christ died once for all our sins; his sins, her sins, your sins and my sins. But I want justice now! We will not have perfect justice in this lifetime. That is why there is a coming final judgment. But I want revenge! “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). But why should I let them off my hook? That is precisely why you should forgive, because you are still hooked to them. If you let them off your hook, are they off God’s hook? What is to be gained in forgiving others is freedom from our past. God will make it right in the end.

Forgiving others does not mean that we don’t testify in court against another. Nor does it mean that we don’t confront a brother who is living in sin for the purpose of carrying out church discipline. Forgiving others makes our own heart right before God and allows us to experience our freedom in Christ. Only then can we righteously testify in court and confront others.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Seeking the Forgiveness of Others

December 2 – Seeking the Forgiveness Of Others

According to Jesus, we need to seek the forgiveness of others whom we have offended. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23,24). In other words, if you have offended someone else, then don’t pretend to worship God if you have not gone to that person first and sought reconciliation. The text is not suggesting that you practice some morbid introspection trying to determine any and all possible ways that you may have offended someone else. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cause you to “remember,” and it is the offense known by the other party that is to be dealt with. It doesn’t make any difference if the other person offended you more than you offended them. Your purpose for seeking forgiveness is not to get them to own up to their offense. If you wish to be in a right relationship with God, you have to assume responsibility for your own attitudes and actions whether they do or not. Consider the following steps when seeking the forgiveness of others whom you have wronged: First, clarify in your own mind the offense you committed and the attitude behind it. Second, make sure you have already forgiven the person for any wrong on their part. Third, think through the precise wording you will use when asking for their forgiveness. Fourth, label your action as wrong. Fifth, confess only as much detail as necessary for the offended person to understand. Sixth, Make no defenses, alibis, or excuses. Seventh, do not project blame nor confess for another. Eighth, your confession should lead to the direct question: “Will you forgive me?”

Ninth, seek the right place and the right time to approach the offended. Tenth, make your quest for reconciliation in person and face to face. Eleventh, have a responsible third party present if the offense was an immoral indiscretion that could result in legal action. Twelfth, make restitution if it is warranted. Finally, do not document your confession or write a letter. A letter can be easily misread or misunderstood, read by the wrong people, and be kept when it should be destroyed.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). It is not always possible. If they choose not to forgive you then you cannot be reconciled with them, but you are reconciled to God when you have done all that God requires of you. Go in peace.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog