“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away our sins.” Romans 3:23, 24 (TLB)
Forgiveness is essential for any relationship. Why? We are all imperfect people. Only perfect people wouldn’t need forgiveness. Not only do I need forgiveness, I need to forgive. I love the way the Living Bible puts Romans 3: 23-24 when it says of Jesus, who in His kindness freely takes away our sins. That’s real forgiveness! Think about it. God forgives my sins! What a relief! We don’t have to live with the shame and guilt or our failures the rest of our lives. We can be forgiven! He promises to take away our sins!
Because He is kind, Christ forgives and, if I am to be kind, I must forgive. What is forgiveness? Maybe it would help first to consider what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not shallow. It is not ignoring the pain of an offense or suggesting that it was no big deal and, since I’m a Christian, it didn’t hurt.
- Forgiveness is not trust. Forgiveness is given, but trust must be earned. You can forgive a business partner who cheated you, but that doesn’t mean you have to trust your future business decisions to him. Trust takes time and must be earned back.
- Forgiveness is not a feeling. This is often the most-confused misunderstanding about forgiveness. People think they must feel it before they can forgive. The truth is that forgiveness is a choice. I must choose to forgive before I ever feel like it, and those feelings will catch up with my choices sooner or later. Either way, the choice to forgive sets me free from being victimized by the offence any further.
Bottom line. Forgiveness is necessary. To be forgiven, I must forgive. Furthermore, I can’t forgive for someone else. Only those offended can forgive. Trying to forgive on behalf of someone else minimizes the pain they are feeling and the process of forgiving on their part.
If you’re struggling with forgiveness because you think it is letting your offender off the hook, consider the two things God never shares:
- God never shares His glory.
- God never shares His vengeance.
We can release our offender to God and trust that God will handle it. Holding on to hate and hurt only turns into bitterness and destroys our lives as well as usurps God’s role to avenge the wrong. Relationship builders learn to forgive and experience the peace that comes when they release their pain to God and entrust the ones who hurt them to Him.
Understanding, kindness and forgiveness are the first three steps to becoming a relationship builder. We’ll examine the final step on Monday!