Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forgiveness - what does it really mean?

Talking to a counselor and friend today, she made a comment regarding how most people view / understand forgiveness. I agree with her thought that most people, even Christians, don't really understand how to forgive. I know that I didn't. For many years, I thought I had forgiven people because I made the choice to. And I was told that the "feelings" would follow my decision. As a result, I have walked through many years of my life with unforgiveness and therefore, bitterness, holding me back from living life as God would have me live.
I have spent the last three months studying and reading much about forgiveness. One of the most powerful books that I have read is The Gift of Forgiveness by Charles Stanley.
I believed a lot of untrue things about forgiveness, much of which was taught to me by "the church", some I have witnessed, and some I have personally experienced from the receiving end of this non-biblical view of forgiveness. One biggie for me is the reconciliation aspect of forgiveness. The lie that you can forgive someone, specifically another Christian, and choose to not be reconciled is not Godly, true forgiveness. Not to say that unhealthy relationships should not change, but to choose to not be in fellowship with another believer who has confessed and asked forgiveness is sin. Plain and simple.
Whew! This is difficult stuff. But Jesus did not example forgiveness by telling us that He forgives us but does not trust us to not hurt Him again, to not dishonor Him by sinning against Him again and therefore He does not want to be in relationship with us. No, He forgives us and loves us with an unconditional love that says, "Your sins are forgiven and I want to spend all of my time with you....I love you...even though I know you will do it again."
What causes us to believe that our forgiveness of our fellow brothers and sisters is any different, that our forgiveness has conditions? Words like, "I forgive you, but I can't trust you", "I forgive you, but I don't like you." or "I forgive you, but I don't have to be your friend." These are not true, biblical statements.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Forgiven and forgiving.

This is a great book!