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FORGIVENESS, pt 1: Understanding Forgiveness

Updated: Jan 19, 2022




FORGIVENESS is a massive issue in the church. Millions of words have been written on the subject, yet many Christians are still find themselves in great internal turmoil because forgiveness is so largely misunderstood.  To be sure, in my own ministry with men and married couples who are hurting, I quite often find a situation where forgiveness issues (to one degree or another) does not rear its ugly head. Indeed, the great doctrine of forgiveness remains largely misunderstood and misapplied. The result? Christians who can go on for years being miserable and nowhere near a state of peace simply because they have an incorrect interpretation of forgiveness.


FORGIVENESS AND JUDGEMENT

To not forgive someone is to judge them. Only God and those he appoints are to judge.  To not forgive and judge is to place yourself in spiritual authority over them.  Since we are all sinners, we occupy the same place before Jesus.


TRUE FORGIVENESS

First and foremost, recognize that forgiveness is a one-time declaration that you are no longer judging that person for what they did or did not do.  True forgiveness occurs when you sincerely and completely release someone (living or dead) from any real or imagined emotional debt or liability towards you. It’s also a conscious, ongoing choice and a refusal on your part to entertain any further angry or hurtful thoughts about the person(s). This is no way implies that you completely forget the situation or what happened, or that you proceed as if it never happened, although that is hopefully a true consequence of forgiveness. True forgiveness should mean expressed or implied release of all anger or animosity, however justified, towards them. Obviously, that is not going to be the case in many instances. The hurt and the anger are simply too much and too overwhelming; the grief and the negative emotions rule the day. After all, we’re only human and reality and common sense tell us we will experience this.  

(Rom 14:10-13) You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.


(Rom 2:1) You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.


(Mat 6:14-15)  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


NEXT TIME: Debunking Forgiveness Myths


Rev. Dr. N. Patrick Marica contributes incisive Christian commentary on this blog on a regular basis.  He is the Vice-Chancellor of Amherst Theological Seminary. He has been the Director of Godly Training Ministries since 1993. He received his D.Min from ATS in 2018 and he has his MA from Liberty University in Marriage and Family Therapy. He is the author of the 2 books: "The Walk Applied: Living the New Creation life as a citizen of God's Kingdom in a Secular World" and "The Walk Applied Fasting and Prayer Handbook". He has been married to Kathy since 1985. They have 2 adult daughters and an extraordinary son-in-law. 


Contact Dr. Marica at amhersttheological@gmail.com

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