“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I do not understand how the above truth works, but I understand what Jesus wants. Even the most casual reader cannot miss his meaning.
A dear old woman once asked me this question: “Do I have to forgive him even if he has not asked my forgiveness?” I referred her to the verses above and to the Lord’s Prayer in which Jesus taught that God would forgive us our debts in the same way we forgive our debtors. Yikes!
Maybe it was a purely selfish motive, but I forgave my abuser. I wanted God to forgive me freely for the sins I’ve committed. It was a painful process. It was a long process. Every time I felt pain and was tempted to react in anger, I had to forgive my abuser again. Every time I became aware of what I’d lost, or when I realized anew what this person had put me through, I had to forgive my abuser again. Seventy times seven times. It was not a happy process. It hurt. It hurt bad.
Before I go any further, I want to pause here and talk about what forgiveness is not. When you forgive someone, you are not minimizing what your abuser did to you. You are not minimizing your pain and saying everything is all right. Forgiveness does not mean, “Oh, it was okay that he did that.” When you forgive someone, you do not have to give him free access to your life or try to desire a continuing relationship with him. Even though both Jesus and Paul said to bless our enemies, Jesus said that when the disciples were persecuted in one town, they could flee to the next (Matthew 10:23). Forgiving someone does not mean that you give him permission to harm you again or to do it to a daughter, niece, granddaughter, or neighbor of yours.
Forgiveness does, however, mean that you are yielding your right to a satisfying revenge. Vengeance is the Lord’s business, and He can do it much better that we can. We are no longer in control of what that miserable wretch deserves. This covers not only sins of commission but also the sins of omission—something good that someone should have done but didn’t. These sins, too, need your forgiveness. You can now stop looking to those people for the needs they didn’t supply when you sorely needed them. Forgiveness means that they do not owe you anything. Cancel the debt (the nasty revenge) and cancel what they owe you.
Make a list of the people who have committed sins against you. List the sin. Make a list of people who have omitted to do good to you when they had the chance. List the sin. Then, with God’s strength and your resolve, forgive them. Then tomorrow, when you hurt again and want to lash out against them, forgive them again. And again.
This a page from the book When God Roared. Each page will be published, one per day, on this website. We pray that God uses it mightily in your life to swaddle you in His love and heal your precious heart.