How Do We Forgive in A Terrible Situation?
Forgiving others is a command but also a choice. I do not forgive because I feel a sudden unction or excitement to do so, but because I choose to do so. Repenting of your own sin is a command, as it is written, “But now [God] commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). It is also a choice, as it is written, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15).
There are several reasons why people refuse to release others who have trespassed.
1. We believe we are in the right and they are in the wrong, and we wait for the other person to get the revelation of the error of their ways, humbling himself or herself before us and confessing he or she was in the wrong. If you wait for the other person, you may go to your grave disappointed.
2. The second reason we hold back is the idea that the other person is so wrong in his attitude that God will judge him for his actions, and thus we leave him alone in hope that God will smite him in some manner to teach him a lesson and bring him crawling back to say, “I am sorry.”
3. The third reason is we do not understand the importance of forgiveness, that it is not just to release the other person, but forgiving others is actually for us, to prevent our blessing from being restrained and hindered through unforgiveness.
4. The fourth reason is a five-lettered word called p-r-i-d-e! Our love for self and our personal ego are stronger than our common sense and spiritual motivation. If I am commanded in the Word, then I must choose to agree with and follow the command to release the blessing of the covenant.
There are situations in which it becomes difficult to release the person who committed the trespass. A man who murders a child, a child molester, a man who rapes a woman, and a relative who sexually abused a near relative are types of transgressions that create holes in the soul and unseen emotional scars. Emotions are the strongest form of ties that bind or of knives that cut and separate that we as humans carry. These wounds are so strong that we read: A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. —Proverbs 18:19
One reason forgiving the offender in these situations is challenging is the false impression of the offended that forgiving the offender releases the guilty party from judgment for the terrible actions committed, and we the offended would much rather see jail time or punishment enacted for a criminal type of trespass. We desire God to judge the Christian responsible for the hurt.
Forgiveness is not intended to bring justification to the offense, as “woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matt. 18:7)! Unforgiveness restrains spiritual blessing, thus forgiveness is for your benefit to release spiritual blockades hindering your blessings from flowing.
We often fail to realize that a contentious division and wrong actions can also impact the offender as much as the offended. Once offended or emotionally damaged, we often feel that the one causing the harm went on with his or her life without any emotional or spiritual repercussions.
It is impossible to preach forgiveness without practicing forgiveness. Get the goat out of your house, your bed, and your life by releasing the power of forgiveness to those who have offended you!
Perry Stone is the best-selling author of numerous books, including How to Interpret Dreams and Visions, The Code of the Holy Spirit and The Judas Goat, from which this article is adapted. He directs one of America’s fastest-growing ministries, the Voice of Evangelism, and lives in Cleveland, Tenn., with his wife, Pam, and their two children.