A Lesson On Forgiveness
by Donna Wasson 6/10/2012 / Christian Living
Every single human being you know throughout your lifetime will, at one time or another, let you down, betray, abuse, neglect and/or abandon you. It doesn't matter if the person is a spouse, child, family member or friend, you will be hurt at least once by everyone. It's simply the way it is because we are sinful, selfish humans living on a broken, decaying world. In these last days when evil is increasing exponentially, this will prove to be true more than ever!
Now, I don't mean for this to be a downer for anyone. It's a warning to Christians that the ONLY person who will never let you down is Jesus Christ. He is the only one you can really count on; the only one who truly knows you intimately. He is the only person you are really safe with. You'll save yourself a whole lot of pain if you'll remember this fact!
When we are hurt by someone, we are to forgive, "even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." But what, exactly does this mean? I stumbled on a fantastic website that taught me the true meaning of forgiveness and why it is OK to sometimes withhold it. Oh, I can hear the screams of protest and see the hackles of some of you rising from here. 'Heresy, heresy! She's a witch, burn her!' Put down the pitchforks and torches people, and let's take a good look at this.
I highly encourage anyone who is having difficulty forgiving someone to visit this wonderful site for a good, Biblical grasp of this because it has historically been a very difficult and misunderstood subject. http://www.luke173ministries.org/ I will be borrowing liberally from the information on this webpage and will use quotation marks when I am quoting them.
Luke 17:3 says, "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him." That is the most concise recipe for forgiveness ever given. When we need God to forgive us, we are to go to Him, confess our sin, ask for forgiveness (apologize) and repent (turn from our sinful ways.)
When someone offers us a sincere apology, they shouldn't try to avoid mentioning the offense; "I'm sorry for anything I might have done." Instead, they need to be specific in describing what they did wrong. They should acknowledge that we have every right to be upset and validate our feelings by assuring us we didn't deserve to be treated hurtfully and then promise it won't happen again. This kind of apology is healing.
Confess, apologize, and repent. You'd think it was the easiest thing in the world, wouldn't you? I think we Christians confuse and complicate these simple steps. Butwhat if the person that hurt you won't admit they were wrong? God Himself does not forgive the 'stiff-necked' who refuse to repent and who continue in their evil ways! Surprised? Find one instance in the Bible where He does. If God does not forgive the unrepentant, we are not expected to extend that grace to them either.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we realize the one who hurt us will never admit wrongdoing, so in order to free ourselves to carry on and live a fulfilled, happy life we need to choose to forgive them, knowing there is a wonderful promise attached. To forgive someone is to cease holding them accountable for their trespass against you.
We cannot confuse forgiveness with emotion. We were victimized and have every reason to be angry and offended. However, when we choose not to entertain thoughts of the trespass and give it to God, He will step in and heal our heart and damaged emotions. We may still hurt for a while but it will fade with time. What makes this possible? The promise in Romans 12:19, "For it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." His validation and perfect justice will be more than enough to satisfy the injury you suffered!
Let it go. Lay it down, sit back and trust your heavenly Daddy to take care of business for you. It may take some time, but justice WILL be done!
Then there are people who are a cut above your basic jerk and are, quite frankly, abusers. "Abuse is a pattern of ongoing, continuous, unrelenting evil. It will not stop until we leave for our own survival. We finally come to realize the situation is hopeless; changing these ingrained characteristics is impossible." It is very unlikely God will change your abuser because your abuser likes hurting you and others! They don't want to change.
But what if your abuser claims to be a Christian??
This kind of abuser is the worst and can cause enormous damage! "Some are influenced by the Spirit of False Religion or a Jezebel Spirit; some were 'born again' many years ago but have not matured in their walk with God." Hebrews 10:26-31 talks about the doom of those who choose to continue sinning willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth; that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!
"Besides trying to use scripture to justify their wickedness, some who call themselves a 'Christian' will engage in other pseudo-religious behaviors. They might attend church on a regular basis, tithe every week, speak in tongues, be 'slain in the spirit', raise their hands to God, tell people to pray for them, shout 'Hallelujah," and use all the right words and phrases. How could anyone possibly believe that such a person is really malicious, and that this is all a façade?"
"What this person fails to realize is that someone with discernment can see these things and will know them by their fruit, or lack thereof. Using their 'Christianity' as a cover up for their sinful nature may not work all of the time or with every person, but it does work enough times and with enough people that it is worth it for them to continue doing. And so, whenever they are rebuked or challenged, trotting out their 'Christianity' is their automatic response."
Abusers will rarely progress through the proper steps to gain forgiveness. However, the reasons and excuses they spew do NOT fly with God! The Bible states in Romans 2:5-6 (NIV) "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done." THAT is sobering
So what are some common ways these so-called 'Christians' act when their victim confronts and rebukes them for their behavior and the hurt they caused? Hmmm, how much time do we have? Some excuses are quite clever whereas others are just plain funny! Quite possibly the most outrageous and one of my all time favorites, is selective amnesia.
"Selective amnesia is the abuser's phony defense of very conveniently forgetting anything that does not support their case. They pretend they have no idea of what you're talking about when you rebuke them for their behavior. In order to avoid accountability whenever you confront them about their actions, the abuser will deflect the conversation and attention away from what THEY did, and focus it on you."
"Remind them of anything they've done wrong, and they will suddenly develop brain damage. A look of bewilderment and hurt will cross their face as they tearfully deny what you're saying. You may be momentarily confused, thinking maybe they really don't remember. That is because a normal person's natural tendency is to give others the benefit of the doubt and not assume malice."
