Forgive with no strings attached

How do you handle it when somebody hurts you? Do you keep score when you have been hurt? Do you hold a grudge or stockpile your hurts?

In 1 Corinthians 13:5 we are reminded that “Love … keeps no record of wrongs.”

When we keep a record of wrongs, it’s like we’re saving up ammunition so that when others hurt us, we have an arsenal we can use to hurt them back. But according to Scripture, that is not what love does. Instead, love forgives.

There are so many myths and misconceptions about forgiveness. Some think that forgiveness is conditional. People say things like, “I will forgive you if … ” or “I will forgive you when …”

Real forgiveness is unconditional. It’s not earned or deserved. Genuine forgiveness cannot be bargained for, bartered for or paid for. Forgiveness is not even based on the promise that the person will never hurt you again. Genuine forgiveness is unconditional.

Some worry that forgiveness minimizes the seriousness of their hurt. This is another myth. Forgiveness in no way implies that what happened was not a big deal.

It’s not saying that what happened didn’t hurt. To forgive is not to diminish the hurt or the offense in any way.

Others mistakenly assume that forgiveness means resuming a relationship without change. Restoring relationship and forgiveness are two different things. They are not one and the same. You may forgive, but there could be circumstances where it is impossible or unwise to restore the relationship.

It also should be noted that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting about what happened.

Maybe you have been afraid to forgive somebody who hurt you because you don’t want to forget what happened. Maybe you don’t think you can forget about it.

You are probably right. But there is something better than forgetting anyway, and that is remembering but realizing that God is in control and He is still at work bringing good from the bad that happens to us (see Romans 8:28).

Just think back to the cross. Do you think the disciples could have imagined anything good coming from the crucifixion of God’s Son?

Think about what they must have been feeling as they saw Jesus hanging there dying on the cross. But God was at work.

You still remember what happened to you, but you can choose, with God’s help and by his grace, to let it go. The key to forgiveness is not in forgetting. It’s in learning to see what happened through the lens of grace.

Next time, we’ll discover what real forgiveness looks like.

You may read Steve Greene’s blog at pastorgreene.wordpress.com or you can email him at steve@gotothepoint.com.