Some people think in terms of ‘if we get hurt in ministry but the reality is when we get hurt in ministry’. How we cope with hurts will determine the state of our heart. Unforgiving attitudes may produce fruits of bitterness and cynicism even though we may not realise it at the time.
I can have a good practical theology of ‘forgiveness’ but sometimes after receiving hurt, emotionally extending forgiveness to others is the last thing I want to do. Even forgiving oneself is an effort at times!
The concept of forgiveness was not common in Roman and Greek thinking and yet it was pivotal to Jesus’s teaching. He said:
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’ Matt 5:10.
‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive them that sin against us’ Matt 6:12.
‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ Luke 23:34.
‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ James 5:16.
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”Matt18:35
‘Forgiveness is the boundary between exclusion and embrace’ (M. Volt).
‘Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat’ (W. P. Young)
- To forgive a person doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily trust them from now on in. Wisdom is needed.
- When I need to keep on repeating a hurtful story to myself or to others it could mean I haven’t completely forgiven that person/s.
- People suffering from a traumatic past and people with a strong sense of justice are more likely to suffer from issues of forgiveness than others.
- The sin against the Holy Spirit verse disturbs some people into thinking that they can’t be forgiven (Matt 12:31). The fact that they feel convicted means God’s grace is extended to them.
- Forgiveness can happen at a point of time or as a process.
- At times we need to confess our sins to others but at other times it is unhelpful. For example, as a young man I criticised a Bible lecturer to others. After feeling convicted about that I asked in person for his forgiveness. However I sensed that although it cleared my conscience it left him feeling inadequate. Sometimes just repenting before God is enough. Keep in mind however that repentance is a change in behaviour.
- We must learn to forgive ourselves when we fail. Satan is good at bringing us under condemnation like the High Priest in Zech 3:4ff. By faith in the finished work of the cross accept forgiveness has been accomplished. So then declare with authority your position in Christ when you have these troubling thoughts. I find it helps a lot. I also find Winston Churchill’s words a great encouragement when he says, “Success is going from one failure to another, without losing enthusiasm”. Most leaders in Scripture messed things up, but learnt from their mistakes.
- Our biggest hurts can come from those closet to us.
- One of my more recent challenges in learning to forgive came when two of my staff not only didn’t accept my leadership, but undermined my leadership ability when speaking to others. (One has to recognise that in criticism there may be some truth worth examining). It was a dark time for me when I could not justify myself to others for various reasons and so some lost confidence in my leadership ability. The only way I came through this and could forgive them was by journaling my daily Bible readings and in claiming God’s promises in the Bible. I also actively sought to bless these two in prayer, talked to a counsellor and after several months I came free from the accusations. My leadership in time was again publicly endorsed.
- An act of the will to bless others may not come naturally, but I find singing from the heart is a good outlet along with strong prayer. Yancy calls forgiveness ‘an act of faith’.
- Confiding in a respected counsellor and in articulating the problem is very good therapy.
- Sam Moffat a missionary in Communist China states, “If I have no forgiveness for the Communist, then I have no message at all” (Yancy). The same applies to us in our situation.
- Unforgiveness and anger are destructive. Get immediate help if that is your challenge.
Living in freedom is such a privilege and the right of every Believer. Enjoy it!
‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’, John 8:36.
‘Switch on your Brain’ by Caroline Leaf
‘Forgiveness Workshop’ by Dr. Phil Halstead
‘What’s so amazing about Grace’ by Philip Yancey