The Limit of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is essential to all healthy relationships, and is the ultimate expression of love. Forgiveness means to erase an offense and no longer hold that offense/hurt against the offender. Forgive from your heart (Matthew 18:35), mean it. When you forgive you: 1. Resist revenge and returning evil for evil, (Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15), 2. Desire good for them and are willing to help them, (Luke 6:28; Proverbs 24:17; Matthew 5:44; Exodus 23:4), and 3. Seek to restore the relationship, if possible, (Romans 12:18). Forgiveness is Not: 1. The absence of anger at sin, (1 Peter 2:23; Psalms 30:5), 2. The removal of the consequences, necessarily, (2 Samuel 12:9-13; Psalms 99:8), and 3. The same for a repentant person verses an unrepentant person, (Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:17). A restored relationship can happen only when the offender is repentant. An unrepentant person will sabotage trust and intimacy. The word limit means the “point where something ends.” Where does forgiveness come to an end? Whatever you think the limit is, Jesus pushes the envelope and stretches us. We are challenged to love, in a meaningful way, difficult, hateful, cruel, greedy, selfish, unkind, and even wicked people (Luke 6:27-36). Jesus’ logic is anyone can be nice to nice people, but He expects much more from His followers. If you have received and experienced God’s forgiveness, you will forgive others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25-26).
How can we forgive and love difficult/hurtful people?
#1 Look Inward at how much Christ has forgiven you. Connecting forgiveness and love together, Jesus said, “…he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47b). The more you have been forgiven, the greater your capacity to love will be.
#2 Look Upward to God’s example. He is kind to ungrateful, wicked people. “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). We’re challenged to be like God!
#3 Let gratitude in your heart motivate you to more easily forgive others. #4 If you cannot forget the hurt done to you, also remember your decision to forgive. God modeled forgiveness when, in love, He sent Jesus to earth (John 3:16-17). Jesus gave His life in order to forgive us (Matthew 26:28; Romans 10:13). Jesus’ forgiveness is so radical He even asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34)! Forgiveness isn’t justice, it’s mercy. The people who crucified Jesus didn’t deserve it, but He gave it just the same. Relationships thrive when the person that was hurt extends mercy, grace and forgiveness (Romans 5:20). Christians are not challenged to only be nice to nice people, they are called to be like God. Healthy relationships thrive amid mercy, grace and forgiveness!