A few years ago I was speaking at a church. I shared a message on forgiveness. After the service, a lady came up to me and said: “It was a great sermon, but you don’t know what ‘i’ve been through.” Which was true. I didn’t. Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is the core issue of the Christian faith. Clearly, the message of the cross is that Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to take away the sins of the humanity. As a counselor, one of the things that is clear to me is that forgiveness is not only an important issue for people who are Christians, but it is equally important for those who want to be healthy. However, there are many ideas about forgiveness that are simply untrue. Below are several myths about forgiveness.
Forgiving is Forgetting
This is my favorite forgiveness myth. We have all heard it before. Forgiving is forgetting and if haven’t forgotten, then you haven’t forgiven. This is simply untrue. And it may be true that human beings are not capable of forgetting. It is true that Isaiah 43:25 says: “I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God is capable of not remembering but it is never suggested that human beings are capable of this. And the Bible never suggests a correlation between forgiving and forgetting. However, it is possible that with a forgiving heart, difficult memories occupy a less prominent place in our thinking.
Forgiving Is Optional
Well, yes and no. Yes, you’ve been given free will and no one can take that away. You can’t be forced to do anything including to forgive. In that way it is optional. However, on the other hand, forgiveness is expected for the Christian. In Matthew 6:15 Jesus plainly said: “if you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you.” Again in Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of the ungrateful servant. At the conclusion of the parable, the servant is punished. Jesus then offers these words of commentary “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” We can conclude from these passages that Jesus expects Christians to forgive others.
Forgiving Means Being a Doormat
There are many people who feel this way. They have been hurt and feel dumped on. In their mind, forgiving others means giving abusive, unpleasant people an opportunity to dump on them again. This is not at all the message of the Bible about forgiveness. There is a difference between forgiving others who hurt you and continuing to trust them. It is a healthy thing to have boundaries. Proverbs 25:17 says “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he has his fill of you and hates you.” Proverbs 22:24 says “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” These passages suggest having healthy boundaries. We can forgive others while at the same time having healthy boundaries. You can forgive and not be a doormat.
Forgiving is Selfless
It does seem that forgiveness is selfless on the surface. However, I suggest that real reason you should forgive is a selfish one. Forgiving restores relationships. But the reason you should forgive is for what it does for you. When you forgive, it self-circuits bitterness. Ephesians 4:31-32 says: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” In this passage, there is a contrast between bitterness and forgiveness. The best reason to forgive is the impact it has on you. Forgiveness is good for the person who does the forgiving. So forgive, But do it because of what it does for you a follower of Jesus.
Forgiveness is a core issue for Christians. It is important not only for us to be forgiven by God, but that we forgive others as well. Satan has used many strategies that are designed to minimize the importance of forgiveness. He has been effetive at creating myths about forgiveness. So, cultivate a forgiving heart as you live the Christian life.