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October 8, 2015, 12:00 AM

The Process of Forgiveness

The Process of Forgiveness

As Christians, we understand that we should place a large emphasis on forgiving others.  We understand that we are forgiven by God.  We understand that we need forgiveness from others at times.  We even understand that it is healthy for our minds if we will forgive.  We will admit that we should forgive and forget.  But, at least for me, that is where our understanding of forgiveness breaks down.  How are we supposed to forgive and forget.  To some degree, that goes against our most basic survival instincts. 

Perhaps the first question we should ask is: “Is the idea of forgive and forget even biblical?”  Without chasing too many rabbits, I would like to say yes I think so.  It is certainly God's method of forgiveness.  Psalms 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  Jeremiah 31:34 “......For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” 

The list of verses could continue on, but I think that it is clear that God forgives and forgets.  If our forgiveness is supposed to mirror His forgiveness of us, then it is clear that we too must strive to forgive and forget as well.  Maybe I am proving a point that you already believe to be true, but I believe this is a large road block for real forgiveness. 

I believe that our breakdown in thinking comes in how we view forgiveness.  We teach little kids that they are supposed to apologize and forgive immediately.  This may work when we are young and someone won't share a toy, but the stakes seem to grow as we get older.   I believe that we should view forgiveness as a process or a path that we are traveling down.  Forgiveness is not a simple act of saying a couple of words.  Much like sanctification, it is equally a destination and a journey. 

I believe that there are at least 3 steps along the path of forgiveness.  There are probably more, but I am only smart enough to recognize 3 at this time.  They are “Release the Grip”, “Rebuild the Foundation”, “Restore the Relationship”.  

Release the Grip

Anytime forgiveness is needed, a hurt has taken place.  We have a tendency to hold on to the hurt in our life.  Sometimes out of selfishness.  Sometimes out of fear of future hurt.  Sometimes out of shock.  No matter the reason, holding on to hurt will only rob you of joy.  Holding on to the hurt can feel like self-justification, but it is really self-harm.  To release our grip on our hurt, we must confront the issue at hand and consciously choose to let go. 

Rebuild the Foundation

Every relationship has a foundation.  Anytime forgiveness is needed, the foundation of that relationship has been shook.  It may have even been destroyed.  But, if we do not move from releasing the grip of the hurt to rebuilding the foundation of the relationship, then the wrecked foundation will become the new foundation.  Without doing the hard work of fixing the foundation, what was once a trusted asset of friendship will become an awkward liability of acquaintance.  

Restore the Relationship

This is the step that we often want to jump into.  Or, we feel like we are supposed to jump straight to this point and pretend that nothing ever happened.  While it is the end goal, we must remember that it comes at the end.  If we do not complete the work of the first two steps, no attempt to restore the relationship will ever work long term.  We must remember that the close relationship that we want to regain was built on a foundation that did not have any faults.  That is no longer the case.  In order for the the relationship to be restored, those faults must be addressed and repaired.  Then, and only then, can the trust that brings closeness be restored.  It is this process that leads to relationships that are closer in the end than they were in the beginning. 

This process of forgiveness is also the the story line of scripture.  Man's relationship with God was perfect and whole in the Garden of Eden.  Man rebelled and sin wrecked the foundation of the relationship.  We see God show up and release His grip on the hurt.  He could have destroyed man, but instead He confronted their sin and began to foretell of  the day when forgiveness would be complete.  We see Jesus do the work of rebuilding the foundation of our relationship with God on the cross.  Then finally, in Revelation 21:3 we read “I heard a loud voice from the throne sayingBehold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.””  The relationship is fully restored. 

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