Reflecting Forgiveness

by Melinda Viergever Inman

Deep hurt can shape our lives for decades, producing trauma and harm. Sometimes we pay dearly for others’ mistakes. Human history is filled with injustice—from the first murder to modern warfare, from slavery and human trafficking to mistreatment of the poor, the sick, and the young, harming generations.

We’re sinners, raised and surrounded by other broken people. We all hurt others. Simeon Zahl  wrote: “Understanding sin as a universal human condition makes it possible to have both compassion on people and no easy expectation of change, without having to pretend that bad things are in fact good things.”

Thankfully, God is just, and he sees everything. When we trust him, this knowledge enables us to let offenses go. It also assures us that God will bring every wrong to account.

“The Bible is God’s book of justice. The whole thing is about God’s justice — about his ultimately making every wrong right and exhaustively settling every account of every moral agent, visible and invisible to us, that has ever perpetrated even the smallest injustice. Nothing will be missed” (Jon Bloom).

When we’re wronged, unless we remember God’s justice, letting go feels inherently unfair, niggling at our personal sense of rightness. Yet, we want others to forgive us. Forgiveness is contrary to human nature. It requires us to trust God with our whole heart, not leaning on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In Christ, forgiveness has been granted to us. Therefore, we must reflect that forgiveness, forgiving as we’ve been forgiven. As we’re transformed into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:16-18), we reflect his forbearance and forgiveness. We ask the Lord for the grace to forgive, and he gives it.

Because Jesus came to carry our sins and to redeem us, horrific wrongs were committed against him. He knew the challenges beforehand, yet still, he came. Jesus was tortured and died for sins he didn’t commit, taking on our sin. He was falsely accused while being entirely innocent, yet Jesus entrusted himself to God. He provides our example and our healing, enabling us to forgive.

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:19-24 ESV).

So, like Jesus, how do we continue entrusting ourselves to him who judges justly?
 
Pray for faith, if it’s lacking. Lord, we believe. Help us in our unbelief. God will accomplish justice—he said he would (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV), so we can act in faith, choosing not to hold onto the offense. Knowing this truth helps: The Lord “is working with a timetable toward this end that is long—and our lives are short. We may not see the justice needle move much during our time under the sun. That doesn’t at all mean God is not relentlessly moving toward the terrible, unfathomable destruction of evil” (Jon Bloom).

Cry out to the Lord for enablement to obey this. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).

With God’s help, stop rehearsing the offense. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV).

Follow in Jesus’ steps by offering grace and forgiveness. Real and lasting justice is in God’s hands alone. Give it to the Lord. Let it go. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7b-8a ESV). Trust him to help you to forgive.

Melinda Inman and her husband Tim are Crossings Community Church members. Melinda is a novelist blogging at melindainman.com.

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