Wendy Willis –Director of Missions and Connections
This Lenten season I have chosen the concept of forgiveness to reflect on. Not the easier kind of forgiveness you offer immediately, when you know something was simply an oversight, a mistake, an accident. The more difficult kind of forgiveness… that grips us emotionally, exposes our pride and self-centeredness, the kind we do not offer easily, the kind that sometimes never happens.
Spending time intentionally focused on seeking WISDOM and INSIGHT on forgiveness has reminded me the value of relationships in my life. Those individuals we have in our lives who love us so much, they always tell us the truth, are rare. One such individual in my life recently made a profound statement that stopped me in my tracks. When exposing one of my scars about how I had been wounded by someone, I explained that I had forgiven but hadn’t forgotten. I did not expect her response that followed. “You haven’t forgiven her completely.” “Wait…what?”, I said, defensive but sensing the truth. That opened up the topic of forgiveness and its true definition. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” My friend, through her loving honesty, reminded me of something very important that has stuck with me and gives me great comfort.
- The Way of Christ is Simple, but it is Rarely Easy. I kept hearing those words… “you haven’t forgiven her completely. It’s not hurting her, it’s hurting you. You have not moved on.” I knew in my heart of hearts she was right. Saying you’ve forgiven someone isn’t the same as actually forgiving them. The way telling someone you’ll pray for them isn’t the same as praying for them. We think forgiving an offense is a “one and done” proposition. We can sometimes fall into a trap of saying we forgive someone, and even if we sincerely mean it at the time, we still hold on to some part of the offense. We don’t actually let go, not all the way, and we let that little part continue to bruise our hearts. Matthew 18:21-22 says “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” I asked my friend, “Well, how in the world do I really forgive her, then? You know the depth of hurt and pain she has caused me.” Her answer was less of an answer and more a permission. She encouraged me to pray for the Lord to change my heart to forgive completely, and she challenged me to pray for the grace to forgive as many times as it took to forgive completely.
- Forgiveness is allowing God to handle the situation. Most of the time, we cannot truly get there on our own. But with God’s help we can, and it gives us great peace. Matthew 19:26 reminds us “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
- Forgiveness is a Process. It is definitely not a “one and done”. There was only ONE of those… and it happened at the cross. Christ alone. Arms stretched wide, body broken, blood spilled out, fully surrendered.
- Forgiveness is necessary for our healing. Reconciliation is not always necessary. This is a biggie. Until recently, I had the two wrapped up into one. That is how I viewed what true forgiveness looked like. Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily have to include having them continuing to be in your life.
- Forgiveness is a Conduit. When we forgive, obstacles are removed (sin is released and confessed) and reconciliation and restoration are possible. Forgiveness is required. Reconciliation is optional.
- Healthy boundaries with someone that has hurt us aren’t wrong and may be very necessary to enforce depending on the hurt caused. Think over those “sandpaper people” in your life. Forgiveness is hard work with sandpaper people. We must not become bitter towards our offender.
- Our attitudes, even when offended, are to be ones of humility and love- not allowing the bitterness to take hold of our hearts. What I cannot possibly know is another’s heart. What they are living with that may not be resolved. We can’t be responsible for how they respond, but we can choose our responses. Romans 12:18 explains, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
- Forgiveness can only be given when the offender seeks forgiveness. When there is no repentance- forgiveness can’t be given or received. Do not succumb to guilt when your offender will not offer repentance. Until they no longer have on the veil, they will not see, hear or understand your hurt.
- Forgiveness is an Offering. God delights in our obedience. When I think about how God was willing to forgive all of my offenses and nailed his son to the cross… I am overwhelmed as I think about my sin. This Lenten season, consider giving a gift back to God. An offering to be obedient and work to forgive.
Prayer: Lord, you know my heart. You know the honest state of where I am with forgiveness of certain people in my life. I look to you for wisdom. Humble me to surrender to being obedient to you. May I have a spirit of humility and love toward those who have hurt me. I want to delight you, Lord. I offer this as a gift to you. I know with you, all things are possible.
Read Wendy’s other devotional: Symbols of Our Love for God