The Secret of Forgiveness

“I don’t need to ask for your forgiveness because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

What irritated me most about that statement was the fact that the man who said it to me had he never bothered to asknever even bothered to ask what the problem was. He knew I was angry with him. I don’t hide anger well anyway, but by his actions and his words over the previous couple of weeks, I knew he knew.

Yet when I’d finally calmed down enough that I thought we could have a conversation about it, that is what he said to me. Let’s just say that his statement didn’t go over well. My mind was furious; my heart was deeply hurt.

For months I stewed, talking to God and asking for clarity. I wanted to understand — not just where I was adding to the tension between me and this man but also where his callousness had come from. I didn’t want to believe that he simply didn’t care.

And yes, a part of me wanted God to swoop in and tell this person that he’d royally messed up and needed to come to me seeking forgiveness.

Forgiveness in Crossing

The 4 Crossing BooksIn my Crossing series, character Amber Griffin arrives in Crossing, Oregon, deeply hurt. Without saying so much that it spoils it for those of you who haven’t read the books, Amber must learn to forgive multiple people, including her parents, her brother, and an ex-boyfriend.

She isn’t alone on her journey, though. Throughout the four-book series, we learn of events where other characters struggled: Faye, Peter, Micah, Ryan, Chad, Melody, and Patricia.

Of them all, Patricia was the only one comfortable enough with her heavenly Father that she could tell Him she was angry at Him. Or perhaps she was the only one who recognized that the one she was most angry with was God.

You see, no matter who caused the hurt to us, ultimately, the Christian needs to settle in his own heart and mind why God allowed the pain in the first place. He is in control, right? This is a place where some non-biblical answer like God doesn’t give us more than we can handle or even a quoted Bible verse like Jeremiah 29:11 or Hebrews 13:5 won’t get to the root of our issue.

Why? Simply put, ultimately forgiveness is about trust: How much do you trust God?

Eternal hope in the midst of present pain?

Hope in the eternalI think perhaps the best question we can ask right now is this quote from the first book in the series, Crossing Values: How do you show hope in the eternal in the midst of the pain of the temporal?

I know some of you are dealing with significant offenses. Childhood neglect, spousal abuse, purposeful deception, and more color our perceptions of people. Many of you know of some of the  pain in my past, so I get that forgiveness is sometimes the last thing on our heart and mind.

But then if you are truly seeking God, you find like I did that my heart and mind were at war because I knew God wanted me to forgive.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

So my question for God became this: How can I forgive when it’s the last thing I want to do?

God’s plan for forgiveness

Buried in the Old Testament is a small book called Hosea. The first of the minor prophets, it’s not a book most people love to read, but it contains a significant lesson on forgiveness.

In chapter 1 we learn that the Lord told Hosea to “marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her.” Scholars debate exactly what this means.

  • Some would like to avoid the argument altogether and claim that this was an allegory rather than question God and His dictate to Hosea.
  • Some believe that the woman was pure in the beginning yet would become adulterous during the marriage.
  • Others believe that Hosea chose a prostitute, perhaps a temple prostitute.

Truthfully, this doesn’t matter to our discussion here. The Bible is clear that ultimately she would stray, becoming adulterous with another man.

Hosea 3:1In chapter 3, the Lord speaks to Hosea again and says, “Go, show love to your wife again. … Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.” Hosea pays “fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.” That price is lost in modern translation, but it’s important to know two things that The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out:

  1. a homer and a lethek of barley were worth about 15 shekels of silver
  2. 30 shekels of silver was the going rate to purchase a slave

This raises more questions that the Bible doesn’t answer, such as whether Hosea had divorced her, or if she had somehow become someone’s property. But again, these are side issues that don’t affect our discussion today.

What we need to know from this story is this: Hosea obeyed.

The secret is obedience.

That’s it. God said love your wife like I love you, and Hosea did. The only way I know that he could have fulfilled God’s instruction was if Hosea forgave her. After all, how could he love her like the Lord loved him, if he didn’t forgive her.

Therein lies the secret: choosing to obey.

I know some of you don’t like that. You may want a a list of things to think about or steps to work through, and those sorts of things certainly have their place to guide us toward healing. But ultimately, forgiveness all goes back to choice.

I also want to be sure that you know I’m not saying forgive and forget. I’m not saying trust that person enough to let them fully back into your life. Maybe a relationship needs to end or maybe, like Hosea, you need to work toward restoration. Only God knows the best answer to that.

Regardless of the circumstances, I don’t want you to think I’m passing this off as easy. In my experience, obediently forgiving and healing from hurts isn’t a one time magic pill. It may be weeks of you making the daily, or even hourly, decision to forgive.

I’ve often had to ask God to help me, and I’ve frequently sought His wisdom and guidance to love the person like He does. It’s hard work, but it’s choosing to trust God when He says that He is in charge of everything.

Even justice.

 

It’s a GIVEAWAY!

Crossing series

I spent so much time on this post talking about my Crossing series, that I want to giveaway a Kindle set of all four books! Even if you already have them, you can use this as a nice gift to a friend or family member. They make great summer reads for vacations and beach (or mountain) trips!

All you have to do to be entered to win is comment below! I will pick a winner next week!

(Read more about the books by clicking here.)

 

Chisholm, R. B., Jr. (1985). Hosea. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1387). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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