I started to write on a different subject, but then felt that I need to talk about forgiveness. I’ve found it to be the most difficult, and most important, principle of ministry. Here are two things I’ve learned.
1. Repeated things are harder to forgive. Sometimes it’s easier to get past something big. But if someone hurts us a number of times, even if it’s small, it’s like a pin poking the same spot over and over. Then because there is an unhealed wound, we tend to overreact . . . which makes the whole situation worse. I suppose that’s why Peter asked Jesus, “How many times do I have to forgive?” (Matthew 18:21) He probably wasn’t happy with Jesus’ implication that there is an unlimited number.
How do we do that? I think the key is to deal with each one thoroughly and quickly. A very fine thread can bind us if it’s wrapped around too many times . . . and it’s hard to cut through at that point. So instead of trying to ignore a hurt or offense, let’s go right to God. Name what that person’s done and how we feel. But let’s do it in the context of forgiveness: “Lord God I forgive a for doing b. I feel c, d, and e.” At that point we can entrust the person to God and receive His healing for our emotions.
2. What holds us back is judgement. We think, “they always do this” or “they never do that” or “they are this kind of person.” We think we know their motives (even though our own are far more complicated then we realize). All these things are indicators of judgment. But only God truly knows the situation and He reserves the sole right to judge. If they are fellow believers, it’s even more pointed. God says they are His servants –not ours–and He can give them enough grace to stand through any judgement. (Romans 14:4)
Is God unjust? Absolutely not. He is also full of grace. If we entrust others to Him, we will experience His grace ourselves.