My pastor, Andrew Haney, has been teaching through a series on forgiveness over the last several weeks. I have been so appreciative of the emphasis to forgive “each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).” This certainly does not mean that doing so will always result in perfect reconciliation, although that is the goal. It does, however, guard the heart of the forgiver against falling prey to the snare of bitterness which will always prove to be destructive. God is the perfect example of what it means to forgive. We have all broken His laws, but He offers forgiveness in spite of our sins through the finished work of Jesus. Ultimate reconciliation with God only happens for those who accept His Son by faith and trust Him for salvation, but He offers it freely to all. Similarly, it is important for us to recognize the difference in our relationships between forgiveness and reconciliation. Sometimes reconciliation with another person does not happen, but we must still choose to forgive and leave the outcome in the very capable hands of God. What is forgiveness? I love Jay Adam’s definition: It is a “promise [to the offender] not to remember his sin by bringing it up to him, to others, or to yourself. The sin is buried. (From Forgiven to Forgiving [Amityville, NY: Calvary, 1994], 25).” After making that choice to forgive, you may not “feel” any better about the situation. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice. We must choose to forgive. That is exactly what God says that He does with sins that He forgives in passages like Hebrews 10:17 and Isaiah 43:25. He does not say that He “forgets” those sins. God does not forget anything. He is omniscient, which means that He knows everything. If He literally “forgot” something, He would cease to be omniscient. He does not forget our sins, but for those who have received His gift of forgiveness, He chooses not to remember their transgressions. That is wonderful news! I can think of situations in my past when I have been wronged. I will never forget those circumstances and if I dwell on them I can easily become bitter, but it is nonetheless my duty as a Christ follower to forgive the offenders. I must choose to not remember their sins against them, even if reconciliation never takes place, and even if I never really feel any better about those situations. Wow! What freedom comes with that choice. It is not my responsibility to “fix” every situation, but I must forgive. I have found this single choice to be among the most stabilizing and helpful of all Christian disciplines. Pastor John MacArthur says in his blog resource, Answering the Hard Questions About Forgiveness, “I am convinced that many, if not most, of the personal problems Christians see counselors for have to do with forgiveness.” If that is true, then it is likely that there is someone in your past that has offended you as well. Why not take the opportunity to choose forgiveness? Who do you need to forgive today?
Psalm 86:5: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”