Forgiveness is central to a life of faith but it’s often embarrassingly absent.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t forgive is because they misunderstand what forgiveness involves. We have too many layers of false information that scares us away from the idea. So today I want to help define forgiveness for us. Let’s start with something Jesus said about prayer…
…when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Forgiveness is the opposite of holding something against someone. It means to let go of the event that separates you from another person. It’s like something stands in between you and this person with their offense written all over it. Your relationship is now defined by what you hold against them. You continually point to it and remind your offender of what they’ve done. To forgive is to remove what stands between you and this other person.
Jesus tells us that if we insist on holding something between us and another person that there will also be something blocking our relationship with God as well. A sobering thought.
What Forgiveness Is
Let me give you three definitions for what it means to forgive:
- The first is giving up the right to get even. When someone offends us there is a natural need for justice. We want to balance the scales. We look for payback. We don’t want our offender to get away with something. But forgiveness says, No, I’m not going to get even. I’m not going to retaliate or teach them a lesson. I’m just going to trust that God will somehow make up for my loss.
- Second forgiveness is giving up the right to have your offender solve your problems. What I mean is some people will spend their entire life insisting that their mom or dad or ex-wife fully apologizes for what they did and makes everything right. That’s just not realistic. That probably won’t happen. And the problem with that is you’ll spend your life waiting for someone else to make you happy. Jesus taught us to pray…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. That tells us that forgiveness cancels a debt. It eliminates it…takes it off the books.
- And that’s why thirdly forgiveness is letting go of the past and moving into the future. Forgiveness gives you your life back. It keeps you from walking backwards into the future focused on the hurt of your past. Isn’t that what we do? Instead of facing the future we sacrifice our future by looking backwards into our past, obsessing on an offense from long ago. It’s like driving a car and fixating on the rear view mirror. You can only do that so long until you wreck the car.
Check back tomorrow when I’ll start to look at the five things that forgiveness is not. Learn more about forgiveness in STUCK.
Question: How has a past offense kept you from embracing your future? Leave your comment below and please consider “sharing the knowledge”.
- Download the full podcast or text of “Defining Forgiveness” here.
- Why Can’t I Forgive? (readingremy.com)