Peninsula Community Church
The Pathway to Forgiveness
January 15, 2012
Ephesians 4:26 & Hebrews 12:15 – Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil …. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…
When we fail to walk in forgiveness we give room for the enemy of our souls to cause a root of bitterness to grow and once this root has found its place it effects us physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. It is interesting to note that in ancient times a “root of bitterness” was equated to “poison.” Enemies would use poison roots as a means to make their enemies sick or even have them killed. It is for this reason that Paul admonishes us to deal with our anger and fear immediately so that we are not poisoned by our negative emotions which can lead to the death of our emotions.
When we fail to walk in forgiveness there is a process that brings us to unforgiveness:
- Someone commits a transgression against us. It might be an act, a sin, a word spoken or a broken promise that bring us pain.
- There is a perception of offense or hurt. This can be real or imaginary. Rather imaginary or real these issues can be just as hard to deal with.
- Hot emotions are felt. – anger, fear resentment.
- We begin to ruminate about the events. We rehearse the events over and over and each time the pain of the event grows stronger.
- The result is unforgiveness
When this occurs we can play a game in our minds and begin to think of all of the reasons we should not forgive or take this action toward forgiveness.
Reasons we don’t forgive:
- Seeking forgiveness requires that we humble ourselves. It is humbling experience to seek for forgiveness. This especially true when it is an issue that hurt or wounded us deeply.
- We have been misled by the phrase forgive and forget. Forgiveness is not forgetting. This is a mistake to think that when we forgive others that we automatically if ever forget the action that occurred. The fact is we never forget. Only God does that and if then the idea that is presented here is that there is not a function of memory lapse but rather we now move to a place where the transgression is not held against the other person or we no longer feel the pain associated with the transgression. The reality is that even God does not forget but He changes the way He deals with us. This is what happens when we forgive others, we in essence change the way we deal with the other party.
- Forgiveness obstructs justice. The key here is that we realize that the act of forgiveness does not in any way stop the process of the other person receiving there reward for the wrongs they have committed. There are consequences to people’s actions. For example, you might forgive the other person of murdering a family member or robbing from you but that does not mean that they we not should go to jail for what they have done. There are consequences to sin and transgression. Another example would be a spouse that abuses their spouse. While the wife may forgive their spouse, wisdom would be that she not lives under the same roof with him until he receives the necessary counseling and subsequent healing he needs to be restored. I have seen spouses who stay in a home where they have been physically abused endlessly. There answer for not dealing with the situation is that they love him.
- We fear that by walking in forgiveness that we present ourselves as being weak or a coward. To forgive is a cowardly act. To forgive by some is a sign of weakness. Meekness and humility must never be confused with weakness. This theory was born out of the belief that to forgive others was a sign of weakness.
- We feel that forgiveness is a one time event. But forgiveness is both a decision and it is a process. We can all ask for forgiveness and get an immediate response but the fact is that emotional we do not feel forgiven or like forgiving.
When we consider the pathway to forgiveness we must recognize that there are two types of forgiveness primarily:
- Decisional – immediate
The first of these is forgiveness as a decision. Decisional forgiveness is just what it appears to me. We have made a decision that we will forgive or accept the other person’s apology. For example, “I forgot about our meeting, will you forgive me?” In decisional forgiveness we might be hurt and disappointed but we act quickly to assure the other person that we do not intend to hold the mistake against the friend. We also agree whether we are aware of it or not to control our behavior toward the other person and to restore the relationship to where it was before the transgression. The problem is however that while decisional forgiveness might be immediate one’s emotions usually take longer to navigate.
The second type of forgiveness is emotional forgiveness. This is the type of forgiveness that changes the heart. While decisional forgiveness is immediate emotional forgiveness takes time. We must go back to the place where we have made a decision to forgive over and over again.