Despite being one of the core virtues of the Christian faith, forgiveness is really not all that simple. As with most concepts that rely heavily on human behaviors, there is a lot of fuzzy, gray areas when it comes to actually defining and acting out forgiveness in a concrete manner. The commandment to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32) can be laced with what ifs…
What if the person who wronged you hasn’t repented?
Does forgiveness ever cross a line into enabling?
What if the person who wronged you is abusive?
Is forgiveness a “one and done” or a daily choice?
Does true forgiveness mean you have to forget?
We all likely have our anecdotal answers to these questions, many of which were learned the hard way. But to be honest, there aren’t many clear cut, definitive solutions in Scripture to the gray areas of forgiveness. And this ambiguity has allowed many church members or leaders to speak up and instruct fellow Christians on how to forgive, but they have done so based on their own perceptions of forgiveness.
Jesus practiced forgiveness in the most extreme way when he chose to take on the pain of all of our sins and wash them clean, dying in our place as he removed the debt we owed for our sins. He had the ability and strength of heart to offer this degree of forgiveness because of his supreme divinity. For us to begin to model our behaviors after the perfect example set by Jesus, we are instructed to draw near to him and allow his Spirit to transform and renew our minds.
Thus forgiveness is a process, birthed out of the journey of becoming more like Jesus.
The challenge for many of us who have grown up in the church is to work out what we have been taught about what forgiveness is and how it’s accomplished, to determine if what we’ve learned lines up with the plumb line of Jesus’ life. I would argue that forgiveness is not something done overnight, it doesn’t require the act of forgetting, it is not always done prior to healing, and it’s very much not black and white. (see more about common myths of forgiveness here: https://relevantmagazine.com/life/9-big-myths-about-forgiveness.
Forgiveness is modeled by Jesus and commanded by the Father, with promised assistance from the Spirit. By pursuing how and when and why to forgive, we are presented with the chance to press in closer to the Trinity and to be refined by the renewing of our minds.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
About the Author
Britni is a quiet but fearless spirit who is earnestly seeking the beauty of the redemption that Jesus has personally determined for her life. Committed to the truth that listening breeds understanding and understanding results in compassion, she clings to the power of life’s stories. She has embarked on the venture of discovering her own story and lending an ear to the stories lived out in others and savors the trace of Jesus that is woven throughout them all. Currently, that journey has landed her in a balancing act between the role of wife, momma, and a mental health Care Coordinator.