Jesus, Forgiveness, Healing, Grace, Mercy, Redemption are all words that are associated with Christianity but the understanding of them is being lost today's world.
In my talking with people, especially men inside prison, I've discovered that one of the reasons why some of them will not even consider becoming a Christian concerns this subject of un-forgiveness. They have great difficulty believing and accepting that God is ready to forgive some of the bad things that they have done.
Their thoughts are along these lines - 'At times I've done bad things to other people, things that, had they been done to me, I would never forgive - therefore I can't imagine anybody forgiving me for the things that I've done, certainly not God'.
I think can understand their difficulty in trying to understand how other people would not forgive them for the bad they had done, but they are way off line when it comes to God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness is always readily available, but let’s leave that for now and come back to it a little later on this page.
The problem with un-forgiveness between two people is its long term effect, not so much to the offender, but mainly to those victims who refuse to forgive. When somebody bullies us or betrays us, tells lies about us - whatever - it's natural to feel angry and want to get even. When we are able to do so it’s tempting to retaliate in kind or in some other perhaps more subtle way. But there will be occasions when we can't, when the offender is too big or maybe isn't accessible, maybe even dead. In such cases the hurt and anger remain unhealed and festers in our minds and hearts doing no good whatsoever.
When we've been bullied or hurt in some way the chain of thoughts that come into our minds is often along the following lines - I've been hurt (that's true), it shouldn't have happened (also true), it was most unfair (true), they don't even care about what they've done (true), they deserve to be punished (true), but I'm helpless to do anything about it (which often the case), therefore (and here comes the untruth) - we decide that the only thing we can do to punish them, to get our own back, is to not forgive them. It's this last untruth that does the long term damage, it's a decision that is the beginning of a cancerous sore that grows and grows within our hearts. The only cure is to forgive but that is much easier said than done unless some help is at hand. For the Christian such help is available from God's Holy Spirit.
But for me to be able to explain this help it's essential that you Reader understand the difference between the following two quotes. The first one says 'I won't forgive' and the second one says 'I can't forgive', and there is a world of difference between the two. The first comes from a decision that, as I've mentioned earlier, binds us with a painful sore in our hearts that will not go away. The second one however, the one that says 'I can't forgive', recognises not only the need to forgive but also the inability to do so. The good news here is that, with God’s help, this can become the beginning of a process of healing within our hearts that will set us free to move on in our growth towards become a mature whole person.
Those who decide that they won’t forgive sometimes do so in the mistaken belief that if they do then the offender will be ‘let off the hook’ as it where. But this is not so, the truth is just the opposite, forgiveness lets the victim off the hook. The required forgiveness and the offence, although related, must be looked upon as two separate events. When evil is done to another person it is a sin, not only to the victim, but also to God. All offences against God (sins) need God’s forgiveness before the slate can be wiped clean. It’s a truth that we all reap what we sow and that circumstances will eventually catch up with all badness, even if the required justice is postponed until after the offender’s death.
This releasing, by the victim, for God to deal with the offender is an essential element that allows the victim to move on in their spiritual growth. It is even more essential in the healing of ‘Unhealthy Shame’, a ‘Handicap’ that is discussed in more detail on the next page.
But before we move on to other Handicaps, I want to return to the point I mentioned at the beginning of this page, that we must never confuse the forgiveness from God with that of our own. God is always ready to forgive, it’s part of his very nature. Reader, read the page on ‘Why did Jesus die’ if you don’t understand the readiness and availability of God’s forgiveness. But such forgiveness is not automatic, he won't forgive us unless we are genuinely sorry and are humble enough to ask. But before we rush to ask we need to remember this - God already knows the secret thoughts of our hearts better than we do, he will know if our ‘sorry for what we’ve done wrong’ is genuine or not.
But, although God’s forgiveness is always available there is, however, a prior condition to be met before it is given - he asks us to put our own house in order first. St Mark wrote in his Gospel that Jesus said - When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too ( Mark Ch 11 verse 24, Living Bible) So we can see from this that if we want the peace of mind that comes from God's forgiveness for our own offences we must first (or at least be trying to) ‘forgive those who trespass against us’ and let God deal with the offender in his own way and in his own time.
An assurance of availability of God’s forgiveness can also be found in the Old Testament that records a prophecy where God said – ‘Despite all you have done, I will be kind to you again: you will cover your mouth in silence and shame when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God’ - that's from (Ezekiel Ch 17 verse 63, Living Bible)
Click here to read the about the handicap concerning ‘Unhealthy Shame’
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