Forgiveness is hard and vastly unattainable, whether people admit that or not. The idea that a person has to forgive in order to move on is not an appropriate response to lack of forgiveness. It is simply not true. I want to share a few thoughts on forgiveness which I hope will relieve a struggling person if they run across and read this blog post.
I am not against forgiveness, nor do I want to teach others to hold grudges. My aim is to set the record straight about forgiveness because I see a lot of people being brow-beat by a demand to forgive, without offenders being required to repent. This demand is out of their reach and they do not need to forgive in order to move on. That is a worldly, humanistic view, not at all grounded in Scripture.
A few facts about forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is not ours to demand or require - Daniel 9:9 - "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness."
- Demanding or requiring forgiveness further victimizes the victim. This type of demand goes against Jesus' claim that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:29, 30) His yoke is easy because He owns our capabilities to forgive, move on and heal. The key is right there in His Words, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me....." It is God Who works in us to heal our hearts unto repentance.
- Forgiveness requires intent from the unforgiven. Luke 19:3& 4 talk about forgiving a brother and it states "If he repent, forgive......." I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins...." If. I have seen counselors demand forgiveness even directed toward people who are not repenting. Repentance is foundational to our faith. But, we are led to repentance by the Holy Spirit of God. He leads us to repentance resulting in salvation by faith - faith which He gives. It's all God, all the time, in all ways.
Based on these simple truths, I do not ever require forgiveness from the people I help. I am a domestic violence survivor. I know abuse. I know what it does to a person and what it takes to heal and not live under the cloud of abuse residue. Forgiveness is not the key to healing and moving on. The key to healing and moving on is Jesus Christ, the Compassionate Savior Who understands our hurting hearts when we don't feel we can forgive.
I am not a big supporter of counseling. My heart is healed from my abuse and I never had any counseling. My Counselor has been the Lord Jesus Christ from the time He saved me until even now, and really even before He saved me.......and He will remain so. The healing process takes a different amount of time for each person as He works in us to do of His good pleasure. The key is consistent exposure to solid, Biblical, expository preaching. Titus 1:3 tells us that God manifests (makes known) His Word through preaching. It's the preaching, people. It has been overlooked in counseling circles. It has been scorned, ridiculed and blasted by many mainstream counselors, who may or may not partake of the preaching themselves. If a counselor was going to practice counseling, yet they did not, themselves, partake of regular, expository preaching of the Word of God, they are disqualified already.
When I do talk to someone who has been abused, I never, ever tell them they ought to forgive their abuser. I know for a fact that telling them they ought to forgive further victimizes them and I am not about to further victimize someone who has already suffered. So, what do I tell them? I tell them about Jesus Christ, His compassion, His easy yoke, His understanding of their suffering since He also suffered. And I tell them that He owns forgiveness. And I tell them that it's ok to fear; it's ok to be angry; it's ok to feel anything and everything they feel since Jesus knows their feelings and can certainly handle them.
Forgiveness? It's a given when Jesus is the One doing the healing in a person's heart. Let's not push for forgiveness. Don't even ask. Have enough faith to not even bring it up except in the context of what Jesus is capable of - which is EVERYTHING. Jesus, Himself, that great Counselor, will lead their hearts to forgiveness while they are moving on, it won't stop them from moving on - and their inability to forgive will be a thing of the past. Jesus Christ is perfectly able to handle any and all human emotion, even anger, despair, fear, unforgiveness, etc. We often act as though our feelings would shock Him and we must lie to ourselves and those around us for His acceptance. Silly. He already knows the WHOLE truth, yet still loves us all and died for us.