Oh, did I type that outloud?
I am often asked how to forgive – especially the unforgivable… People who have been devastatingly hurt tell me they just can’t forgive.
My response is the same for everyone – including myself: “You can’t.”
It is not within our power. After all, we are but mere human beings, born into sin, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
For there is none good, no not one (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:10-18).
And by our own strength, we are simply powerless “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b).
But that does not give us the right to vacate the responsibility to have a heart for forgiveness. To choose not to hold someone’s injustice towards us, against them – simply because we, as a Christian, are not awarded that right.
Therefore, if the power to forgive is not within our power, yet is most definitely our responsibility – then how on earth is this a request to be honored?
By bringing it to the Cross of Christ. And lay it down.
We must turn everything over to the One who has the power to redeem, restore, forgive, and to save, all by His grace… alone, through faith… alone: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
The more we try to forgive on our own accord, the more our evil heart brings forth feelings of hurt and anger. They then give way to seeds of bitterness and bitterness only grows and festers – and through that bitterness, we stifle love – the love that covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8), and we are unable then, to present the Gospel of Jesus.
And the Gospel of Christ does not – Ever – Omit the desperate need of the sinner to repent.
Presenting the Gospel of Christ to the one who caused so much hurt can be intimidating. Knowing the backlash that is to ensue is frightening, especially if it is a family member that has caused the pain and continues to have an unrepentant heart – or is in complete denial.
But remembering that we are given circumstances in order to bring comfort and aid to others: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) – and knowing that hurt people – hurt people, then we must at least offer this comfort found in redemption, to those who have hurt us, because they, themselves are hurting.
We must also acknowledge that bad things happen – that life is not fair – that people hurt people, because we are a world of sinners and very few have experienced God’s grace, and therefore, we must stay focused on Him and His Gospel of redemption through the blood of His Son- the only One worthy of God’s demand for payment of sin – Jesus, the King of Kings: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25).
So, what happens when the Gospel falls on deaf ears…?
“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matt. 10:14).
A self-righteous, prideful heart…?
““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27).
I believe the most intensive, crushing blow, when trying to forgive and reach someone with the Gospel is not only to face the rejection – but when those fellow brothers and sisters of Christ do not intervene in defense of the Gospel – Those who profess to believe, serve in the church, and even teach and preach – Cower in fear of their own persecution – so, they defend the sinner instead of the Gospel. These are those who will suffer the most and need our forgiveness and prayer for their repentance the most – their consequences are deadly, as they lead people astray.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves,” (Matt. 23:15).
These are those little “c” Christians that profess to know Christ, but do not bow at the cross of Christ. They will deny your hurt, minimize your pain, but shout from the rooftop all your iniquities. They are those closest to you who will be the first to call for your execution and cast the first stone.
And most often, they are family – and they are toxic.
“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death” (Matt. 10:21).
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). That means to love them enough to tell them that Jesus calls them unto repentance – and they can and will experience the same grace as you and I have.
I have no defense for my sin – But for the defense of the Gospel of Jesus, in spite of my sin, I will not… I cannot remain silent.
The greatest act of forgiveness is to offer an invitation for salvation to the one facing an eternity of damnation.
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34).
God calls us to honor Him by forgiving others, in the same way that He forgave us – Through His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, again I say, it is not by our own power, but through the power of Jesus Christ.
We must turn the hurt, the anger, the grief, sadness, and the feelings of hate over to the One who is powerful enough to deal with it.
After all, He is God, we are not.
Forgiveness is letting go of the circumstances, situation, fear of persecution, and presenting the Gospel of Jesus with boldness:
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,” (Acts 4:29).
Those who are not willing to let go and let God are those who are fearful that the Gospel is not enough – or maybe that there will be no sense of justice.
The disciples felt the same way about Judas: “When Peter saw him [Judas], he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?”
How many times have we prayed that prayer? I have… way too often, I confess.
Jesus’ response has always been and always will be – consistent, clear, and concise: “Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22).
So no matter what we think we might face, God calls for our absolute obedience to His commands – for our own sanctification and growth. Therefore, keeping in mind, Jesus’ own words, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” (Mark 6:4), yours is not to know or to give salvation – that is through Christ alone and through His grace alone.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” (1 Cor. 3:6). You never know what God will do in the end – even Jesus’ own brothers did not come to salvation until after His death.
Be obedient to Christ, everything else is just sanctification.