You have probably asked yourself, “How many times am I supposed to forgive that knothead? It seems like they just keep repeating the same things that cause me so much pain.” Granted, that statement may well define exactly how you feel right now. Your emotions may be stretched tight, and you might not care for the answer. I present it to you with no regrets since the answer is not really mine. Look up Matthew 18:21-22. What does it tell you about forgiveness? The message is pretty clear. Peter had a set number of times in his head before he would be justified in cutting off someone he considered his enemy. Jesus tells Peter that, unlike what the spiritual leaders of the day taught, our forgiveness should be infinite. This is not to say there aren’t times when we should set boundaries to eliminate repeated intentional hurts by another.
You see, in those days the people were taught by the spiritual leaders that those who offend should be forgiven only three times. Jesus tells Peter to have a heart of perpetual forgiveness. Part of the problem people have with forgiveness lies in the messages we are often taught growing up such as, “You need to forgive and forget,” or “Forgiveness is complete when things are made right.”
Some of us believe it is necessary to forget the damage done to us once we have forgiven. We think that otherwise true forgiveness is not possible. Think of forgiveness as a journey that begins with the decision to take the trip. We must decide to move along the path of holiness toward emotional healing from the pain inflicted. Once we decide to forgive it does not mean the emotional damage will simply disappear. At times you may remember the incident that caused the pain, but that does not mean you haven’t forgiven. The remembrance just means the pain has not yet gone away. It may be necessary to give it back to God so that you do not dwell on that pain. It may take some time for your emotional healing to catch up to your spiritual decision, depending on the degree of the damage, but remind yourself that you have decided to forgive and that God will give you the strength to move forward.
In my last post I asked you to consider who you might need to forgive. What prevents you from laying it at the foot of the cross? God calls us to forgive, not because he condones or takes lightly the wrong that has been perpetrated against you, but because He knows the pain and the anguish unforgiveness creates in a person. It prevents you from being the person that God created you to be. I encourage you, take the first step; decide to forgive. Then let God walk alongside you in your journey of healing. You don’t have to do it alone.
I will conclude my posts in this series on forgiveness by focusing on moving beyond the pain…
©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design
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