A big part of my faith is forgiveness. As a Christian, my faith centers around God coming to earth in the form of a man to die a sacrificial death to give all of us forgiveness from our sinful condition. Not just that, Jesus hung out with those who hurt him. Judas, who he knew would betray him, is counted as one of the 12 disciples. Peter constantly screwed up and denied that he knew Jesus at all. Peter was appointed the central “leader” of the early church in Matthew 16: 18. However just verses later (16:23) Jesus basically calls Peter Satan for his negative influence. But it’s Peter who is the guy used to start the movement of faith after Christ’s resurrection found in Acts. So forgiveness and grace are central to all that I believe.
Not only was my Savior a forgiver, but he commands us to be as well. Over and over again in scripture the message is sent that you should forgive someone anytime they wrong you. And if they keep doing it, keep forgiving them. Matthew 7:2 says “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The reality is that when you or I harbor unforgiveness towards someone, it really is like holding ourselves in prison. We have the power to open the door and walk out, but chose not to even try the door.
If you’ve ever taught a class you’ve probably walked up to the room to see all your students sitting or standing outside the classroom. Undoubtedly you’ll ask “oh, is the door locked” only to be met with the response “uh, I think so. We didn’t try to open it”. I always think that’s silly- choosing to stand in the hallway when you could just go in; choosing to keep yourself out of something better.
Unforgiveness is the same thing—choosing to stand in the hallway rather than opening the door.
I get this intellectually and I’ve been given some good opportunities to practice this in life. Some of the times I’ve had to offer forgiveness were easier than others. I understand the importance and the weight of choosing to forgive someone even when you don’t feel like it.
But where I struggle is in understanding what it the impact of forgiveness should be on your future relationship with the offender. Sometimes forgiveness is a catalyst for a deeper relationship, but I’m not quite sure about the times where a breaking of trust is a part of the picture.
When someone you believe in and trust does something significant to break that, where does forgiveness take you from there? Is it possible to forgive someone but not trust them or for the relationship not be restored? Is going back to life as it was before the most God honoring thing, or is it naïve? Does choosing to allow the wrong needing forgiveness to alter the relationship mean that you are not truly offering forgiveness?
I don’t have an answer to these questions, but I’ve been thinking about them a lot. I do know that I want to always land on the side of giving forgiveness. What do you think the answer is? Or do you think there is an “answer” at all?