By Jessica Van Roekel, Crosswalk.com
Exploring Real Forgiveness
By Jessica Van Roekel
“So, if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” - Philemon 17-18, ESV
The roads by my home are gravel and cut the land into one-mile squares. Corn and bean fields surround me, but the gravel roads cut straight and true, going east and west, north and south. Getting to the gym requires a twenty-four-mile round-trip drive, so I try to walk these roads for exercise. It sounds convenient, but it isn’t. I twist my ankles on the rocks and choke on the dust from passing vehicles. Walking in forgiveness is not as easy as it sounds, either. When our hearts get offended, we experience a wide range of emotions. Forgiveness seems impossible when betrayal creates a canyon in our hearts. We hurt and feel pain. But when we’ve been wounded, we know we need to forgive. So, we strap on our spiritual tennis shoes and walk the long walk of healing.
There is so much to learn when we’re willing to forgive someone for an offense. Jesus shows us how the virtues of forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration change outcomes, not only in our offender’s life but also in our hearts. This kind of forgiveness takes time and expands our understanding of what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross for our sins. I have felt betrayed, rejected, and lied about. I’ve let thoughts of anger drive my responses and feed my desire for revenge, but wise words from a dear friend stopped me in my tracks. She reminded I needed to forgive and that waiting until I felt like it allowed anger to send down roots in my heart. Her gentle reminder made me think of Paul’s gentle request to his friend in the book of Philemon.
Paul paints a beautiful picture of real forgiveness. He reminds us God works through offenses. God can bring beauty from ashes and work things out for his good even when what we see is bad. Pearls form from irritations in a mussel shell. Diamonds form from coal under intense pressure. When we surrender to God’s call to forgive, the pressure causes us to lean into our beautiful Savior.mJesus forgave our sins, and because he did, we can extend forgiveness to others. There’s a parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about a man who owed a great debt. After the man begged for forgiveness, the king granted it. Unfortunately, the man refused to forgive another man who owed him a much smaller debt. The first man faced a terrible consequence for his refusal to extend the same kind of forgiveness the king gave him. Because we are forgiven, we have an obligation to forgive.
Unforgiveness is like a trap. Before my friend reminded me of my responsibility to forgive, I really wrestled with wanting an apology from the person who hurt me. It made me focus on the past and what happened more than what God wanted. I replayed the situation over and over in my mind, and I thought an apology would make the pain disappear. Instead, I became fixated on my rights. The more I struggled, the more trapped I became. Emotionally, we can hold people to a debt we want them to pay, trapping us in an unhealthy cycle. Real forgiveness releases the person from the obligation to us, but when we refuse to forgive, we become bitter, which infects every part of our life. If we ask, God will help us forgive them. Then, through his empowerment, we can pray that he will bless them. When we set someone free from any obligations of payback or apology, we experience freedom.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
There will be times when forgiveness seems like an impossible task. Anger will fill your heart, and bitterness will knock at your door, but you have a choice. Choosing to forgive is not based on feelings but on obedience. If it seems too hard, God is there to help. He will give you the strength to release the person from any obligation they owe you. He will help you see how he’s working even in the middle of painful situations. And he will help you remember how he forgave you. These will serve as a reminder of his love and faithfulness and his ongoing presence in your life and as a testimony to others of the power of God in your life.
- Choose Forgiveness
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Ron and Patty Thomas
Jessica Van Roekel loves the upside-down life of following Jesus as she journeys to wholeness through brokenness. As an author, speaker, and worship leader, she uses her gifts and experiences to share God’s transformative power to rescue, restore, and renew. She longs for you to know that rejection doesn’t have to define or determine your future when placed in God’s healing hands. Find out more reframingrejectionbook.
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