What Forgiveness Is

Rev. Deb Koster

October 11, 2010

Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves. By withholding forgiveness, the one we hurt most is ourselves. The offender may not even know that we are angry with them. They may not care if they do know. We merely hold ourselves hostage to our own anger when we do not forgive. Offenders have no power that we do not give them--forgiveness is letting go of our anger, letting go of our right to be right, and our right to have revenge. When we forgive, the person we help most is ourselves.

Forgiving is freeing. It is burden to have to be vindicated, and freeing to release our anger to God. Forgiving someone frees us from the weight of our own anger and gives God the job of establishing justice. In forgiving we give up our right to retaliation, and allow God to be in charge of retribution. This can be so hard to do. We can find ourselves sitting like Jonah pleading with God to send his wrath on Nineveh! But we do not need to be consumed by the injustice done to us. Forgiveness is trusting God to be in charge of establishing justice. The psalms cry out for God to bring his justice to the world and trusting in him to one day make everything right.

Forgiveness is commanded in scripture. We are told all through scriptures to forgive as we have been forgiven. That is beyond my comprehension. Christ forgave me while I was still sinning. Christ forgave me though he knew the pain that I would cause him. Christ forgave me through great sacrifice. We are told that following Christ’s example we are to forgive one another. This can happen through Christ’s power at work within us! In our own strength this is not possible to forgive, it is only through the power of the spirit at work within us that we can begin the work of forgiving.

Forgiving is a process of releasing our hurt to God. It is not a once and done proposition. We are fragile broken people and we may need to turn our hurts over to God a number of times before we are able to let them rest there. Don't be discouraged if you find yourself handing God the same pain day after day. God gladly accepts it and eventually you will stop returning for it and instead will trust God with it.

Forgiveness is letting go of being defined as a victim. Forgiveness frees us from being defined by our pain and allows us to move forward without anger. We never really 'forgive and forget', nor should we. In forgiving we remember our pain and establishing good boundaries to prevent future sin.  Acknowledging the pain shows that we have a healthy respect for our ourselves. Looking honestly into the pain of the situation will equip us for setting healthy boundaries going forward.

Forgiveness is seeing offenders as God sees them--broken, small, and acting out of their own hurts and dysfunction, yet a fellow image-bearer of God in need of grace. We are blessed when we are able to see  beyond our own pain to view the situation from God's perspective; it gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of God!

About the author — Rev. Deb Koster

Deb Koster is a producer, writer, and speaker for Family Fire. She is also an Innkeeper at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, MI where she leads marriage retreat on weekends. After over 20 years as a Registered Nurse, she completed a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Deb and her husband Steven enjoy doing ministry together and they are the parents of three awesome young adults.

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