This is the second of a series of posts about forgiveness. The first post in the series is here.
Forgiveness is not easy or simple. Oh, we forgive people many times every day for minor offenses, but the greater the offense, the more serious the wound, the deeper the pain we feel, and the more difficult to forgive. It can take years to forgive serious wrongs, as a person goes through the stages of grief and the steps of healing.
I know this by experience, as I worked through the pain of being rejected by my Mom and other members of my family. I was motivated to forgive because I understood the damage of unforgiveness, and I wanted to walk closely with Christ without bitterness and anger getting in the way. From the very beginning of my family’s rejection, before I truly understood what was going on, I prayed not only that God would work in their life to change them, but I prayed that He’d work in my life and change me, that He would reveal to me anything that I was doing wrong, and that He’d help me to forgive. Even praying this, the process of forgiveness was difficult and painful. However, I learned some very important things along the way.
I found very little help as I struggled to forgive. I believe that few really understand what is involved in forgiveness. In a previous post, I wrote about Opposite Truths–about needing to hold on to two seemingly opposite truths at the same time. If we hold on to one truth at the exclusion of the other, we fall into error. I believe the issue of forgiveness also involves Opposite Truths, and that Christians tend to error in their understanding of forgiveness by going to one extreme or the other. The truth is that we must hold on to both opposites at the same time. I’ve know both pastors and laypeople who have verbally beat people up over their failures, condemning them for not measuring up, and stressing that they need to try harder to do better not to fail God–so people despair of ever being loved by God. Others teach that it doesn’t matter what a person does, God loves and forgives them no matter what with no need for repentance or change. It seems to me that it’s not just an individual thing, but the extremes also happen generationally, so one generation is too condemning, and the next generation or two reacts by going too far the other way and becomes too tolerant toward sin.
I’d like to write, in the next few posts, about the opposite truths of forgiveness.