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« Do We Have Repentance Wrong? | Main | What We Want and What We Need »

Getting Forgiveness

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:9-15 

Not to be negative, but all of us are losers in some way.  In fact, we may have so many chinks in our armor that we’ve got more chinks than armor!  The salient point is that we all need forgiveness, desperately.  Many have come to terms with that truth intellectually, but not emotionally.  We can be intellectual giants, but emotional babies!  To emote is to act.  We tend not to act out of our intellect; rather, we most often act out of our emotion.  In forgiveness, too many take it not as an act of grace, but an entitlement.  We don’t view it as a favor, but as a fulfilled obligation.  Have you ever suffered from mistreatment, injury, assault or abuse?  Maybe you have heard these stinging statements at some point in your life from someone who has done you wrong: “I thought you were going to forgive me.  How much longer are you going to hold this over my head?  How can you love God when you can’t even let me get past this?  Some Christian you are.” 

Often, these statements or questions throw us into gut-wrenching, soul-searching convulsions.  We wonder whether the charge is true.  “Am I so callused, so bitter, so deeply offended that I refuse to truly forgive?  Don’t I have a genuine experience with God?  Don’t I understand Calvary?”  The questions don’t relent.  Is the victim the perpetrator?  The transgressor succeeds once again in deferring the blame to the innocent.  

So, how do you get forgiveness?  Know this: when you play mind games with the person you have hurt by making him or her out to be the attacker instead of the victim, something is wrong.  Forgiveness can be far more complicated than most people expect it to be.  The way it actually works differs greatly from some popular assumptions we hold.  Some of these assumptions are either categorically or partially untrue.  For example, the following beliefs about forgiveness demonstrate how many people have distorted it:  Forgive and forget.  (In fact, the opposite is true.  If we could forget, we wouldn’t need to forgive!  The opposite is true.  The reason we have to forgive is precisely because we can’t forget!) “If you don’t trust me, you haven’t forgiven me.  You are obligated to forgive me.  If you don’t overlook my repeated offenses, you haven’t forgiven me. (After all, Jesus said to forgive people seventy times seven!) You must forgive me whether or not I ever make things right.  You must forgive me even if I don’t ask for it. And the worst one of all:  You’re going to go to hell, if you don’t forgive me!”  All of these distort forgiveness. 

How you should behave if you are the offending party?  Never taunt a person we have wronged about his or her obligation to forgive.  Forgiveness was never meant to become a weapon! Its purpose is restoration, not a way to turn justice inside out.  Forgiveness gives a chance make amends.  No reconciliation without forgiveness.  To those who have hurt someone else, whether it was physical, verbal, psychological or emotional: It is a gross error to think you’re in the driver’s seat when you’re actually a piece of junk in the trunk!  Do the following: 

1.  Never minimize your transgression.  2.  Keep a humble attitude.  3.  Expect to make or accept changes.  4.  Make a real attempt at restoration.  5.  Live so that the offended party will forget.  This is the capstone of forgiveness.  Do you really want all to be forgotten?  Do you really want to go back to square one and start all over again? If you do, then show such a turnaround in your behavior and attitude that the person you hurt will grow to love you.  Be so grateful for a second chance that you will virtually erase the memory of the sin.  God blesses contrition.

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