WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT
Many people have warped views of forgiveness that keep them from experiencing the freedom it would bring them. Some of these views have been taught to them by well meaning but misguided teachers. Other ideas have come from how they were raised. Tragically, some have come from misunderstanding the teachings of Jesus. Sunday I will talk about what Jesus DID say about forgiveness, but for now, here is a list of a few things he DID NOT say:
Forgive and Forget
Your mom said that, not Jesus. It’s a catchy saying, and we get the idea of what she meant. “Let’s put it behind us.” Sometimes you can’t forget. You don’t have to. But don’t let that stop you from forgiving.
Be a Doormat
This is bad advice. Jesus never said it. This is not what he meant by “turn the other cheek” or by “forgive seventy seven times”. Too many people stay in abusive situations thinking they are being faithful to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus had boundaries. He taught boundaries. Letting people walk on you is not a virtue. Forgiveness is.
Forgiveness is not saying, “It’s OK”. It’s not OK to hurt each other. Blowing it off or stuffing our anger or hurt just means it will come out later. Honest confrontation is important. Difficult conversations are essential. Pretending everything is “fine” only drives the hurt underground where it grows into something worse.
Kiss and Make Up
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Reconciliation requires two people voluntarily restoring a relationship and rebuilding trust. Both need to own their own stuff and have the humility to confess where they were wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t depend at all on the other person. It is something you do in your heart — whether they want it or not; whether they ask for it or not; whether they deserve it or not. But it doesn’t mean you must, should or even can restore the relationship. That takes more than you alone can do.
Forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. It is what we have received from God that didn’t depend on us. He didn’t wait for us to ask for it. He forgave us. All of us. But being reconciled to God is something that takes two parties. As Christians we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. Again, this isn’t dependent on others, but it does open the door to the possibility that like us, they will have a change of heart that leads to reconciliation.