Learning to Forgive: Part 2

  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalms 147:3

    THIS is what God does, THIS is what He's GOOD at, and THIS is WHO HE IS!  Bringing healing to a broken heart and a broken world.  Forgiveness unlocks the healing that God desires to do for you....but unfortunately so many of us get stuck in the process of trying to forgive that we never get beyond that phase. 

    Dr. Walter Thomas wrote a fantastic article called The Grace of Forgiving; it has been a great resource for understanding what true forgiveness is and thereby making it a possibility.  Much of what I will share today comes from this article and has been put to the test in my life!

    Essentially, when I forgive, I am choosing to forgive the 'debt' that is owed to me when I've been hurt or offended.  I am choosing to leave the matter in God's hands, not seek revenge, and purposely put the matter aside not to be picked up again.  When Peter questioned Jesus about forgiveness, he asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Mathew 18:21-22  In other words, we will repeatedly be called to forgive those who offend us again, and again, and again!  (Yes, those people do exist:)

    Just as it's important to understand what forgiveness IS, it's equally important to understand what it's NOT!  The forgiveness that God asks us to give is not the same as the forgiveness that He gives.  He knows we are human and cannot possibly reenact the depth of His mercy, His love, His grace, and His forgiveness.  We are not God....we might forget that, but He doesn't!

    God's forgiveness has unique qualities that we simply can't do!  Dr. Thomas lists them as the following:
    1. Only God can forgive sin.  Sin is directly against God, so only He can forgive sin.  You can't forgive sin, you can only forgive the 'debt' that you are owed. 
  2. God requires a confession and repentance before He forgives sin.  1 John 1:9 "IF you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness."  You can't wait for an apology from the offender before you forgive.  Remember, your own forgiveness hinges on whether or not you are forgiving others!
  3. When God forgives sin, He justifies the one who sinned.  He restores the sinner and turns them into a saint!  You can't do that!  You can't cleanse a person or make them righteous....you are not God!
   4. When God forgives sin, He forgets it
You can't do that either!  Forgiveness and amnesia are not the same thing.  You can choose not to dwell on the subject, and with time, remember it less, but the memory will always remain. 
  5. When God forgives, He removes the offense completely away from the offender.  "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalms 103: 12  You can't do that either!  You will always remember the offense and there's a good chance, you will still be hanging around the offender.  So it's important to forgive for our own sake, else our lives become paralyzed and stuck in a rut!

    6. When God forgives sin, He treats us as if it never happened.  You can't do that either.  In fact, without true repentance, it would probably be best to avoid a relationship with the offender. 
  7. When God forgives sin, He restores the relationship between Himself and the sinner.  Can't do that either.  Dr. Thomas writes:   
    We can enjoy restored relationship only when the offender makes full confession and repentance of their sin before God; and then makes full apology and restitution for their offense against us.  We have to rebuild lost trust and intimacy the old fashioned way.....Do not try to have a relationship with a perpetrator who is not repentant or broken before God for their behavior against you.  Aside from God's transforming grace, most offenders and perpetrators will never really change....even though they may achieve tolerable abstinence. 
   8. When God forgives, He completely cancels the offender's debt.  FINALLY....this one thing you can do!  You don't have to forgive the person (that's a God job)....but you forgive the 'debt' that they created against you! 

    What a relief!  I don't have to be God! 

    I love Truth...every time I hear it, see it, absorb it, it sets me free!  Free to move beyond the walls of bitterness and resentment into peace, grace, joy.....where God intended us to live.  I desperately long to be a woman who forgives freely because I've been freely forgiven by Him....and I'm so grateful that He sees my limitations, that I am made of dust, and doesn't ask me to do more than He intended.  

    Forgiveness is the first step into a journey that God has planned for you, but most definitely, not the last...