What is forgiveness?
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
We’re going to talk about what forgiveness is and what it is not. But first, why is it so hard to forgive, especially when forgiveness is more beneficial and relieving?
Why we won't forgive?
Paul Tripp suggests that we hold people in our debt for the following reasons:
1. Debt is power. There is a power in having something to hold over another’s head.
2. Debt is identity. We feel superior, more righteous and mature than the person who has offended us.
3. Debt is entitlement. We are owed and we deserve this after what we’ve endured.
4. Debt is weaponry. We can throw stuff in their face.
5. Debt puts us in God’s position. We make sure that they feel an appropriate amount of guilt.
What forgiveness is NOT
Most of us think forgiveness is a good idea, till we have to give it. What does this word mean? Let’s start off with what it doesn’t mean.
1. Forgiveness is not pretending that it never happened – that’s called repression.
2. Forgiveness is not excusing what the other person did.
3. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
4. Forgiveness is not giving up on justice and change.
5. Finally, forgiveness is not forgetting.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is an act of the will, a series of decisions not to go to the offense and live in the hurt or recount it over-and-over. It’s a decision to resist keeping the record of wrong for the purpose of bringing it up in a fight.
So this is what forgiveness is NOT. Well then, what is it?
Forgiveness is the choice to release a person from an obligation or debt for a wrong committed against me. It’s a choice, a decision, to release a person from a bill that was incurred by a wrong done against me.
If someone has sinned against you, you can either take payments on the debt or make payments. When we take or extract payments, we do things like: withhold forgiveness or love, dwell on the wrong, act cold and aloof, give up on the relationship, inflict emotional pain by gossiping, seeking revenge, replaying scenes, recalling anguish, and rehashing justification for holding fast to grudges. Take those payments.
The other choice is to make payments on the debt and thereby release others from penalties they deserve to pay. And if there has been a deep debt incurred, a deep wrong committed against you, you may be making these payments for a long time. It may involve fighting against painful memories, speaking gracious words when you really want to say something hurtful, working to tear down walls and be vulnerable when you still feel little trust, or even enduring the consequences of a material or physical injury that the other person is unable or unwilling to repair. So, forgiveness, whether we take payments or make payments – it’s very costly sometimes.
Forgiveness is in the hands of the forgiver, who decides that I no longer expect you to pay. You set yourself free, because you no longer are waiting for payment. You are no longer demanding payment.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation
What is forgiveness? It is your decision to absorb the debt, regardless of whether they want to be reconciled. The Gospel is be reconciled to God. Yes, the goal of forgiveness is reconciliation, getting harmony back in our relationship. But reconciliation takes two; forgiveness only needs one. Forgiveness is... I let you off the hook, I will pick up the tab. I am open for reconciliation, if you receive my forgiveness. But if you don’t receive my forgiveness I still forgive you, until such time as you are repentant, therefore, and willing to be reconciled.
Forgiveness in "Graceclothes"
Forgiveness requires compassion. You see the plight of another and even understand how something could happen. Forgiveness requires humility. It is only when we see that life is bigger than us that we will forgive. Forgiveness stimulates kindness. We stop treating someone as an enemy. Forgiveness requires patience as we see our own need to be forgiven. And forgiveness requires gentleness because we stop lashing out.