Choosing Forgiveness

     Everyone is wounded by others at one time or another, sometimes in significant ways.  Many individuals have been molested as children.  Others have been cheated on by their spouse.  Some have been lied to or stolen from.  The list of offenses is endless.  Each of us receives the opportunity to respond.  Will we seek revenge?  Turn our anger inward and end up with seething resentment?  Or can we do what Jesus preached and modeled and FORGIVE?
      To forgive is a better way forward, but it is difficult.  How do we forgive the deep, painful wounds that have been inflicted on us?
      First, understand what forgiveness actually is.  Forgiveness is not excusing bad behavior.  It does not remove all consequences for actions (Numbers 14:18a).  For example, I would advise a rape victim to seek out law enforcement to hold a criminal accountable.  Forgiveness is not staying married to an unrepentant adulterer. Forgiveness IS rejecting the path of revenge and with time coming to wish the person well.  It is dealing with the internal anger that arises when we are deeply wronged.  It is choosing to refuse to be chained to the most painful moments of our lives.  It is rejecting our angry desire to make an excruciating moment a permanent fixture in our minds.    
      Second, remember that we are forgiven.  At the heart of the Christian faith is the confession that we are sinners who need grace.  We can forgive, because God first forgave us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) to remind us of how hypocritical it is to accept God’s incredible forgiveness of us and yet withhold that forgiveness from those who have wronged us.  We forgive much because we have been forgiven much.  Author Timothy Keller says, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” (Forgive, 68)
      Third, confront.  Forgiveness always begins with truth telling (Leviticus 19:17, 18).  Confront the person; you need to share the truth and they need to hear it.  If they accept the truth and repent, there might even be a full reconciliation. 
      Fourth, take pity on the person.  Actually listen to the person who has wounded you.  Everyone has a story that helps clarify why they do what they do.  Hearing them can take the edge off our desire for revenge.  The woman who molested me as a child most likely had her own story of abuse.  This does not excuse her, but it does help explain her.  Martin Luther King Jr., who experienced painful violence at the hands of angry racists never lost sight that they were made in the image of God.  There was still value in them despite their horrible behavior. 
     Five, rely on the Holy Spirt through prayer.  Forgiveness often feels impossible.  Pray regularly for the one who wronged you.  God can give you the power to forgive even your deepest wounds.  A full reconciliation is sometimes not possible or wise, but often God fully repairs a relationship.  And like an artist who creates a mosaic, God can take the jagged pieces of our woundedness and bring forth beauty.    
      In a culture of outrage and offense we must be channels of God’s grace.  A forgiven person forgives, period.
Pastor Derek Dickinson