Last night I asserted that Biblical forgiveness is drastically different to how the world sees and understands forgiveness.
The world sees and understands forgiveness as something that only empowers the self: If someone has hurt me, it is taught, that forgiveness is important, even imperative, if I ever want to move on. So for me to forgive whoever hurt me is to no longer let them, or the situation have power over me. The relationship in the matter is of no importance. In fact, the other person is of little importance. What’s important is that through forgiveness I acknowledge that I’m not going to let that person/or thing have the power over me anymore. Secular forgiveness is about taking your own life/situation back into your hands.
Biblical forgiveness, though, is about restoring relationships. The focus of forgiveness in the Bible is not on the self, but is primarily focused on the offender. Forgiveness is rooted in restoring the spiritual well-being of the one who hurt/offended/sinned against you. And it’s modeled by Christ o the cross, dying to forgive us our sins against God, NOT for God’s sake, but for ours.
I know. It’s quite radical and VERY different from the secular idea of what true forgiveness is.
In a nutshell, here’s the general 3 steps to forgiveness:
- Don’t seek revenge – by seeking revenge we end up worse off than the person who sinned against us in the first place. By giving up the idea of revenge we trust in God’s justice. This in itself is the simplest form of forgiveness.
- Confront and rebuke the one who sinned against you – WHEN POSSIBLE (because it’s not always possible to confront who hurt you. In some cases you may never see the person again, or perhaps they have died even) go to the person and let them know what they’ve done. If they care, they’ll seek repentance and seek forgiveness from you and from God. If they don’t care you’ve already done all you can do. You’ve forgiven them. You’ve given them the gift. It’s on them to accept it. If it’s impossible for you to physically confront them, you’ve gone as far as you can go. If you give your anger up to God and trust in God’s justice and judgement, and acknowledge the offense before God you’ve done all you can possibly do. You’ve forgiven your enemy.
- Reconciliation – IF the person does repent and seeks forgiveness from you, you can slowly start to take steps to rebuild trust and the relationship. This is the IDEAL and complete form of forgiveness. It’s what is modeled in Christ; fully restored relationships, reconciled to God. HOWEVER, we are broken and sinful people. Not every relationship is reconcilable. In some cases it’s not healthy to let someone back in your life. But you can still forgive them and part ways because we’re not God. Our sin comes into play so the IDEAL form of forgiveness – reconciliation – isn’t always realistic in our human state. Still, it doesn’t mean that it’s not what forgiveness ultimately seeks.
Every situation that requires forgiveness is different. They all have complexities and nuances. There is not a blanketed once and for all standard issue rule of forgiveness, but these three steps can be where we start. Along the way there are more steps, and it takes time to even get to step one sometimes, but always remember why it is that God forgives and why it is that God asks us to forgive in the same way.
We are forgiven so much, and out of that forgiveness we can forgive others; NOT for our sake, but for the sake of restoring relationships, for that is what the entire story of our faith is all about.
who are some people that you need to forgive? how might you go about that?
think about who you need to forgive, or someone that you have already forgiven. which step did you make it to and why?
do you think the secular view of forgiveness has any validity for Christians? if so, in what ways? if not, explain.