A few weeks ago I mentioned the conundrum of forgiveness. I've recently had an epiphany of sorts. To quote a phrase, "Lightning has just struck my brain." HA! I'll just warn you now...this ended up sort of long-winded. I apologize!
First, there is no need to be superstitious about my Bible study always relating to my life. That's how it's supposed to work. For example, it's not that the study on patience brought trial, as in cause and effect...but through my study of God's Word, He indeed chose to show Himself and teach me clearly. Let's face it...we're slow learners...and need trial to gain maturity. (James 1)
Second ephipany, (yes, I know it boggles the mind that there could be more) but in relation to forgiveness (remembering NO MORE) there also has to be reconciliation. It's all about being a picture of Christ...and doing what He DID do...
All this has been done by God, who has reconciled us to Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Cor. 5:18
So, what is this ministry of reconciliation? Certainly reconciliation involves forgiveness and an apology, but it's much more. Reconciliation goes beyond words to actions. Reconciliation restores the relationship to where it was before the offense. It accepts and integrates the offender back into our life. Yeah, I wish that I'd had this epiphany YEARS ago...cuz let's just say it hasn't always gone that way for me.
If I truly forgive someone, I release that person in my heart, overcoming the desire for justice or revenge by means of showing mercy. I am no longer angry with the person who sinned against me. We are reconciled. If I am harboring anger or a grudge against someone, I haven't forgiven him.
Christians often fool themselves in this regard. They say they have forgiven someone, knowing that is what they are supposed to do, but they still harbor a grudge against the offender deep inside. They avoid seeing (or speaking to) their offender because it causes that suppressed anger to surface again. I know what I'm talking about, because I've done just that. Let us not fool ourselves. Remember that Jesus does not want us to even be angry with a fellow believer.
"But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell." Matthew 5:22
The evidence of genuine forgiveness is freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response.
"Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable." Romans 12:17
To give myself some safe clarity, I DO think that you must be as certain as you can of your offender's repentance--especially in cases involving repeated offenses. It is hard to genuinely restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about their confession and repentance. Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about their confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake their sin will not find forgiveness with God.
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy". Proverbs 28:13
I wanted to say that before saying THIS...I think many Christians also use that as an excuse not to reconcile. I know for myself, especially in my marriage for some odd reason, I tend to think a lot of evil about his intentions...and er, LOVE doesn't do that! "Love thinks NO EVIL." I hope I am not alone in saying that I want to judge the heart and motives of my offender as EVIL so that I don't have to fully forgive or reconcile with them.
And it's all just super hard work ya'll! I'm sure volumes have been written on this subject...and if you're still with me here at the end today...good for you! I think it's all summed up well with...
"Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Eph. 4:32