Let’s Talk About Forgiveness

Eph 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (32) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We have all had to wrestle with this matter of forgiveness. We have been oppressed by all kinds of distortions about it. You know how this goes. “God requires you to forgive your abuser and be reconciled to him.” I hope that you all know by now that reconciliation – a restoration of relationship – is not implicit in forgiveness. We can forgive our enemy by not seeking personal vengeance. We can forgive and still pray imprecatory prayers, pleading for God to enact justice on the wicked. But none of this demands a restoration of relationship. Reconciliation is not necessarily an element of forgivenes..

But this is not the scenario I want to speak about here. I want to talk about forgiveness as it applies to who Paul calls “one another.” Be kind to one another. Tenderhearted…” Don’t be a bitter, wrathful, angry, malicious person. This is what I have in mind this morning.

Sometimes a victim of abuse can become rather abusive themselves. Now, don’t let that statement send you on a morbid introspection spiral that falsely condemns you and makes you wonder if YOU aren’t the real problem in your abusive marriage. I am speaking here about a person who walks around with a chip on their shoulder, just waiting for someone to say or do something that knocks that chip off and, POW! “You triggered me! POW!” “You said something that offended me! POW!” Have you known anyone like this? They are people who, as I have written before recenlty, are perpetual victims. They destroy relationships because they are angry and unforgiving. Fail to walk on the eggshells around them even once and you are going to see the fangs come out.

Where does this unforgiving spirit come from? Well, the answer to that is – the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let’s think about how the world infuses unforgiveness into us if we fail to walk in the Spirit and instead allow the world to conform us to itself. This world is characterized by a spirit of unforgiveness. You see it in movies and in the culture we are immersed in. “Get tough! Don’t take lip from anybody. Get yourself some tattoos and dress like a tough guy. Stand up for yourself. You’ve been wronged and abused and you aren’t going to take it from anyone anymore.” Understand?

Be kind to one another. Be tenderhearted. Forgive one another. Because, first of all, Christ has forgiven you – if you are really born again. In fact, a person who refuses to forgive others is demonstrating that they don’t know Christ at all. Practically, if we refuse to forgive one another, we aren’t going to have any one anothers to forgive because we will be putting ourselves on a desert island. Every relationship will end in a blast because inevitably the other person will say or do something that “triggers” us and we will unleash wrath upon them.

I have heard abuse victims say on occasion something like this – “I told that woman just what I thought about what she said and I knew at that moment that she was never coming into my house again. I have no problem just being done with people who say or do what she did.” And what “she did” was simply say something that the angry person immediately attributes an evil motive to. When in fact there may have been no evil in her motive at all. Perhaps her statement was just careless or inconsiderate or stupid – but never mind. The unforgiving person is, by gosh, going to stand up for herself and be done with this person once and for all.

An unforgiving person then is a relationship minefield. Have you known someone like this? You thought they were your friend, but there was this tension you couldn’t really pin down. And then one day, you stepped on one of the mines. You said something. You did something. Or you didn’t say something or you didn’t do something. BOOM! Off goes the mine and relationship is over.

Listen, not everyone in this world is evil. Not everyone around you means ill toward you. Many are and many do, but not all. If we are ever going to enjoy friendship and fellowship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are going to have to exercise forgiveness and kindness toward one another. If you read this blog long and often enough, I guarantee you that you are going to be offended or “triggered” by something I say. I hope that when that happens, you do not attribute an evil motive to me. I hope that you are not going down that destructive road of angry unforgiveness that will inevitably isolate you and lead you on a relationship path that looks like those pictures of a road littered with blown up vehicles strung out for miles after a war.

Be wise. Understand evil. Oppose the wicked. But as you do, don’t shoot your friends.

7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Forgiveness

  1. Thank you, Pastor! This is such an important thing to practice in the true Body of Christ. I’ve known people who cut people off as soon as they make one mistake! True and deep friendships I believe must be tested and that includes situations where you are (unintentionally) hurt by the friend and offer forgiveness, and vice versa. Friendships that haven’t gone through difficult times that require forgiveness are only shallow relationships. There won’t be many, but they’ll be real and something you can count in when things get tough.

  2. Hi — Does this mean this verse is not addressing the idea of “forgiving” the unrepentant abuser who did you much harm as many Christians argue it does, but rathe, the verses means have a forgiving spirit in general towards others (separate from the unrepentant abuser who intentionally harmed you)?

  3. How do we discern when we do need to turn away from a friend, or when we need to be long suffering and forgiving? For example I am thinking of a past friend that told me that maybe the reason I had cancer was because God was angry that I had been in a second marriage (implying he gave me cancer as punishment for that). She sent me that message 2 days after cancer surgery while I was still recovering.

    It felt evil when I received that message and so my decision was to immediately block her. This also reflected a lot of the advice I read on dealing with ‘spiritually abusive people’ via abuse advocates.

    But I have since looked back and wondered if it was too harsh to do that. She was deceived by the permanence in marriage cult and was ‘standing’ for her marriage. This was a fairly new thing for her. I know people can become zealous in a bad way when they fall for those false teachings. Perhaps I should have left the door open in case she ever realised how false and cruel those teachings are?

    My point being, how do we discern when we really need to cut someone off or persevere with them?

    In abuse recovery circles you get a lot of this ‘block that person’ the moment someone says something that sounds spiritually abusive but I’m wondering if there is a way to tell if they are just deceived or if in fact they are dangerous and need to go. I would hate to think I have ever cut someone off that the Lord instead might want me to persevere with?

    1. Well the key is whether they are open to correction and willing to acknowledge that they hurt you. As long as they refuse, you don’t want them continuing to harm you. Tell them that the day they realize they were wrong – confessing their sin – they can come and look you up.

      1. What you don’t want to do is walk around with a chip on your shoulder and dump anyone who even unintentionally says something that rubs you wrong.

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