“Forgiveness is a war for your heart, for the person who has done you harm, and for the Gospel. Often forgiveness is messier than the original harm. Will you give it time?” (DA)
This my 3rd and final blog on Forgiveness! I’ll try to make it brief because I’ve covered a lot of ground already. This blog series has been a commentary on Dan Allender’s you-tube video: “Unpacking the Confusion of Forgiveness”. He offers a view of forgiveness that is a *journey* , NOT an event that is something we DO, and “boom” it’s over and we move on with life. (Jesus said to forgive 77 X 7- this indicates the on-going nature!!)
The first step, (discussed in detail in my first blog), is “Naming the wound.” “You can’t forgive what you have not named. Most often the harm is far deeper that what you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the harm done to your mind, body and heart?” (DA)
The second step, is knowing and experiencing afresh God’s forgiveness toward you. Forgiveness is always a derivative gift. We can only forgive because we have been forgiven. We must see that *we* have an immeasurable, infinite debt that we owe to God for our sin against Him. This is a debt that we can never pay- it demands our eternal payment in an eternal hell. BUT, Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh come to Earth as a man, took our debt upon himself and paid it with HIS own death on the cross. In becoming our substitute, He allowed for our debt to be cancelled before God. For all those who accept this free gift of salvation, we stand as free and an innocent before God.
In forgiving another person, we are called to do what Jesus did for us. We are called to cancel the debt of another’s harm against us. And thus, to no longer seek to make them pay. In this sense, forgiveness is never a minimization of the harm done to us. It is never a “sweeping under the rug.” It is a full acknowledgement that the harm done to you was *great* and could never be paid back in 10,000 lifetimes, but as Jesus did, in a sense, you absorb the reality of the harm, and yet cancel the debt… proclaiming that this person no longer owes you.
Now, we come to the third step. This is what Dan calls “Stepping into the war.” This is a war between Good and Evil… Wherever there has been harm, Evil will come into the picture to seduce your heart with bitterness, with accusations, with a sense of power that is almost impossible to give up. Will you wrestle with the part of your heart that doesn’t want to forgive? “You enjoy holding power, anger… you have become bitter, but it has been *full* for your heart… that is the problem.”
This step takes the nature of the Gospel a step further than “canceling the debt”… The Gospel is about joy, and life… and invitation to a *Feast*… Jesus not only cancels our debt of sin on the Cross, but he invites us into the Kingdom of God as brothers and sisters… God adopts us as sons and daughters into his family.
Taking this analogy to our own process of forgiveness, God is therefore calling us to a heart that wants to bless the one who harmed us. Dan describes the idea of “Turn the other cheek” as NOT passivity and NOT submission to abuse. It is a defiant stand against Evil. “It is as if you’re saying: You harmed me. You think you have power, but I’m not going to run from you… you can see that your first efforts to control me didn’t work. I’m not going to fight or flee. I’ll stand now to serve you… which is to conquer you.”
Dan also clarifies this “blessing” and “serving” as not a “pleasant sweetness”… He uses a cancer analogy. When someone has cancer, the way to “bless” them is to *burn, poison, and cut them with knives” (aka radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery). Therefore, loving someone who has been abusive toward you means *not allowing the harm to continue*. You must be more MORE committed to *the person than to the relationship*. This means setting up boundaries that the person will likely experience as painful (and may include legal action.).
True love will never leave someone the same, unchanged. Loving someone *in truth* will either turn their hearts more toward hardness, self-defensive and self-righteousness, or it will soften their hearts toward repentance, grace, and God.
Addendum: (I posted this as a reply to a comment, but thought it deserved to be in the thick of the post!)
I was thinking more about how hard it really is to love someone in *truth*… I think we come up with all these reasons why it’s best to sweep things under the rug, “to keep the peace” (but like Jeremiah said, it’s the false prophets who declare “peace, peace when there is no peace”), but really it’s for our own benefit in the moment- to keep our anxiety and shame down… Oh anxiety is so powerful a controller in our lives!! But what really serves the other person is truth and the opportunity to repent and change for the better… I feel like so often we don’t give God the chance to work the unexpected in others.. Proverbs says that the “wounds of a friend” are good… but how often do we really wound each other for good? Are we then being “friends” as the Bible calls us to be?
FOR FURTHER READING:
Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love” is THE best book on Forgivenesss. The last section of the book details this “blessing”: “Loving an Evil Person: Siege Warfare”; “Loving a Fool: Guerilla Warfare”; “Loving a normal sinner: Athletic Competition”; and finally “Bold Love: A sword in the Heart of Death.”