Be quick to forgive, not forget
Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2012
Not one to shy away from sharing personal stories, today I’m going to be uncommonly vague. Not because I can’t think of an episode that would apply but because I refuse to name names, and generalities may lead to guesses, which may cause unnecessary pain and confusion. So what are we talking about today? Forgiveness.
Why is it we can run to the cross for forgiveness, then walk away and withhold it from others? Why is it we have no problem accepting forgiveness from the Father, yet so difficult forgiving those who have offended us? Why is it that when some read the word “forgiveness” there was a mental flash of a person they have yet to forgive? If, in the corridor of your mind, there are photos of offenders, it’s time to take those pictures down. Especially if the person you need to forgive is the one who stares back at you in the mirror. It is as important to forgive yourself for your mistakes as it is to forgive others.
When Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive up to seven times, Jesus said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) I can’t speak for Peter, but I have not kept track of the number of times I’ve asked forgiveness from God. I have no right to number the times I am to extend forgiveness to others.
I’ve learned to be quick to forgive, but that process has also taught me some specifics about the topic. First of all, I don’t believe forgiveness means forgetting the offense. While forgiveness is the result of a divine work of God, forgetting is a sign of dementia. God may not wipe away the memory of every hurt, but I believe His grace so covers the offenses that they no longer cause pain.
My daughter, Elise, has two
scars from surgeries performed when she had lymphoma. Years
ago, I used to rub cocoa butter on those scars and tell her, “These
scars may never disappear completely, but they will not always be painful. They will remind you of the kindness, compassion and support of your doctors, nurses, family and friends. But more importantly, they will serve as a sign of the healing power of God. And even if these scars fade, His faithfulness never will.”
Forgiveness does not mean
you should tolerate sin. You are
not a doormat. Trust is given
once; after that, it’s earned. I will forgive the thief for stealing my money, but I will not let her hold my wallet.
Nor do I have the responsibility
of justifying their actions by the mood they were in or the way they were raised. It is not up to me to explain or excuse sin. I am simply required to forgive and move on. And sometimes in moving on, I
may need to part paths with the offender for a season. When we
ask God for forgiveness, we are instantly restored to Him. But in dealing with human relationships, like the mending of a broken bone, sometimes restoration takes a little time.
So what is forgiveness? I don’t know where my daughter Lauren found the following definition, but I love it. “Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Romans 12:19 emphatically states, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” I know you have really great ideas for revenge, but don’t touch the things that belong to God.
Forgiveness is releasing the person and moving on. I’ve been told that unforgiveness and bitterness is like tying a dead dog to your foot. It slows your progress, is ugly and stinks. Forgiveness is a decision. And it’s always the right one.
Ronny may be reached at email@example.com.