Forgiveness isn’t always easy. We all want it when we need it. It’s just a little more difficult to extend it to others. Here are some common objections to forgiveness and how to overcome them — for others’ benefit and our own.
- If I forgive, am I condoning what they did?
No. God forgives our sin and condones none. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what they did wasn’t that bad. It means God is that good.
- What if the other person isn’t sorry?
True forgiveness isn’t based on the response of the other person. For followers of Jesus, it’s born out of our response to what Jesus did for us. Often, forgiveness precedes repentance. Jesus forgave those crucifying him before they ever repented. His forgiveness didn’t guarantee their repentance, but it made it possible.
- Must I forgive if a person continues to hurt me?
Yes. Jesus forgave while they continued to spit at him on the cross (Luke 23:34-35; also see Matthew 18). However, forgiveness doesn’t mean you stay in harm’s way.
- If I forgive a person, do I stay in an abusive situation?
No. You can forgive AND free yourself from an abusive situation permanently, if necessary, or until it changes.
- How do I forgive?
Many offenses are beyond our ability to forgive, but none are beyond the ability of Jesus to forgive through you. For you, forgiveness might be a miracle. But God isn’t relying on your power to forgive any more than he was relying on Moses’ power to part the Red Sea. Ask Jesus to unleash in you his power of forgiveness that stems from what he did for us on the cross.
- How quickly must I forgive?
Immediately. We’re in a self-made prison and at a standstill in our relationship with God until we forgive.
- What if I forgive but can’t forget?
This one is just silly. Don’t think you have to forget to legitimately forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t cause amnesia. It just means you no longer carry the weight of bitterness and have chosen to forgive and move on with your life.
- How do I know if I have forgiven?
Forgiveness is not a feeling as much as it is a decision. It’s more than just being polite. In the story of the prodigal son, the father was able to forgive to the point that he actually celebrated his son’s return.
- What if I don’t want to forgive?
Pray to realize how much the Lord has forgiven you. Then, by God’s grace, pass on the forgiveness given to you. Grace extended (to others) follows grace received (from God). If you refuse to extend it, you’ve probably never received it. Forgiven people forgive people.
It’s been said that forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free, only to find that the prisoner was you. Allow yourself that opportunity!
– Pastor J.R. Lee is husband to Devin; dad to Lexi, London and Bryce; and pastor to Freedom Church. You can catch up with him on Instagram at @PastorJRLee, Twitter at @JRLee or on Freedom Church’s YouTube Channel.