I’ve been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. The past two weekends at Harvest, I preached a series on forgiveness that God used in a powerful way. Find below a summary of what we have been learning together. If you apply some of the things we have been teaching you can get your heart to a much better place very quickly.
Forgiveness comes in two parts. It begins with a decision, an act of my will. We call this the crisis of forgiveness. When I make the choice to release a person from the obligation that resulted when he or she injured me, I am completing the crisis of forgiveness. I am not looking for vengeance; I am not trying to get even; I am not wishing for bad things to happen to them; and I am not focused on their failure. In fact, I am not thinking about them at all. I’ve release them from all obligation that resulted when they hurt me.
Maybe you remember completing a crisis of forgiveness in the past, only to retract that act of grace and begin again to nurse and nurture the injury of someone else’s sin. Maybe you have responded publicly in a church service and committed yourself to forgiveness, or knelt alone and promised God that you would forgive but fell into your old patterns of hate or resentment when you crossed paths with the one you had chosen to forgive. If that is your experience, you need to understand the difference between the crisis and the process of forgiveness. Beyond the crisis is the process of forgiveness, without which you will never experience the healing that forgiveness can bring. In the crisis of forgiveness we say, “I choose to forgive,” but in the process we say, “I will treat you as though it never happened.” Here is how that process works:
1. I won’t bring the offense up to the person, except for his benefit;
2. I won’t bring the offense up to others; and (hardest of all)
3. I won’t bring the offense up to myself. I will not go over it and think about it and dwell upon it.
When you are doing that effectively, you are succeeding in the process of forgiveness. This is a lesson that I am learning little by little in my own life. I could share several acts of forgiveness that I have been working on for ten or fifteen years. I am still in the process. Praise God, I am doing a lot better than I was ten years ago. But here is the key: When I fail in the process, I have to go back to the crisis. If you do that faithfully, you will get free.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32