How do you relate to someone who has wronged you but actively seeks your forgiveness? When you begin to feel hurt and angry, you most likely want to sit and stew and not submit to forgive. What do you do with your emotions, if you can’t take them out on the offender?
Tom and Sally (not their real names) were having marital problems over Tom’s anger. Sally prayed for years that Jesus would change Tom’s heart, and over the course of time, He did.
The next time Tom and Sally had an argument, Sally treated Tom as always, for after all, he was still the culprit. The only problem was Tom didn’t lash back with anger. He actually loved her with much grace. Now, all of a sudden, Sally was the offender, and she was the one who needed to seek forgiveness.
Sometimes answered prayer means we have to change too.
Sally didn’t like that, however. Tom treated her poorly for years, and Sally had developed a taste for being the offended. No longer could she talk about her husband in her usual tone. Her prayer requests in her women’s group had to change. Others stopped viewing her as the victim, and she had to begin addressing her own issues.
As one author wrote, “Sometimes going to a new place of gospel freedom together is lovely to dream about and frightening to take hold of” (Zach Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, 205).
In a letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul described church discipline, grace, and forgiveness: “I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4).
Do you sense the deep emotion with which Paul must have written those words? In his first letter to the Corinthians, he chastised them for their willingness to overlook sin and not confront someone for his crass immorality (1 Corinthians 5). But in his second letter, he reminded them that church discipline should lead to the transformation of the one caught in sin as well as those who did the catching.
“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Punishment need not be eternal, where the offender must always “wear the grey overcoat of having sinned and never be able to dress in the bright clothes of forgiveness” (idem.).
You might find it difficult to forgive, believing that forgiveness removes consequences. But it doesn’t. Rarely does forgiveness lead to a fairy-tale ending in this life, but it can lead to a redemptive ending in the life to come.
As offenders, let’s be genuine in our godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). And when offended, let’s take the divine approach of confronting sin, turning to forgive and comfort, and reaffirm our love for those who seek our forgiveness.