The first step has been taken. Now the final steps are achieved through our obedience and God’s empowering grace. This process will seem insurmountable at first glance, but as you surrender God will bring each step in the process to fruition.
Total forgiveness requires us to make a conscious decision every day not to publicize the offense. That means we will no longer share it with every person who comes along. No more telling our story to the poor guy behind us in the Wal-Mart checkout line. No more posting tidbits of it on Facebook or as a prayer request at church. (The exception to this is sharing it with a trusted counselor who is an instrument of God’s healing.) We choose to no longer verbally crucify the offender for what they’ve done no matter how many chances we get.
Talking to everyone who comes along simply will not help. “But it helps me get it out,” you may be thinking. No, it only makes you think you are getting some measure of revenge or justice by telling everyone about it. It gets a little pity here and there, but we don’t need pity, we need healing. All it really does is cause our mind and soul to re-live the event over and over—like scratching a scab off a wound that has started to heal. That wound will never heal if the process is interrupted over and over with the scratching nails of gossip and condemnation. This is a choice we make, but God empowers. It is a daily partnership.
Total forgiveness is also a commitment never to use what was done to us against that person in the future. We choose not to punish that person any longer—to release the guilt for the offense. This means they no longer owe us anything. The offender has been forgiven—the penalty, the guilt, the debt, and the condemnation are released—gone! When God forgives us—the offense is no longer sin. The guilt, penalty, and condemnation of our sin is gone (this is the meaning of “no condemnation” in Romans 8:1). A forgiven person is no longer guilty. Therefore we must stop dredging the old offense up over and over.
This step is tough, but we have Jesus as our example. This is the way he forgave us on the cross. Our sin flogged his body, its malignancy nailed his hands and feet to the cross, and the awful weight of it crushed his life out drop by drop. In that moment, his words were both simple and profound—“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
What we have received from Christ we are called to give to others.