"If for some reason, they do begin to remember, a lot will get lost in the translation. They aren't going to remember things the way you doit will get twisted, denied and added to until it sounds like either you're completely delusional, or you are the one who wronged them! If that tactic fails and you persist in holding them accountable, their last ditch strategy will be to tell you that it was 'in the past' and YOU are wrong for not 'getting over it!'"
I can personally testify these things are true! Been there, heard that. "When the abusive 'Christian' in your life claims to have no idea what they did wrong, they are LYING! They know perfectly well what they did. They will try this ploy even after you've told them point blank exactly what they did wrong, furnished loads of examples, argued with them and protested their years of maltreatment." But you'll only get proclamations of amnesia.
"They have seen your distress every time they hurt you and that is, indeed their reward for doing so." They love knowing they had that kind of power over you! "You probably complained, rebuked, confronted, cried and fought them and tried in vain to set limits for years. And nothing worked, leaving you no choice but to end the relationship for your own survival. There is NO way they don't know what they did." Hey, I got the T-shirt on this trip too!
"It's a losing battle to ever try to have a nice, reasonable discussion with an abuser. You're deluding yourself if you think you can make them ever understand, admit anything or be accountable in any way." You will never gain satisfaction from this person! Give them over to a Holy God to deal with. Believe me, He will not forget. Then allow your heavenly Father to heal you.
Here are some other examples of the tactics abusers try when confronted with their sin against you. These are great! They will: 'not remember', accuse YOU of trying to start a fight, show juvenile displays of anger (mimicking, screaming, name calling, breaking property, making fun of you..), accuse you of taking their actions 'the wrong way', refuse to take responsibility, blame you, use sarcasm, tell you, "I said I was sorry!", tell you God forgives them so they don't have to explain or relive the past, and get angry with you for confronting them, blah, blah, blah.
Let me pause here and delve a little further into a very powerful ploy that some 'Christian' abusers use to excuse themselves and plant guilt into the one they hurt. The 'ol, "God forgives me and He's the only one I will face so my conscience is clear whether you forgive me or not, so you can't judge me," routine. Oh puke! This is a "Christian who is simply too prideful to face their victim, apologize sincerely for being abusive and hurtful, admit they were wrong, and change their ways."
"They think they can put it all behind them and hold their head high without ever doing the right thing by their victim. Any humility this person had shown in the past was false humility, calculated again to make them seem more righteous than they are."
In the Bible, when you damage someone, you are expected to make restitution to that person. "Repenting to God" doesn't get you off the hook! You are supposed to face the person you hurt and make it right by making them whole. Nowhere in the Word does it say that repenting to God is sufficient, or that it absolves us from any obligation to repent directly to the person we injured.
I could go on and on with this but there is one last, particularly insidious disguise the 'Christian' abuser can wear, and it's pretty powerful unless you stop and examine what scripture has to say about it. I have seen this tactic in play, even during my childhood, while being brought up in an Assembly of God church. They hide behind the "I've received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues, therefore I am a righteous and Godly person," mask.
I will not discuss my personal beliefs about this gift of the Spirit, so don't bother bringing the subject up. It is not for me to judge whether a person does or does not have this gift or if they have deluded themselves into thinking they do when they are actually manifesting something counterfeit.
BUTwhen a habitually abusive 'Christian' pulls this rabbit out of their hat, don't be intimidated. It's the perfect cover for their mistreatment of others by implying that because they are 'holy' enough to exercise this gift, they can't possibly be abusive. Remember what your Mama always told you? "Actions speak louder than words." Thank you Jesus, that's one little nugget of wisdom we can count on!
What are the fruits of the Spirit that God cultivates in His children? They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Do you suppose you will find these fruits consistently hanging off of a 'Christian' abuser? I think not! And how do we know if a person actually belongs to and is walking with God? By their fruits. NOT by what they tell us!
Another test lies in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (NKJV)
Go ahead, hot shot, speak in tongues till the cows come home! You are an unrepentant abuser and have not love. Now, you make sure to be in church every Sunday and make sure someone there knows you've been faithful to tithe. Oh yeah, volunteer to chaperone the youth group on their camping trip and pass out bulletins at the front door. Your service and big bad 'spiritual gift' means NOTHING to God! They are an abomination before Him because God looks at the heart and knows exactly what you are.
"There is a clear difference between the fruits of a true Christian who lives by the Spirit as opposed to the behaviors of one who might claim to be a Christian, but who really lives by their flesh and by their sinful nature."
In closing, let's review. The next time you offend or hurt someone, even unintentionally, you need to seek forgiveness and restoration. You go to them, confess what you did, acknowledge they have every right to be hurt, apologize and ask for forgiveness, and repent and promise them you will never to that to them again. THEN you go to God.
When someone hurts or offends you and they don't seem to be making a move to make things right, you go to them, rebuke them and IF they repent, you forgive them. Every single time. If this recipe is not followed according to Biblical mandates, or if they refuse to admit their offense, you are not obligated to extend forgiveness to them.
Of course, you have no right to declare war and treat them badly either! Simply choose not to hold their offense against them and turn them over to your advocate, the source of perfect justice and go on your way without them in your life. Have nothing more to do with them. God will heal your heart and emotions if you are faithful to conduct yourself in this manner. He will recompense the pain you've suffered and justice WILL be served! Thank you Lord, and let me hear a hearty "AMEN!"
Donna Wasson is all of the following: Married. Mom. Hospice RN. Avid reader. Animal lover. Needing to spread the Gospel while there is still time.