It is very important that you understand what the act of forgiveness does not mean. True forgiveness is greatly misunderstood and grossly misrepresented by many well-meaning teachers and preachers. Most people think forgiveness is the equivalent of a spiritual get-out-of-jail-free-card for the perpetrator of the offense. In other words, if you forgive someone they go free without any responsibility or culpability for their words or actions. That is simply not true and it’s not biblical either. Let me take a few moments and a couple of blogs to destroy a few of the devil’s best lies concerning forgiveness.
Forgive and forget (the devil’s most effective tool) is not biblical because it is impossible. You cannot wipe something from you mind like it never happened. Whenever you hear this, that’s usually what the other person would like you to do—to act like it never happened. But—it did and it hurt. When a person has been abused, raped, ruined, called names, or cheated, it is impossible to forget. God has forgiven our sins but he has not forgotten them. He is omniscient (he knows all) and if he forgot something he would cease to possess that attribute. God does not forget our sins rather he chooses not to remember them against us anymore. It is an act of his will. Once you forgive a person you must choose not to replay the event over and over. You must choose to no longer remember it or hold it against them—it is an act of the will. For some reason, many quote a verse about God casting our sins in the sea of forgetfulness and that particular verse is not found in the Bible (which is a very good place to check first). It is a misrepresentation of two verses: Micah 7:19 and Isaiah 43:25. Yes, praise God—he has cast all our sins into the depths of the ocean but he has not forgotten them—he has chosen to no longer remember them against us. Perhaps you may think this is semantics and word-twisting, but we are not commanded to do something even God cannot do. Forgive and forget is a tool of the devil, not a requirement of God.
Another lie the enemy perpetrates is that you must go and face your offender face to face and forgive them in person. I suggest you ask the Holy Spirit and then do what he wants you to do. Most of the time, he will probably not require you to do that. Forgiveness is more often an act done only in the presence of God. Do you remember the two key groups that hurt people? They are those who don’t know and those who don’t care. It will do no good for you to go to a person if that person doesn’t care that they have hurt you or are unaware they have hurt you unless the Holy Spirit specifically tells you to do so. The act of forgiveness is to set you free anyway. Listen to the Holy Spirit. If he tells you to go—then go. If not—don’t. The Bible does clearly teach if you have offended someone you are to go and ask for their forgiveness. There’s a big difference between the two.
A third tool Satan uses is the idea that forgiveness means what happened to you really didn’t matter or that it was not really that bad after all. That’s a lie! It hurt and it was wrong. Wrong is never right! God never winks at the offense, the pain, or the hurt. You will never hear God say to you, “Suck it up! That’s was not a big deal! That didn’t hurt—you should be tougher than that by now!” If it hurt you, it hurt Jesus! You are a part of his body. That’s how much he loves you. God does not call us to ignore the pain. It must be worked through. He only calls us to forgive the offender.
Perhaps you have believed one of these lies about forgiveness. Please remember this—just because someone standing in a pulpit, a Sunday School class, or a small group said God said it does not mean God actually said it. Check it out and see what God said for yourself.
We will deal with four more lies about forgiveness in the next blog.