A few days ago, I met a single young adult who was struggling. Turns out, a couple years ago his girlfriend cheated on him, and it was still eating away at him. He felt that his un-forgiveness was a sin, but he just couldn't seem to let it go.
Ever been there?
For some of you, forgiving others is easy. You are a kind soul, so when someone wrongs you, it may sting for a bit, but eventually, you release it and move on.
But for some of us, forgiving like that is far from easy. Because you aren’t just forgiving a friend who forgot your birthday or a driver who cut you off in traffic. You are wrestling with how to forgive a parent who abandoned you, or a trusted person who sexually molested you, or the drunk driver who took your loved one away, or (like my new friend) a significant other who betrayed you.
So to hear someone like me say, "you need to forgive," sounds just as impossible as jumping off a cliff and flying unaided. To forgive someone of such evil against you feels like I am saying, “It’s no big deal.” But it is a big deal!
Why is someone's offense against you a big deal? Because justice matters. It matters deeply. The longing for justice was placed within humanity at creation. It is part of the Imago Dei, part of God’s very character that He shared with us. But sin twists our desire for justice, causing us to unseat God from the Judgment Seat and want to sit in it ourselves instead.
But thankfully the gospel shows us a better way. The cross shows us that justice matters deeply to God, because sin HAD to be paid for. God didn’t just look at our sin and say, “It’s no big deal.” Sin was and is a HUGE deal. But God achieved justice by taking the punishment for us.
So to forgive isn’t saying, “it’s not big deal.” It’s basically saying, “God, I forgive them because I trust You as the perfect judge.”
Let me take this a little further...
When you lie to your spouse, cheat on a test, or steal a box of staples from work, it doesn’t feel nearly as evil as your significant other cheating on you, being unfairly fired from your job, or the atrocities Hitler committed during his regime. But what you need to realize is the smallest of your sins against God is far worse than the worst possible sin that could be committed against you.
I know that sounds so wrong and unfair. But what you have to realize is that when you sin, you are doing it against a holy, perfect God. But when others sin against you, they are sinning against a fellow, sinful person. That’s why Romans 5 calls us “enemies” of God. Our sin against Him is far worse than any sin that has been committed against us.
Now, I don’t say that to excuse the evil done to you. You are a bearer of the image of God, so the sin done to you was also done against God. But again, forgiveness is confessing that God is the perfect Judge, not you. To hold on to someone’s sin against you basically belittles the sin you have committed against God.
And yet, God through Christ has forgiven us. And that is why He calls for us to forgive the sins others have committed against us. Ephesians 4:32 clearly states,
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
From personal experience, I know how hard forgiving others can be. But to not forgive someone is to lock yourself in the jail cell and give the perpetrator the key. So don’t let that person continue to have power over you! Let the gospel free you by looking at the tremendous forgiveness God has given you, and allow that truth to help you forgive others of their crimes against you.
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