Forgiving: The Difficult, Delicate Decision
by Dr. Waylon B. Moore
Isn't it humbling to be reminded of your past blunders? Some time ago when
speaking at a church I was delighted to run into a friend from the past. I had
been the minister at her wedding years before. As we talked, the lady recalled
to me that at the wedding I had criticized their best man's long hair. Later,
very upset, the best man had said to the newlyweds: I'll never go to
another Baptist church! Personally, I didn't recall a thing!
Do you know where the guy is now? I asked my friend. She gave me
his phone number. At home I phoned the man and apologized profusely for my
big mouth and judgmental attitude. It's not necessary,
was his reply. But I asked again, and he wearily said, O.K. I do forgive
you. Frankly I'm amazed that you've called after all these years. The
friend later recounted to me that their former best man had telephoned, excited
and pleased that I'd asked forgiveness. His attitude had changed. I still pain,
haunted by the quick comment that stayed over 20 years in his life, affecting
How easy it is to hurt people and not know it. God convicted me years ago while
I was reading Acts 24:16:
. . . Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of
offense toward God and toward man.
I have resolved to put that verse into action, necessitating many phone calls
and face-to-face apologies.
How can one describe what a lack of forgiveness looks like? Think of running a
race with a tumor inside of you, grabbing the blood and oxygen you need to win.
Hebrews 12:1-2 reveals that exact picture. We are commanded to
lay aside every weight.
That word weight means a growing tumor! We must totally forgive in
order to mentor others effectively. Anything short of real forgiveness stops
good people from being holy people, winning lives for Jesus.
Total forgiveness is more difficult than I once thought. We often sin
unknowingly toward God and others. The cross is God's supreme reminder that we
need forgiveness. Sin is so hideous, so blinding, that only the death of God's
son could pay for such terrible, enormous ruin. We also choose to deliberately
sin. We pick a word or choose an act, not always caring that we will wound
others deeply. We even rationalize that they deserve it! People also hurt us in
similar ways, either unknowingly or purposefully.
Total forgiveness is the way to freedom. Only then can we be unchained from our
past, and freed for a glorious flight into the Now! How do you forgive the
spouse who divorced you for someone else, or the parent who abused you
emotionally? How can you let go of bitterness toward that neighbor who
destroyed property? Or how might you totally forgive the antics of a
mother-in-law, or the boss who fired you? People flow through our lives whose
joy, it seems, is in offending us or those we love devilish people! R.T.
Kendall, a Baptist minister in England, has written a great new book entitled
Why Forgive Others?
Throughout Scripture God commands us to forgive others. Why forgive?
Forgiving thrusts us into the very heart-life of Jesus who prayed:
Father, forgive them for they
what they do.
What amazing words spoken by a dying Man, hanging from the most
accomplished torture tool invented. Didn't the Roman soldiers who nailed him to
the cross know what they were doing? The crowds who ridiculed and laughed at
the dying Man didn't know? The chicken-hearted, faithless disciples that did a
disappearing act when the soldiers took Jesus they didn't know what they
did? We need to forgive others because they may not know what they are doing.
Their words and wounding deeds may actually be beyond their threshold of
spiritual sensitivity. We feel it; they don't.
Without forgiving others we can never get prayer answered. Prayer without
forgiveness is like a car without an engine; or a body without a soul. It
simply doesn't work, says Hank Hanegraaff (
So likewise will your heavenly Father do unto you; if ye
from your hearts
forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses
Forgiveness will erase bitterness in our hearts. Unforgiveness gives birth to a
tiger in our heart: bitterness. This killer mutilates and claws all those close
See to it that no one misses the grace of God, that no bitter root grows
up to cause trouble and defile many
(Hebrews 12:15, NIV). We can imagine the hurt, play with it in our
minds, make up whole dialogues about it, even dream about what we say and they
say. Bitterness begins to cripple our whole life. Consider this concept: John
Piper feels that ultimately all bitterness is a refusal to forgive God
for something we think he did to us.
We give forgiveness because we have received it. The Holy Spirit writes in
Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even
as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Jesus tells the story of a man who can't pay a debt (in our day it might equal
$20 million dollars). The man who is the creditor graciously has compassion and
cancels the unpayable debt. Then the forgiven man goes to a guy who owes him a
$20 dollar bill and puts him in jail. What hardness! But what about us? We've
had an unpayable debt of sins and damnation cancelled through the loving
sacrifice of Christ. Yet, we stubbornly dare to refuse to forgive a terrible
wrong. Our debt to a holy God is unpayable. Hell is sure; although we deserve
fire forever, we've been forgiven. Can we not forgive a $20-dollar debt?
What does it mean to totally forgive?
R.T. Kendall shares indicators of how we know that we've truly and fully
forgiven. Read these slowly and carefully.
Being aware of what they did, and still forgiving them.
Choosing to keep no records of what they did.
Refusing to punish them back.
Not telling others what they did.
It is an inner condition and surrender of our wills to forgive.
It is an absence of bitterness.
It is forgiving God.
It is forgiving ourselves.
The Lord's Prayer says:
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Three hundred years ago Thomas Watson, asked regarding this verse: When
have we really forgiven others? We've forgiven when we:
Resist all thoughts of revenge:
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of
God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the
Don't seek to do them mischief:
1 Thessalonians 5:15,
See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
Wish well to them:
Bless those who curse you.
Grieve at their calamities:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad
when he stumbles.
Pray for them:
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute
Seek reconciliation with them:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Be always willing to come to their relief:
If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall
surely return it to him.
Forgiveness must keep well our hearts:
Keep thy heart with all diligence. . . .
Jesus warned about our sure
unless you forgive your brother from your heart
What Forgiveness Doesn't Mean
Forgiveness isn't forgetting what happened to us or others. That's not normal.
We forgive, and release the offender to God. He is the ultimate reconciler to
bring all things to rightness.
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay
(Romans 12:19). He does not bless evil.
If I confess, and God forgives, is everything back to square one? No! When we
truly repent God will forgive the sin, but he will rarely stop the
chain-reaction of the consequences. Thomas Watson says: Though a child of
God, after pardon, may incur his fatherly displeasure, yet
his judicial wrath
Though he may lay on the rod, yet he has taken away the curse.
may befall the saints, but not
King David got
forgiveness when he repented. However, the consequences of his sins continued.
His testimony was scarred forever and many of his family were destroyed (2
Samuel 12:10-13). The sins of the fathers can be visited upon our children
Furthermore, forgiving does not mean that we hold back on loving discipline
towards a child, or church leader or criminal. Both goodness and sin have
. . .Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes
everyone he accepts as a son
How To Forgive Others
Make a commitment. Forgiving others is an
act of the heart
Genuine love toward another involves a decision. Emotions will
When ever emotions grab our mind again, we undergird the decision to forgive
by repeating to God: I forgive him, Lord. It may take time for the
negative emotions to subside and our attitudes to be victorious. The hurt may
remain, but the dagger in our hand will dissolve.
Victory can be maintained. Glue a verse to the person such as
Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving. . . .
I've followed step-by-step this verse with difficult people. Jesus commands us
to activate four responses to an enemy: 1) love them, 2) do good to them, 3)
bless them and 4) pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). Now, go fill in the Bible study
This book is sweeping in revealing
we must go to forgive totally. I was quickly convicted and ordered more copies
to share. Also search forgiveness in John Piper's website:
(Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House Pub., 2002), pp. 20-34.
Body of Divinity,
Watson, p. 556