What does it mean to forgive and be forgiven?

Forgiveness can be called one of the most  misinterpreted, misunderstood and malpracticed virtues in Christianity. Usually forgiveness involves two main individuals or even parties. The offendee and the offender. What does forgiveness mean to the offendee? What does being forgiven mean to the offender? We hope you will find this blog post useful in your personal life as well as in ministry.

If You are the Victim:

1. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness

People think forgiving turns them into a door mat. Especially men, find it difficult to forgive because they believe to forgive is a sign of weakness and to fight back is a sign of strength. The truth is forgiveness is the doorway to God’s power and healing.

2. Forgiveness is an independent decision

It’s a transformation of attitude and response towards the offender that takes place inside the victim’s heart. The parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 illustrates this truth perfectly.

3. Forgiveness means wearing the Culprit’s Shoes

We all make mistakes. All of us are sinners saved by grace. Thus Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free and realizing the prisoner can sometimes be me, (Matthew 18:34).

4. Forgiveness is a way of life

The film industry imposes the idea that forgiveness is just for catastrophic events. It is not so. Forgiveness is a way of life, (Ephesians 4:32).

5. Heart is the source of true forgiveness

Forgiveness is not merely a mind issue but forgiving from the heart, (Matthew 18:35)

6. To forgive means to forget.

This statement doesn’t make any sense when taken at the surface value because you can’t really pretend as nothing happened, (ex: an unfaithful spouse, sexual abuse but not limited to…) It actually means deciding not to dwell on the incident, (Romans 12:2) and constantly reaffirm your forgiveness for the offender until the pain fades away.

7. Forgiveness is humanly impossible

Forgiveness requires God’s grace as we often tend to run out of unconditional love.

8. Praying for the enemy won’t change them

Praying for enemy wont change them, but it always changes us. When we pray for the enemy we extend them grace  as God has extended grace to us, (Matthew 18:33).

If You are the Culprit:

What does it mean to forgive and be forgiven?

1. Forgiveness and trust

Forgiveness is not instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is a gift; where as trust is earned. For example a wife might forgive her unfaithful husband. But no body can blame her for not trusting her husband like she was used to.

2. Forgiveness and confrontation

Forgiveness does not isolate the offendee of his rights. The offendee can seek to address the hurt and try to restore the relationship. (Even secular psychiatrists encourage their patients to confront the offender) Matthew 15:18-19 teaches us the process.

3. Forgiveness and consequences

Forgiveness doesn’t override natural consequences. A man reaps what he sows. Though King David was forgiven he had to face the long term consequences of his sin, (the death of Bathsheba’s child, Amnon and Tamar, Absalom).

4. Forgiveness and justice

Forgiveness is not the way we govern society. Justice must prevail or a society will fall apart, (Romans 13:1-5). Thus Forgiveness is not forfeiting justice but appealing to a higher court where justice will be done. Besides forgiveness is what happens to me internally at a heart level, (illustration: Rusty)

5. Forgiveness and discipline

Forgiveness is not minimizing or trivializing sin. Sin is sin and evil is evil. Therefore Discipline is necessary.

6. Forgiveness is not tolerating abuse

An abusive husband can’t expect his wife to tolerate his behavior in the name of forgiveness because forgiveness is not staying in a highly violent and abusive situation and letting it occur again and again.

(If this blog post was helpful to you please consider leaving your feedback in the comments section at the bottom. It would be a great encouragement to me personally.)
Image courtesy: Ross Griff and hang_in_there

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