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Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the Bible. We sometimes view it merely as a therapeutic way of detaching ourselves from those who have harmed us. Yet the heart of true forgiveness is so much richer than we may realize.
Jesus underlined the amazing nature of forgiveness in Luke 17:4: “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Jesus’s followers are to imitate the grace of God that pursues us in the midst of our sinfulness.
Forgiveness is not earned but given. It means to release the desire to get even or the “right” to require the offender to pay for what he has done. To forgive is to say, “You are free. Your debt is paid.” It is not engaging in willful amnesia, but it is choosing not to treat someone on the basis of what they have done, even though we remember it.
Forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation is earned. Forgiveness clears the ledger; it does not instantly rebuild trust. Forgiveness cancels debts; it does not eliminate all consequences.
Consider these thoughts about forgiveness:
Face the Facts
Authentic forgiveness requires that we identify what has happened and understand its significance.
Feel the Feelings
There’s a danger of both “quick forgiveness”—a hasty verbal declaration that keeps us from processing the violation—and “slow forgiveness,” an ongoing “I don’t feel ready yet.” There’s an appropriate time to grieve the loss of what might have been.
A Decision and a Declaration
Forgiveness is a matter of obedience, an inward choice that declares, “I forgive you.” These words declare that the issue is dead and buried. When it comes to mind, we take it to the Lord.
Excerpted and adapted from The Risk of Forgiveness by Gary Inrig.
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