By nature, I’m not a forgiving person. Now I’m not talking about a onetime offense.  That’s much easier to forgive.

Where I struggle is when the same offense happens over and over.  As a matter of fact, if I had it my way I would resort to retribution as a way of responding. Forgiveness is not something I wanted to know but chose to learn. Without it I felt like a prisoner shackled to the darkness of resentment and bitterness.  While I lived in this cage, any wrong word that was spoken would create a vile response from my mouth.  This was a symptom of a greater problem with my heart.  Matt 12:34 is true…”Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” The longer I stayed, the more comfortable I felt, and the more bitterness and anger grew in my heart.  I could feel my spiritual life plummeting. Soon the person I was becoming would not be free to love unconditionally and lavish grace on to those around me.

What’s the big deal?  I was dying spiritually a little bit every day hanging on to the wrongs.  I wanted justice, retribution and yes, I wanted revenge.  Then we could call it even, right? But somehow a moment of revenge would not make up for the amount of wrongs and would not release me from these shackles of darkness. A moment of retribution is not worth a lifetime of regret.  I had a heart problem that needed tending to. I had to forgive.

What is forgiveness? Webster Dictionary 1828 defines forgiveness as to pardon, to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense and treat the offender as not guilty.  In some cases that sounds like an impossible task and it’s surely not something I want to offer someone if it’s undeserved. Have you ever noticed how a lack of forgiveness only affects the person withholding it? Refusing forgiveness changes you. It holds you hostage and does NOTHING to the offender.  In all my times of judging I tried to put myself on the Throne of heaven and assume a role of issuing out retribution.  But in reality, how was my sin any worse than the one committed against me?  In our economy we measure sin, but in God’s economy all sin is equal.  Yet, Jesus chose to die for my sin and for the sin of my offender.  How could I be called a daughter of the King when such idolatry lay in my heart?  If I could not forgive someone how could the Lord ever forgive me?  These questions brought me to my knees, to obey and trust God like I never had before by laying down the wrongs committed against me.  And here’s what I learned about forgiveness: I needed to be forgiven.

Truth often has a way of unveiling a mess.  To seek forgiveness meant that I needed to go back the source of the One who taught us all how to forgive.

Jesus.

Oh, my One and Only.

My protector.

Rescuer.

Lover.

And friend.

So long ago He walked this earth with the purpose of redeeming us from the consequences of sin. He made it complete through His death on the cross.  My own sin nailed Him up on that tree; and yet He chose to die for me. Humility floods my soul knowing I did nothing to deserve such atonement and grace. He pursued me no matter what and absorbed my sin.  All He calls us to do is to, “confess our sins for He is faithful and just and will purify and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  I could almost hear the unlocking of my shackles and chains.  I stand forgiven through Jesus Christ!!  I’m so grateful for the life I found in Him and so undeserving of Him choosing me.

This springs me forward to forgive others.  Who am I to withhold forgiveness from someone when Jesus never withholds it from me?  I believe God is sovereign and knows all things.  He knows the situations that are difficult even when my flesh screams against the direction of His will.  But His very act on the cross diffuses the power of my flesh so I can realize what it means to forgive.  I will no longer accuse them of any wrong doing, or treat them as guilty.  The offense has been forgiven.

In no way, do I want to minimize the struggle of forgiving others. Choosing forgiveness could be the hardest thing you ever do.  Depending on the offense it may take time to truly forgive.  There have been times I was on my knees for weeks before the Lord wrestling over one offense.  But I kept pressing, I kept renewing my mind, and I kept choosing to forgive.  Yes, sometimes forgiveness is a minute by minute journey, continually giving it back to the Lord. Don’t stop. It is worth it. Forgiveness is an attitude, not an occasional event. In this attitude you will find freedom.  However, there’s still more to learn about what true forgiveness entails.

Stay tuned for more blogs on what forgiveness is not.

Digging Deeper:

Read 1 Corinthians 6:6-11. What have you been forgiven from?

Read John 8: 1-11. Have you forgiven yourself?

What is the hardest thing for you to forgive?

Is Jesus enough to absorb the debt of sin? Read 1 John 1:7. For you? Read Ephesians 4:31-32. For another?