Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – 1 Colossians 3:12-14
Recently, an article with some extremely hurtful and wrong theology has been making the rounds in my part of the Christian internet. I am lucky that many people have called it out for what it is – destructive and false – and I am secure enough in my understanding of God’s grace that while it hurts, I am more concerned for those still deeply wrestling with these issues.
While we were discussing this article, a friend of mine told me to push back against the theology, but to not forget to forgive a brother in Christ who has made mistakes. It’s easy at first to be outraged that I should have to forgive this man who has not only hurt me but many others, and whose article has resulted in some serious unfortunate outcomes.
But I make mistakes. I hurt people. Sometimes I hurt people on purpose, because they hurt me first. I get my thinking about God and people wrong and have to constantly come back to the Gospel as my centre. I would not want someone holding my sinful nature against me. How can I hold his sinful nature against him?
How can I hold his sinful nature against him when God has chosen to forgive him? How can I hold anyone’s sinful nature against them when God has chosen to forgive me?
How do you forgive someone who has hurt you badly?
How do you forgive someone, not when they have written a hurtful article and already have half the internet rebuking them, but when they have hurt you in deeply personal ways in relationships? How do you forgive betrayals, heartbreak, friendships broken and trust lost?
It’s easier by far to forgive the man far away from me with damaging theology. It’s harder by far to forgive those close to me who have seen, known and loved me and hurt me anyway.
How do you forgive?
How as a Christian, do you not forgive when God has forgiven you so much?
There’s a catch. When we escape the just punishment for all the hurt and wrong we’ve done to God and to others, we also accept that others may escape the just punishment for all the hurt and wrong they have done to us.
I have often thought it will take a miracle to teach me how to forgive. I don’t let go of things easily and it’s not in my basic nature to trust without a lot of hesitation. I’ve been wrestling with knowing I should forgive and knowing that first I have to want to forgive. It’s also so much harder to forgive those things we never received an apology for.
Sarah Bessey said that ‘sometimes miracles look like instant healing; and other times, miracles look like medication and patience and discipline.’ This is very true in my life right now: building habits of patience and reflection and hoping that slowly, slowly, God is healing and changing my heart.