“I don’t worry about it. I will never forgive him for that! I always cringe when I hear someone say something like that. I understand the pain, the betrayal, being stabbed in the back, raped and everything else that comes with being the victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, but saying, “I will NEVER forgive.” to that person, ”makes me feel sorry for the person who said this sentence.
Years ago I met a man who was very bitter about his relationship with his father. Almost every time I was with him this man in his 50s would bring up the subject of his father and how he had treated him badly and how much he despised his father. Most of the time, I just listened and nodded. He was so angry that I was pretty sure his anger could turn on me if I said something that went against his feelings, words, and attitudes. Finally, however, I said something.
“Listen,” I said, “have you ever told your father about this?” Did you even try to discuss these things with him?
“No,” he said. “Why not?” I inquired.
“Because he’s been dead six years. Every day since his father’s death, this man had been tormented by everything that had happened in the past.
“You know,” I shared, “if you want to leave where you are, you have to forgive him for everything he said or did.”
Sure enough, his anger turned on me and he shouted, “I will NEVER forgive him?” You understand? Never! ”And he never did. When he died a few years later, he was still consumed with bitterness and hatred. He let a dead man ruin his life.
We often think that if we forgive someone, it means that the offense was not real or that the offender gets away with it without any responsibility. This is not true.
In the Bible, Saint Paul wrote this to the Christians of Rome: “Return evil for evil to no one. Have respect for the good things in the eyes of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live in peace with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give way to anger; for it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will restore it,” says the Lord.
Notice two things: (1) Do not avenge yourself, and (2) Revenge belongs to God.
A long time ago, someone owed me money … a nice sum at the time. As time went on and the loan continued to go unpaid, it affected my relationship with this person. I didn’t want to see him, be with him, or talk to him.
Finally, in my home office, I took the promissory note and wrote on it “paid in full – debt canceled”. I then prayed and said, “God, I transfer this debt to you. If you want to get him back, it’s up to you, but he no longer owes me that money.
In fact, I decided that if he ever tried to pay off the loan, I would refuse. After all, by forgiving the debt, it was no longer owed to me. I had and still have peace about the situation and the relationship was restored.
I’ve done the same thing over the years when someone hurt me in some way. I have the choice. I can forgive or I can keep my “right” to be offended and, like my friend, to become bitter.
Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s a choice. Whatever my feelings, I can choose to nurture and nurture those feelings of anger, injustice, hate or whatever, or I can choose to forgive. To transfer, so to speak, this obligation that I feel owed to God.
What forgiveness does – true forgiveness – is free the forgiver. But forgiveness is not the same as trust. A husband, who betrayed his wife, said: “I thought she was supposed to forgive and forget! Well, no, not necessarily. Confidence is a fragile commodity. Once it is broken or betrayed, it must be regained.
Let’s say I lend someone money and they don’t pay it back. Let’s also say that I forgive this debt. Would I continue to lend them money? Probably not. I would be foolish to trust them unless and until they have proven to be trustworthy over time. When one of my sons was a teenager he betrayed my trust with the car. Later, when I refused to use it for him, he said, “What? You do not trust me ?
My response was, “Of course I don’t trust you! The betrayed trust must be regained. Forgiveness can and should be given freely.
Matthew 6:15 (NASB) says, “But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your trespasses. It’s pretty serious. God’s forgiveness to us depends on and depends on us forgiving those who hurt us.
This is called “sowing and reaping”. If we desire forgiveness, then we must sow the seeds of forgiveness by forgiving others.
Does this sound easy to you? Of course not. A man, a man who I thought was a true friend, betrayed me many years ago by telling blatant lies and deliberately seeking to destroy my credibility as a minister. And he was a fellow minister! When he got caught, he lied again, denying everything. After I left, he continued to lie to people I knew.
It took me ten long years to truly forgive him. It was like an onion. I thought several times that I had forgiven him but there was always, it seemed, another layer to go through. Finally, I was able to truly forgive him and all the anger and bitterness and hope he would pay for what he had done was gone, replaced with peace.
Is the other’s repentance necessary? Well that might help, but no, it doesn’t. Forgiveness does not concern them. It’s about you. On me. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He forgave those who were murdering him, however unrepentant they were. He chose to forgive them and, like Jesus, we always have a choice.
As someone once said, “Forgiveness is the poison we drink in the hope that someone else will die.” Don’t drink the poison. Forgive everyone, everything.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemics, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at [email protected]]