Saturday, October 5, 2013

Forgiveness...Why So hard?

Forgiveness...a hard word for many people. Why is that? Why is it so very hard to forgive?

For some, I think the problem lies in the fact that they are afraid to admit that there is a deep hurt that needs to be forgiven. They like to think that if they just get on with life the wounded-ness will go away.  So instead of saying, "yes, I forgive you", they just say, "oh...don't even worry about it"...or "it was nothing, really".  Sometimes they don't even want to admit to others that they have been wounded. They may look at it as being too confrontational and they avoid confrontation at all costs.  The problem with this approach to life is that the wounds don't just go away on their own...they lie beneath the surface...waiting to fester at the next offense that flows from the direction of their offender.

And then there's this...

Some things seem just...well...unforgivable. Spousal abuse and child abuse(physical or sexual), extra-marital affairs and murder. These are just some the offenses that fall into that category.  We want to see people held accountable for their actions. Frankly, we want to see them suffer the consequences of their actions.   When we have been hurt and wounded deeply, we(in our human condition) want to see the guilty pay...and pay dearly.  

And I believe this is where the word 'forgive' gets all muddled in the translation.

We think that if we forgive someone for their unforgivable actions that we are condoning those actions. We feel that would mean we are excusing them...even giving them license to continue hurting either ourselves or others. We think, " How can we forgive and let them go...scott free! How can we allow them to continue hurting ourselves and others by their selfish and sometimes even heinous acts?"  

The truth is, forgiveness does not give people permission to go on go on hurting. It does not make the wrong that has been committed against you,'okay'. Forgiveness does not forbid us to put boundaries in place to prevent the offender from taking advantage of us or wounding us again.   IT DOES NOT!   See...that's where we get it all confused.

When you refuse to forgive you are giving the person who hurt you permission to hurt you all over your mind, your memory. Every. single. time. you dredge up the offense you are allowing yourself to be hurt all over again. Bitterness becomes embedded into your heart and soul and becomes a heavy burden.

In Matthew Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Jesus then follows with these words: "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  Whoa...those are strong words.  There are passages in scripture that may, at first, make it seem as if forgiveness is conditional.  "If they ask...only then will I forgive". However, when I look at all of God's Word in light of the concept of forgiveness I see simply that we are called to forgive. Period.

You see...when we forgive we are not letting the person get away with anything. We are not setting the offender free! It's okay to hold someone accountable that you have already forgiven. It is even okay, to set boundaries so that you cannot be wounded by that person in the same way again. However, it is NOT okay to hang onto the anger, bitterness and hurt for the rest of your life.

The Greek word for 'forgive' in the New Testament is aphiemi and appears there 146 times.  It is actually translated 'forgive' only 47 of those times. It can also mean to suffer, to forsake, to let alone, and more. But more frequently it is translated 'leave'.   Forgiveness is to send the offense and our anger and bitterness away.

When we forgive we are setting ourselves free from the unfair pain that was caused by someone else.  We are letting go of the offense so that we can move on, without the baggage; the weight of wounded-ness on our hearts and souls. We are free to allow the Lord to heal the hurt and pain...the open wound can now close. Leaving behind only the scar in its place. The scar is simply an indication that healing has taken place. Forgiveness restores our own soul and gives us hope for a better future.

I am called to forgive as in Christ God has forgiven me. I don't deserve to be forgiven. Nothing I have done deserves the love and grace that God pours out on me. I am so very thankful that I serve a Savior who is so loving and forgiving. God requires justice for my sins, yes! But Jesus paid the penalty for me, and for you when He took our place on the cross of Calvary. He paid the price! Oh, how thankful I am that He did!!

Because of His great love, I walk forward...forgiven.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

I am linking up with Jo Ann and the other beautiful women on Wednesdays to talk about forgiveness.  Not to rehash the past...or commiserate over our wounded-ness but with freedom and joy and purpose to share our hearts and allow God to use us...our make a difference, to help women find hope and healing.