I’ve been attending a MUMS (Mothers United More Spiritually) group at a nearby church for about a year and a half now and the subject of forgiveness came up in our discussion today and I can’t help but sort my thoughts out on that topic a bit more here.
Forgiveness. Forgiving. Forgiven. Forgive. It’s a very big part of my life. The change-catalyst, in many ways.
This is the way that the on-line Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines forgive:
1a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one’s enemies>
I have experienced forgiveness to a pretty deep level on both sides – being the one forgiven for some serious offenses and being the one doing the forgiving for some very serious offenses. There is a reason this word is a verb. There isn’t anything passive about it. You can’t passively forgive – it’s all or nothing and it’s going to cost you. And this is the part that I think is so, so misunderstood about this thing called forgiveness.
In order to forgive, the sin that’s been done against you will fall on your shoulders. You will be the one accepting the responsibility for the cost of the sin whether you had a hand in bringing it about or whether you are entirely innocent of whatever sin was done against you.
The process of forgiving is most clearly seen when we look to Jesus and how He forgave us. It was the farthest thing from free. Jesus, being perfect and holy, DIED as a consequence for the sins that we are rightfully responsible for!
Do we really get that? The sin we rightly deserved to pay for was taken on by the One that didn’t have any sin in His life whatsoever. We can receive forgiveness because the price we were to pay was transferred.
We, of course, are far from holy. Yet, Jesus is our example in this, as in all things. As He accepted the price of forgiveness so we must accept the cost involved in forgiving those who sin against us.
This doesn’t look fair. Why should we basically pay the price for the sins of others that may have hurt us terribly? The process doesn’t end there.
Yes, I had to take on a very big burden, absolve the offenders of their guilt and accept it as mine (basically) so that I could hand it all to God and be free from it at all at last.
And that is forgiveness. It hurts. It’s unfair. But only at first. Completing the process is the way we get freedom from it all. It’s the way we free ourselves from what’s been done to us and the power it holds over us. And it allows God to step in and deal with the offending party. As long as we’re holding grudges, being bitter and harbouring hatred God will leave us chained to the things we refuse to let go of and forgive. When we do accept the cost and bring it to God we find that it frees us from that bondage we were in. We aren’t under the control of those things any longer.
So the only question that remains is: Is the cost of forgiving worth what it will eventually set you free from?
In my life the answer is YES! A million times over, yes! I cannot even describe the freedom that has come. The cost was almost too much for me to bear. I almost made the mistake of staying there, holding onto the cost. But thank God that I was reminded that is not the end. The end is transferring it all to Jesus and accepting freedom from it all as His thanks.
I felt I needed to share that because there is this popular idea that forgiveness isn’t real until you feel it. The truth is you will never feel it until the work is done. Forgiveness is action over time. Forgiveness is the dues that must be paid for freedom from the bondage we submit ourselves to when we insist on hanging onto pain and damage we’ve suffered.
Let go! Accept the price and the reward that waits in Jesus. It’s hard, but everything worthy is difficult.
And one more thing. Accepting the cost of the sins of others in no way means that they are now free from it themselves, the way we are free from our sins when we accept the gift of Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins against Him. We are not Jesus, after all, and so we can’t take on the sins of another person the way Jesus did for us. Please don’t think that’s what I’m saying.
Basically, what it comes down to in a nutshell is that we are removing ourselves from the equation entirely when we take it to God, and now that person(s) is going to be dealt with by God. They are 100% responsible for their choices, just as we are for our own.
The cost that I speak of, that we absorb in choosing the hard path of forgiveness, is the cost of choosing to let God take over instead of us. To bear the consequences of the hurt without asking the other person to suffer for doing that to us – to let God bring the consequences into their life in His time instead of trying to make them suffer the consequences the way we want them to.
Picture Jesus on that cross so long ago. He didn’t have to stay there. He chose to stay there. He chose to bear the consequences. And look how it all turned out. Every human being has the hope of redemption because he was willing to pay a price He didn’t have to. When we pay the price of forgiveness, it sets the power of God to work in our lives like you can’t even imagine until it happens.
I realize these thoughts might be a little disjointed as I have only a short amount of time to try and get it all out (life is so busy!) but I just felt that I needed to put this out there. If you feel like you haven’t forgiven because you aren’t experiencing the feeling of forgiveness in your heart and emotions, consider the possibility that maybe you haven’t understood what forgiveness really is. Like many things in our day, modern ‘forgiveness’ is a completely watered down concept we see and hear floating around from time to time. Ponder the costs and pray on it some. The Lord is always faithful to lead to truth those that truly seek.