- I will no longer hold the offense against the offender (the slate is wiped clean)
- I will not talk with others about the offense
- I will not talk to myself about the offense
Sunday, January 19, 2014
For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
Forgiveness is a big topic in counseling. Dave has often said, there are no enduring relationships without forgiveness and I've seen that first hand. And within the counseling setting, one common question is this: Do I have to forgive if they never ask forgiveness?
That's a tricky question to answer but I think our verse this weeks helps answer it. But before we tackle the specifics, let's lay down our guidelines for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a three part contract that begins with the statement, "Will you forgive me?" These might just be the four hardest words in the English language to say when strung together in this order. We'd rather say, "I'm sorry," or "I apologize," but when we say those things, we are not necessarily taking ownership. "I'm sorry" tells me how you feel. That doesn't mean much to me when you're the one who's hurt me. "I apologize" is a legal term - an apology is a defense. So when you say, "I apologize, I had a bad day," then I will say, "Then thank you for telling me why you were so rude with me."
Okay, maybe I won't say that but those two attempts to restore a broken relationship just don't fit the bill. The only acceptable way to seek forgiveness is to specifically ask for it, without excuses and without saying how bad you feel. When you say, "Will you forgive me?" you are laying yourself at the mercy of the offender, knowing you cannot undo what you have done and placing the burden of restoration on the will of the offended.
Okay, now for forgiveness. When I respond "Yes," to "Will you forgive me?". then I am entering into a three part contract with that person:
This is the only way to truly extend forgiveness. Now, I have expounded on this before, so I am going to move on to the next question - Do I have to forgive when the offender hasn't asked forgiveness? Well, what does our verse today say? Does it say, ? You, oh Lord, have already forgiven those who call upon You"? Or does it say, "You, oh Lord, are ready to forgive those who call upon You"?
It says the latter, so here's my take on forgiveness. Jesus is ready to forgive at all times, but until there is confession, there is a break in my relationship with Him. But when I do finally come around, He doesn't need to see the fruits of repentance, He doesn't need to make me pay a bit longer and He doesn't need time to process the request. He is abundant in lovingkindness and ready to forgive immediately. So while the restoration of a relationship will be completed upon repentance, it is my responsibility to live with the spirit of forgiveness, rather than bitterness, so that when that moment comes, I am prepared to imitate my Savior and forgive immediately.
Some sin is minor enough to let love cover. Other sins need confrontation. In all things, we are called to be ready to forgive which means that we have to practically be exercising that contract so that a root of bitterness doesn't spring up in our hearts...
Remember, he who has been forgiven much, loves much...so, what do YOU think? How would you answer that question?