This is a very hard teaching because it cannot be done with earthly willpower or strength. This forgiveness and moving on requires the power of the Holy Spirit within us to pull off. What am I talking about anyway- forgiveness!!
The Bible is full of admonitions to forgive, “Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Additionally, and a lot more scary is the Scripture from Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness may be the costliest gift to give, as well as the most overwhelming to receive. Forgiveness and reconciliation with Him and others is at the very heart of His will. It cost Him everything, His Son’s life, to bring us this gift. We should not pretend we can take it from Him or look lightly at it. By not forgiving we are saying that Christ did not die for our sins, it was not enough. Therefore, perhaps or even probably we are saying when we do this that we do not know Him, or we have not yet received this redemptive gift of God’s ransoming Himself for us.
I could find another 20 verses on forgiveness and the ministry of reconciliation that God has given us through Christ Jesus. But suffice it to say, if Jesus says it believe it! I am not saying that it is easy; it is essential for life to go on however. Failing to forgive is not just to continue in sin, but also to deny and grieve the Holy Spirit’s gift. Forgiving is a one time action and yet a process. It is akin to grieving a loss, for that is what is required. There are some injuries that are much greater than others, even if all sins are equal to God.
The process of forgiveness requires giving our pain to God, leaving it at the altar of His sacrifice to take it and cleanse us. Cleanse us of what you might say. Forgiveness like grief is a process that begins often with shock or anger and proceeds towards acceptance and reinvestment in life if we grieve healthfully. Note that our grief begins with anger. We have been injured or lost something or someone dear to us. We may have lost our health, innocence, money, mother, friend or life. All are important to us, even central. It is a heart rending and painful process that is emotional, physical and spiritual. Did you know that? Yes, forgiveness and the grief that goes with it will affect us emotionally. We will experience, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, longing and many other feelings, can I get a witness? Moreover, we will experience physical symptoms. Fear often is accompanied by nausea; sleep problems, eating problems, headaches and other pains. Can you feel it now, I can. This is normal and very off putting, even traumatic. Yes, in the process of forgiveness you will re-experience the pain and loss. Not something most of us want, but we must if we want to heal.
Crisis of faith may well come with forgiveness and the grief process. We may doubt God’s goodness or faithfulness. We may cry out like Job or David to the Lord for relief. Have you done that? If not you should be, for it is only from and in God that you will find rest Psalm 62 reminds us, “My soul finds rest In God alone, my salvation comes form Him…my hope comes from Him. He is my fortress, I will not be shaken…he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times” (Psalm 62:1,5,6,8). God is good and His love endures forever we read continually in Scripture. Psalm 121 reminds us, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth…The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand…The Lord will keep you from harm-He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more” (Psalm 121:2,5,7,8). That was reassurance to the pilgrims on journey to Jerusalem; it applies to us today, as we trust in Him.
Grief and forgiveness are a process. Once begun and worked through over time the incident or loss begins to redefine or reframe itself. You will come to a place where it cannot hurt you anymore. This is a breakthrough time. It is a time when you will vow not to bring it up to others, only to God again. We can do this while even still acknowledging the pain. Then slowly the emotions that go with the trauma go away. Ephesians 4 talks of the emotions that come with your pain and must be put away: bitterness, wrath, anger and indignation. These are venomous emotions that will hurt you and every one in your life. Get it, all relationships are affected and ruined by these emotions. Have you ever heard of the person who drank poison expecting the other person to die? Only you and all your relationships die.
Without forgiveness you are being held captive to these hurtful emotions. You are imprisoned, in chains. But Christ said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs in it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). One counselor I know tells how un-forgiveness and all that goes with it is like a drug addiction. You start growing in dependence on the drug until it overwhelms you and kills you. Anger is like that, it will grow into bitterness and wrath and vengeance, leading to death.
So as you absorb these teachings, remember, “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured out into your lap. Fro with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38). God longs to be gracious unto you and fill you with His peace that transcends all understanding, because it is not of this world. Forgive and you will be forgiven.