What Forgiveness Is Not

I hear a lot about forgiveness. As a Christian, it's a pretty big deal. In fact, it's such a big deal that it's commanded. If you don't forgive others, you will not be forgiven. The Lord's Prayer says "Forgive us our debts, AS WE FORGIVE our debtors." Apparently, there's no way around it. 

Even so, I think that it's not necessarily understood in the same way that other commands are understood. I know how to not murder people, or so I think. Then, I remember that Jesus ups the stakes and says that hatred is murder. So, really, I don't actually know much about what to do. However, I do know a little bit about what forgiveness isn't. I say a little bit, because I am coming to understand this daily, and much more deeply. It's still a raw and fresh place in me; be gentle with the things I have gotten wrong or phrased incorrectly. 

Forgiveness is not easy. I've never once forgiven someone easily. I may have said aloud, "I forgive you," easily, but that was either because I had already forgiven them, or was lying. I hope the former happens more often. The point remains: forgiveness is not easy. In fact, it is blood and disfigurement in the middle of crucifixion. 

Forgiveness is not delay-able. Of the things about Christ's forgiveness on the cross is the immediacy of it. He didn't wait until the pain went away. He endured a brutal death, and started off the most painful part by asking God to forgive the killers. There is not a "Forgiveness Buffer Zone" before it's time to forgive. It's time to forgive now. 

However, there is good news with those two things. Forgiveness is not, and never was, a painkiller. That might sound un-comforting, but let me explain. I have struggled with forgiving others for long periods of time, sometimes years, and often, it was because I thought I wasn't "ready" to forgive. I was defining "ready" as an emotional state, as a time when all of the pain would be drained away, and I could make a forgiveness statement.

The problem is Forgiveness is not a statement of current affairs. Forgiveness is a declaration of war. It is a flag planted on enemy territory in a moment of absolute pain. It is a choice to align oneself in love toward the cause of that pain. It is not a martyrdom, though it is death of self. In forgiving someone, the pain remains. However, you are now an ally for their good. For other reasons, it may be best that you do not have contact with that person, BUT forgiveness is a release from the sin they committed against you. God enables the depth of forgiveness needed for absolute freedom, and there is comfort in that. There is also comfort in hurting even after forgiving. The scars on Jesus' hands will never go away. They appear in The Book of Revelation. The wounds of the past may always hurt, but the love of the present is far more, and far beautiful. The man with the scarred hands, after all, has a face like the sun, and we, as human beings, have an opportunity to reflect that light back and outward. 

Forgiveness is imminent. 

Forgiveness is a choice.

Forgiveness is worth it.