Q. My question is about forgiveness. What does it really mean to forgive someone? I think there are two parts to it: refusing to seek revenge for the sin committed against you, and restoring the offender to the relationship that he/she previously had with you. It is the second part that I am having a problem with. I have no problem “forgiving”, by walking away and refusing to seek revenge, but do I have to restore people (who through their hurtful actions have proven to be disloyal and untrustworthy) to previous positions of trust?
A. It’s been said that if you continue to think about how someone has hurt you, then you haven’t really forgiven them. Psychologists claim that when we re-live an event in our minds, we experience the original feelings associated with the event as well. One of God’s most amazing attributes is that He’s able to forget as well as forgive, and upon confession will immediately restore us, no matter how often it happens.
I don’t think very many humans can do that in the presence of an ongoing reminder of the past, such as the other person’s continued proximity. And I don’t read anything in the Bible requiring that of us. Forgiveness, after all, is primarily for the purpose of healing the one who’s been hurt and to cleanse him or her of the sin of anger, which the Lord equates with murder.
Where restoration is concerned, I’ve seen some cases, primarily in marriage, where the aggrieved party has eventually developed the ability to act as if no offense had been committed. It’s usually taken a fair amount of time and a lot of effort on both parts to pull that off, the one choosing not to remember and the other working to regain the trust that was violated. When it works it’s a strong testimony to the Lord’s supernatural ability to heal us.
Some are called by the Lord to express His love for a person who has wronged them. When that happens He gives them an extra measure of grace to obey. Absent such a calling and without a strong commitment from both parties to work toward restoration I don’t think there’s much chance of success.
The admonition to turn the other cheek, or give more than is demanded, was not offered in the context of restoration, but of diffusing anger and resentment. When you voluntarily choose to do more than is required, you’re acting out of volition instead of oppression.