Step One: Learning to Forgive
At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask,
“Master, how many times do I forgive
a brother or sister who hurts me?
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly.
Try seventy times seven.
MATTHEW 18:21 (THE MESSAGE)
I can honestly tell you that it has only been over the past five years that I have had to learn to forgive and it was someone who had hurt me deeply. And what made it even more painful was that it was a Christian brother. I know that this is unusual being that I am 57 years old but it is the truth and I can tell you that I experienced such deep pain that I thought I would never be able to forgive that person.
What made it so difficult was that I also needed forgiveness for my part. But I remembered that the Apostle Paul declared …
Make allowance for each other’s faults,
and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you,
so you must forgive others.
COLOSSIANS 3:13 (NLT)
But regardless of how much I knew that I needed to forgive him – I simply did not know how! Ever been there? Well I was fortunate enough to get some wise counsel from the book, The Cure, and I want to share that wisdom with you.
Forgiveness has an order. We must initiate the vertical transaction with God before we can move into the horizontal transaction with another. First, before God, I forgive the offender (s) for what they’ve done and the consequences they’ve borne in my life. This is before God and me and it does not excuse any action. It does not restore relational forgiveness to the other. This is the vertical transaction. It is a choice to free myself, to begin healing.
Trusting God’s character, strength. love and protection, I place the entire list of consequences and loss into His hands. This is a big decision. It’s a scary beautiful, overwhelming moment of trust.
I actually imagine removing every effect of that sin and placing it onto God. I hand over everything. I trust God will not mock me or ignore this or forget my pain. I trust He will protect me and defend my heart, bring beauty out of hurt. I trust He will cleanse me as He promised.
I am giving up my rights to decide what is best for that person or myself. I’m handing the case over to the only Judge who can see the entire story and who loves both the offender and the victim perfectly.
This is a unique moment when faith becomes a risked action. I’m putting everything on the line because after all this is my life my pain my reputation. Never is the proof of new life more evident than when I cede control because of my trust in His character, love and power.
Then the whole incident moves out of my sphere into God’s.
Only then will I be freed to go to my offender and forgive him. If I don’t get this right – if I attempt to forgive, unclean before God – I move toward my offender in veiled bitterness, judgment and a spirit of retribution. I bring the residue of unresolved sin into the equation and everyone can smell it.
If I say, “I’m not going to forgive until he repents,” I end up in resentment. In my unwillingness to forgive before God, I become the issue.
The question then is how do I know I’ve actually forgiven someone who’s sinned against me? Answer: The moment I can offer that person my love again. When forgiveness stays only in my mind, as a formula or technique, it doesn’t sink deep into my heart.
When I choose to let go, to forgive vertically before God, it’s like huge cement bags have been lifted off my shoulders. It’s like coming out of a moldy basement with a a cement floor and suddenly breathing ocean air on the sand at Big Sur. It feels like being home.
And now, I’m ready to move on.
THE CURE (JOHN LYNCH, BRUCE MCNICHOL, BILL THRALL)
And so my first step was a vertical move to bring it before God because I knew I was unable to force this in my own strength. It was the first step in the right direction.
It is not by force nor by strength,
but by my Spirit,
says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
ZECHARIAH 4:6 (NLT)
On the Journey with You,