The Grace of Forgiveness (Part 1)


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To be gracious is to forgive. Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) He also warned us the consequences of unforgiveness: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (vv. 14-15) That’s why we teach our children to forgive and to ask for forgiveness so they could live grace-filled lives. But before we could see what forgiveness is, we have to see what it is not. (I found Pastor Ron Edmondson’s “7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT” very helpful in writing this article.) [1]

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First, forgiveness is not forgetting. Yes, God promised, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12. Emphasis added.) But, He did not say, “I will forget their sins.” He said, “I will remember their sins no more.” “Forgive and forget” is a good title of a local movie many years ago. But it’s not what happens when God forgives us. His mind is not wiped clean like a reformatted hard drive.
If God forgot anything, He would cease to be God! The phrase “remember no more” means “hold against us no more.” God recalls what we have done, but He does not hold it against us. He deals with us on the basis of grace and mercy, not law and merit. Once sin has been forgiven, it is never brought before us again. The matter is settled eternally. [2] 
So, let’s go easy on ourselves. Unless we suddenly suffer amnesia, we don’t really forget when we forgive. It only means that, like God, we will not bring up the issue again.

Second, forgiveness is not “a leverage of power.” Edmondson wrote, “Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven.” [3] To forgive is to release. That’s why we don’t bring it up when there’s another issue or fight. Though it’s good for the forgiven to be grateful, the forgiver should not impose unnecessary demands over the person who received forgiveness.

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Third, forgiveness does not lead to “instant emotional healing.” Forgiveness heals both the forgiven and the forgiving parties. Yet, it takes time for the hurt to heal. Like a physical wound, an emotional wound does not immediately heal. When we forgive, it’s like cleaning and suturing the wound. But, we need to clean the wound again and again until it becomes a scar to prevent infection. That’s why we have to be patient with the people we offended. We need to be patient with ourselves, too. Forgiveness is not a one-time event. There are times it’s an ongoing process. When we forgive somebody, we may feel the hurt time and again. So, we may need to forgive again. And again. And again. Until we no longer feel the hurt. Until we are healed.

Fourth, forgiveness is not “regaining automatic trust” or even “restoring the same relationship.” The operating words are “automatic” and “same.” Imagine if you have a cashier in your restaurant and you caught her stealing. Though you pitied her and did not press charges against her, you are not under obligation to hire her again or, if you would, I don’t think you would put her back as a cashier again. 
You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again. [4] 
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Lastly, forgiveness is neither “ignoring the offense” nor “removal of consequences.” Denial won’t work. Delaying or doing away with the consequences could even make the damage worse. We have to acknowledge that the person (or, we) committed an offense and that we have to make the offender (or, if we are the offending party, make ourselves) accountable.
You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger. … Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions. [5] 
That’s why, even after forgiving us, God would still rebuke, discipline or chasten us (Hebrews 12:5-11). 

Now, we know what forgiveness is not. Tomorrow, we will talk about what it really is.

“Grace” Step

Which of the misconceptions about forgiveness do we tend to have? Pray that God would help you forgive the right way.

NOTE: This is Day Three of the devotional guide (Volume 1, Issue 9) of our church, Filinvest Community Christian Fellowship, for the message on Pass It On! (Part 4)” last April 26. 

[1] Ron Edmondson (2011, May 20), “7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT,” Ron Edmondson, retrieved from http://www.ronedmondson.com/. 

[2] Warren Wiersbe, “Hebrews” in The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), 307. Emphasis added.

[3] Edmondson.

[4] Ibid, emphasis added.

[5] Ibid.

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