The most important ingredient in forgiveness is speed. In other words, you need to forgive fast. The longer a wound festers the tougher it becomes to heal. Biblical forgiveness doesn’t have a cooling off period in which the wounded are allowed to assess the damage before declaring someone free. People often miss their chance at freedom because they mistake trust for forgiveness.
Trust is different than forgiveness. Trust grows with time, forgiveness is more instant. That’s why forgiveness precedes trust. If you reverse the order neither ends up happening. Trust follows forgiveness, forgiveness never follows trust. Forgiveness works best when it has no guarantees. It’s an act of love, God’s love, and is never based on the promises of the person you’re forgiving – that’s why forgiveness is viewed by many as a huge gamble. Holding on to the pain is an easier choice, but the long-term consequences are deadly. When it comes to biblical forgiveness, speed doesn’t mean shallow, speed means power. So be quick to forgive – speed kills. What does it kill? It kills the power of Satan’s grip on your life.
As Jesus was dying on the cross, the blood from His brow flowed freely, but as the blood flowed, Jesus’ words of forgiveness also flowed. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Jesus didn’t wait for His blood to dry, scab and scar so He could one day look in the mirror, calculate the long-term damage and then measure His forgiveness accordingly. No, Jesus forgave thoroughly and without delay. It’s the only kind of forgiveness the Bible teaches.
For those wanting to live the same kind of life, a life of total forgiveness, here are 5 more things to remember:
1. The enemy wants to turn something temporary into something permanent. Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, faced a series of losses that would’ve reduced any normal person to a pile of dust and despair. After losing her husband and two adult sons, she concluded that God was against her. She publicly changed her name to “Marah” which means “bitterness”. For the rest of Naomi’s life her identity would be one of deficit and sorrow. Satan knows exactly how to leverage bitterness and alter your legacy. If not for the intervention of Ruth, Naomi would have remained bound by these labels for a lifetime.
2. Your maturity is not measured by your inability to offend, it’s measured by your inability to be offended. We live in a diseased world of disrespect and offense. It seems as if no one has the resiliency to overlook a wrongdoing. Everything has become personal. It’s impossible to live free when you’re easily slighted. Jesus predicted that we would be hated (Matthew 10:22). But Jesus also engineered His church to withstand mockery, rejection, beatings, false imprisonment and martyrdom.
3. Forgiveness is not about giving people what they need, it’s about giving them more than they need. In Mathew 18:23-27 Jesus talks about the unmerciful debtor who owed millions to his master, but still begged him for more time to repay, but what he actually received was far different. The master felt pity and released him of the debt, something he never asked for. Jesus is saying that forgiveness is not about giving people what they ask for, it’s about giving them more than they ask for. To say, “Biblical forgiveness is irrational,” is not an overstatement.
4. You have to cleanse the wound before you close the wound. The Good Samaritan poured both oil and wine into the wounds (trauma) of the Jewish man he found beaten along the roadside. This kind of cross-racial compassion was unheard of in Jesus’ day. The oil soothed, but the wine must have felt like a thousand bee stings. Why did the Good Samaritan choose to confront death with pain? The wine was necessary in order to kill the bacteria. The same holds true for emotional trauma. God pours both truth and love in our wounded hearts. Along with the oil of God’s love that comforts, we feel the stinging sensation of God’s truth killing Satan’s bacteria in our hearts. Love closes the wound … forgiveness cleanses the wound.
5. Revenge is the active destruction of a relationship, grudge-bearing is the passive destruction of a relationship. You cannot hide your heart, whatever fills spills. Holding quiet feelings of bitterness in your heart is not a game you can play for long. It’s not just the words you speak, it’s the emotions you carry. At some point, what’s inside travels outside. People know when they’re being tolerated emotionally. Being on the wrong side of a disingenuous relationship is a nightmare. Even Moses understood the danger of passive revenge, or grudge bearing. “Do not seek revenge nor bear a grudge against anyone.” (Leviticus 19:18). When a wedge (grudge) forms between two people it always spreads beyond them. It disables God’s greater family because they are forced to choose sides. That’s why total forgiveness is God’s only solution.
Only Jesus has the power to remove both the actions and the emotions that destroy.