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Switch to Forum Live View Meaning of Forgiveness
8 years ago  ::  May 18, 2010 - 12:09PM #1
Posts: 5

 I have been trying to find a clear understanding of forgiveness and what it actually means for people to forgive. If someone does something against you, do you have to allow them back into the same situation where they could do it to you again? Is this required before you could really forgive someone?

I asked this question to a Lutheran Pastor and a Methodist Pastor. They both gave me similar answers. The Lutheran Pastor said there is no where in the Bible that says men have to “forgive and forget.” The ability to forget is an ability that God alone has. He gave me a personal example from his life. – A woman in his congregation was raped and he was the first one to the house after the incident and saw the damage it caused. He said he could forgive the man who did this by not harboring violent or vengeful intentions towards him (although it was extremely difficult for him not to feel this), but it did not mean he had to trust the man to be alone with a woman again. He said forgiveness does not mean you have to forget, but it is getting past hate and the desire for vengeance.

The Methodist Pastor said something similar. He said forgiveness really had to do with more how you personally feel about an action so that negative thoughts do not end up occupying your thinking which potentially leads to unproductive behavior on your part.

I agree with them, but still feel uneasy about this for some reason. I think it is from being raised hearing at church that “your sins are washed clean as if they did not happen when God forgives you,” and that we are supposed to “Strive to be like God.” This makes me think we are supposed to try to “forgive and forget” like God does if we are able. However, there have been some things in my life where I find it very difficult to “forgive and forget” what has happened. I can get to the point where I do not wish violence against this person, but I just can’t see allowing them back into the situation where they could do this again. It seems so unwise to allow the person back into this position again. I have tried to talk with them, but I can’t seem to connect with them in a meaningful way so that they can see the situation from my perspective. To me, that is a definite sign they could potentially do it again because they do not seem to change their thinking.

This has caused a great deal of guilt in me that I am not able to let this person back into the situation where they could do this again. This person has played on it too by saying that I should forgive and that I was not really forgiving them. I think I have reached the point where I do not feel violent and vengeful feeling towards them, but I still can not forget and allow them back into this situation where they could potentially do it again.

Is there something in scripture that addresses this feeling of guilt that I can not forget what happened, or have the best explanations already been offered to me by the two pastors?

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8 years ago  ::  May 20, 2010 - 5:47PM #2
Posts: 561

"If someone does something against you, do you have to allow them back into the same situation where they could do it to you again? Is this required before you could really forgive someone?"

No.  The answers you received from the two pastors was spot on.  Let me give you an analogy. Suppose you go over to your next door neighbor's house, they have a dog and the dog bites you.  You basically shrug it off and harbor no ill feelings.  But the next time you go over to your neighbors house, the dog bites you again.  And every time after this, every time you go over to your neighbor's house, the dog bites you each and every time.  At some point you have to decide if going over to your neighbor's house is worth getting bitten by their dog.  At some point you will probably decide it isn't and you will stop going over to your neighbor's house.

This principle also applies to forgiveness.  You can forgive the dog for biting you, but that doesn't mean you have to put up with being bitten over and over again.  When someone brings great harm to your life, then we must forgive them.  Not so much for their sake, but for our sake. So long as we won't forgive them, we carry with us the wound they have caused in our lives. We begin filtering all of life's experiences through this unhealed wound.  In fact, we relinquish control over our own lives to the person who first harmed us.

For persons who have harmed me in significant ways, I forgive them, but they are no longer allowed into my life.  They can live their lives on their side of the river, and I'll live my life on my side of the river. 

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8 years ago  ::  May 20, 2010 - 6:04PM #3
Posts: 561


Philippians 3.12-14 (NRSV)

"Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press onward toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."

Notice the words press on, forgetting what lies behind, straining, press onward, goal and prize. This is our journey of salvation.  It involves pressing onward, forgetting the past, straining towards the future for the goal and the prize which is Christ Jesus.  It's not easy, nor was it ever meant to be easy.

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