Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Is Forgiveness?

“Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

In praying the fifth petition of “The Lord’s Prayer” about forgiveness, it is helpful to remember both what forgiveness IS and IS NOT.  In her book Companions in Christ: The Way of Forgiveness, Marjorie J. Thompson first describes several things it is NOT:

1) It is not condoning or excusing sin or wrongdoing.  We can forgive a person even when their sin/wrongdoing remains condemned (Examples in John 8:1-11; John 4:1-30; Luke 23:40-43).

2) It does not negate consequences.  Consequences still remain, even while the person is forgiven (Example in 2 Samuel 12)

3) It does not necessarily mean “forgetting” the wrongdoing. Even while forgiving the offending parties, sometimes we need to remember the wrongdoing in order to avoid repeating it (Example: the Holocaust).

4) It is not the same thing as Reconciliation. Forgiveness can be granted by us, but reconciliation requires repentance and often restitution by the other for true reconciliation to begin to happen (Example in Luke 15).

5) It does not mean denying our hurt.  On the contrary, forgiveness can only happen when we acknowledge our pain and hurt.

6) It is not simply a feeling we manipulate ourselves (or others) into feeling, nor is it achieved through melodramatic behaviors that give the appearance of forgiveness but are not anchored in reality.

7) It does not mean ”putting someone on probation" – that is not true forgiveness.

[--Marjorie J. Thompson, Companions in Christ: The Way of Forgiveness (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2012), pp. 59-61]
Instead, forgiveness is simply our conscious choice to choose to release one who we feel has hurt us from the sentence of our judgment. 

Thompson says ”Forgiveness is taking responsibility from MY side to release the offender from the alienating effect of the offense on our relationship"  (p. 61), or as I’ve heard it said, “ME giving up MY right to hurt YOU when YOU have hurt ME.” (Read Colossians 3:13). 

So, who do you need to forgive today?  Remember that God loves (and forgives) you and I do too!

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