I was in a discussion recently about the topic of forgiveness. If I were to make a list of the main areas in which followers of Jesus struggle to obey, I think forgiveness would be toward the top of the list (right alongside of "tithing").
Why is it so hard to forgive? I think one of the reasons is because we don't really understand what forgiveness is. All of us grew up being taught that forgiveness is forgiving and forgetting. Now that may sound like a wonderful and noble phrase but there are really two problems with it. First, you can't find that phrase in the Bible. It just isn't there. Second, it's rather impossible. Can you really ever forget the times people have hurt you? Can you really somehow erase those scars from you memory banks? I don't know about you, but I can't.
So if forgiveness is not forgetting, what is it? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that true love "keeps no record or wrongs." In other words, love does not keep a mental record of what you have done to hurt me in order to use it against you as a weapon. I remember the hurt. In fact, I'm even tempted to use that incident against those who caused me the hurt. But forgiveness says, though I remember and though I am tempted to use it against those who hurt me, I choose not to. That's forgiveness.
You see, forgiveness isn't a feeling. It's a choice. There are many times in my life I do not feel like forgiving. But I must still choose to forgive anyway. And how do I know it I have really done that? Here's one way to know. When I choose to forgive, I quit telling my story to everybody. You see, when you're wronged, you often find yourself telling your side of the story to anyone and everyone who will listen (and believe me, there are many people who will listen). Why do you do that? Because deep inside, if you are really going to be honest, you want people to choose your side of the story. You want people to look down on the person or persons who hurt you. That's one example of using the incident as a weapon against those who caused you the pain. That's not forgiveness.
So, let me ask you. Is there someone in your past who you need to forgive, even though you don't feel like it? Is there a story that you need to stop sharing because all it is doing is causing others to take sides?
But what if that person who wronged you refuses to acknowledge their error? What if they don't deserve your forgiveness? What then? I'll answer those questions in my blog posting tomorrow.