Since I started to write about forgiveness, friends asked me many questions about forgiveness. It seems as if there are many misconceptions about this topic.
A loose woman was caught “in the act,” and the stone throwers were ready. The penalty for adultery was clear – stone the adulterers to death! Jesus challenged the stone throwers to examine their own hearts before condemning the woman’s behaviour. “The one who is without sin – you cast the first stone.” No one moved. Then, after all the stones dropped – one by one – and the stone throwers left – one by one – Jesus focused His attention on the woman. He looked beyond her fault and saw her need. She needed to know the life-changing love of God. Unexpectedly, Jesus gave her a priceless gift – His merciful favour and forgiveness. (John 8:3–11.)
To define forgiveness more and bring a bit more light about forgiveness, we need to know what forgiveness is not!
Forgiveness is not:
- Circumventing God’s justice…We rather allow God to do justice His way and at His time.
- Wait to forgive, because we hear so often: “time will heal all wounds…” Out of experience and many studies about it, point to the fact that many people suffer from unforgiveness for decades. Time does not heal wounds. Indeed some people will not allow healing.
- Letting the offender “off the hook.” …When I forgive I “let the offender off the my hook to God’s.”
- Making wrong things right – condoning unjust behaviour…Forgiveness is rather acknowledging that unjust behaviour is without excuse, while still forgiving.
- Some think forgiveness is to say, what was wrong is now right…This was not the example of forgiveness that Jesus talked about in John 8:11. When he encountered the angry men who wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery, He chose not to condemn her to be killed with stones. But never did He excuse her. Jesus said to her, “Go, and sin no more”.
- To cancel the consequences…By forgiving the offender, you only cancel the consequences of the offense to you, but the consequences to the offender remain. The offender still has to deal with the consequences of the offense.
- Try to work away or explaining away the hurt…It rather is to work through the hurt.
- It is not based on what is fair…When the people crucified Jesus, they were not “fair” hanging Jesus on the cross – but He did so that we could be forgiven.
- Ignores what is right and wrong…Forgiving is rather to cancel the debt the offender owes you. There is no way how the offender can pay you back what he/she owes you. Forgiving is to give up the debt.
- Taking away all the emotional pain…Forgiveness does not take away the pain, but rather sets a path for the healing of the wounds. It is a process making it possible to carry the loss.
- Being a weak martyr…It is being strong enough to be like Christ.
- Stuffing your anger…It is rather resolving your anger by releasing the offense to God.
- A natural response…Are you kidding me, it is absolutely against our natural response to forgive. It is rather a supernatural response, empowered by God. It is through the grace of God that we can forgive.
- Denying the hurt the offense brought…It is rather acknowledging the hurt and releasing it.
- Being a doormat and be weak…If this was true, Jesus would have been the greatest doormat of all!
- Conditional – setting conditions on what you will forgive…Forgiveness is rather totally unconditional. It is a mandate from God to everyone.
- To forget about the offense…It is necessary to remember before you can forgive.
- Feeling…Forgiveness is not based on a feeling, but rather on the fact that all of us are called by God to forgive. Forgiveness is not an emotion, but is rather a choice and a willful act. Therefore, what “seems right” based on feelings can easily be wrong! “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
Next time more about the fact that so many say: “When you forgave somebody, you have to be reconciled with that person.” Is this true?