Forgiveness. This seems to be one of the most misinterpreted subjects in today’s society. It’s misinterpretation is right up there with love, which make sense considering how connected the two subjects are. Forgiveness is something I’ve thought on, meditated on, studied out, failed at, learned about through failure, and lived out. Forgiveness is a growing and maturing process. It is something that will be difficult at times, but to neglect it will cause you an even more difficult time. To some, forgiveness is merely saying, “I’m sorry.” As a way of bringing peace, but really lacking any heart or true change to either parties involved. To others, it’s a difficult process of laying everything out on the table and getting it off your chest. But, what is TRUE forgiveness? Is it as easy as saying, “I’m sorry.” or is it difficult, tasking work?
For those who may not know, I’ve grown up in ministry. I was boron into a minister’s home and for nearly 30 years I have been around the most wonderful situations and the most trying situations. I’ve seen Christians play church, I’ve seen others rise to the challenges of life and become a story of victory and success, I’ve seen others fall into the same patterns as sinners and often fall out of church or off their purpose and course God had laid before them. None of these people started out any different, but they all faced the same choice, forgiveness. Nine times out of ten, when someone falls out of the church and out of fellowship with the body of Christ, offense was the root of it all. This happens when something is done to a person or when they perceive that something is done to them and refuse to let it go. “But Jessica, you have no clue what they did to me!” No, that may be true, but I can say from experience that no matter what they’ve done to you it is not worth allowing bitterness, offense, and strife, the fruit of unforgiveness, to enter in to your heart. No matter what someone has done to you, you have a choice to live free of the wrongs and hurts caused or to live bound by them daily. The choice is always yours.
How I learned what true forgiveness is.
As I stated previously, my personal background has shown me many things in the realm of Christian living. It has also afforded me many opportunities to be enslaved to hatred and bitterness towards the church and towards people who call themselves Christians. The temptations have been great in times past. How did I choose to stay in ministry, let alone in the church? Because I learned a valuable lesson many years ago about forgiveness. I was in my late teens and someone who had been very close to me and and integral part of my family’s life, left. They abandoned us. I won’t go into the details as I feel it’s not profitable, but there was much hurt, pain, and tears caused. At the time I was in college, surrounded by people who bashed Christians and the church as unloving, and having been a loud advocate against such accusations, I was experiencing an unloving situation and now found myself questioning. As the fruit of what this person did was becoming more and more evident, I became angry and bitter towards them. I allowed unforgiveness to grip my heart. At the time, I couldn’t even see it. It happened so slow and before I knew it, I wasn’t the Jessica I used to be. I was becoming more loose in my beliefs, seeking out advice from worldly people and making horrible decisions. I was so far from who I used to be, why? I didn’t know at the time, I couldn’t pinpoint it, but I just knew I was dissatisfied. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror, but I didn’t know why. While hanging out one evening with some unsaved friends who were sharing their sadness, their troubles, all the things I had the answers to but didn’t feel I was good enough to share the answer with them, I mean I was a hypocrite because I was walking in unforgiveness. In the midst of this I heard a voice I knew all to well from my youth, a voice I had muted because of shame and bitterness, but a voice I knew was always there. The voice said, “Jessica, I didn’t call you to be like them, I called you to make them like you, spotless in my sight.” There was something that ignited in me. But still the question remained, how did I get to this point? I began seeking God’s face and seeking answers. Some time later I was in conversation with my mom(she may not even remember this conversation, but I do so very clearly), and the answer came. She said, “Jessi, I feel like you’re spiraling out of control and I feel it’s because you haven’t forgiven so-and-so.” And in my heart I knew my mom just gave me the key to being free from the bitterness in my heart. When I acted on this forgiveness, I felt liberated and felt more myself than I had been in a long time, and for the first time I saw how bound I had truly been. Things began to change drastically in my life and the relationship with that person was restored. I didn’t lay everything out, nor did I simply leave it at “I’m sorry.” I made a decision to forgive, ask their forgiveness for my anger and bitterness, and moved on as if things had never happened. It was that simple. Is this biblical forgiveness? I believe so and I’m going to show you what I found in scriptures that shows me this is the pattern to follow.
What the Bible says about true forgiveness.
We find that Proverbs 17:9 in the Amplified Bible says, “He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.” And the NLT says it like this, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” True forgiveness forgets the matter completely! This verse tells us that when you cover (hide from sight) an offense and forgive it that you are seeking love. But when we continually try to push our ideas or hurts through and talk or gossip about them, we become separated from even our closest friend. The number one relationship killer is offense. It killed countless marriages, countless pastoral relationships, countless businesses, and the like.
In Proverbs 10:12 we find that, “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions.” When you have allowed unforgiveness and hatred to grip you heart, you will seek out and find faults with the other person to stir up and talk about. But when you allow love to reign in your heart, you will cover any transgressions the other person may do. And finally Peter tells us, “Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].” (1 Peter 4:8 AMP)
This last one has to be my absolute favorite in dealing with this subject. But there’s a very important word each of these verses contains that I want to discuss: COVERS. We see the word “covers” referring to how love handles offenses and wrongs done to us. What does it mean? Does in mean you know it’s there, but you just throw a sheet over it? It may be “covered,” but you still have the knowledge of what was done to you, right? I had these same questions and had my beliefs of forgiveness challenged many times, but here’s the liberating truth I found. The word “covers” used in these verses comes from the Greek word, kalyptō (Pronunciation: kä-lü’p-tō). The word kalyptō is a verb and it means to hide, veil, and to hinder the knowledge of a thing. To hinder the knowledge of a thing! So when we choose to forgive, we choose for the knowledge of all of offenses, hurts, pains, wrongs, violence in word or deed, anything done towards us that has caused us harm will be stripped from our thought life! We really will forgive and forget! We really can live free of those hurts and pains! We really can rise above the criticisms and hateful words of others. And, we really can live free of offense, bitterness, and strife, the fruits of unforgiveness!
Finally I will leave you with, “Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].” (Colossians 3:13 AMP)
Remember, no matter what is done to you, Forgiveness is “readily pardoning” those who have hurt or caused you offense! You CAN quickly forget and move on. True forgiveness is that which lives free of any thoughts of the past.
Choose to LIVE FREE today!