Limiting forgiveness?

I remember reading one time in a self-help book that we don’t have to forgive what is not done to us.  In other words, if someone hurts my friend, that burden of forgiveness is not mine to forgive.  After all, it wasn’t done against me, it was done against my friend.

Well, that made since to me, but then, that means absolutely nothing.  What I should have asked back then was: Does this follow in line with God’s thinking, as He revealed Himself through His Word?

What about when David murdered God’s friend, Uriah?  Did God not have to forgive David because the sin was done towards Uriah?  What about when God forgave Manasseh, who burned his children alive in a fire?  Did God not have to forgive Manasseh because the sin was done towards the children and not to Him?

What about Peter?  Did God the Father not have to forgive Peter for what he did to Jesus when Peter denied he knew Jesus three times in His time of greatest need?

God affirms a bond to us when He says,

“‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:40b)

God does feel our pain.  And He does have to forgive us for the pain we cause others.

God not only created us bonded to Him, but He also created us to bond with each other.  When we see someone hurt someone else, we, too, are hurt (I hope).  We should not witness evil and be unmoved.  Sin is not committed against one individual.  Sin is committed against God, and, as such, it affects all of His creation.

When someone sins against us, those of us who are Christ followers must forgive them.  But even when someone sins against someone we love, if we follow Christ, we must forgive them because they have done something against us—knowingly or unknowingly.  They have hurt us by hurting someone we love.  And we can forgive them for the pain they have caused us–but only through Jesus.

Forgiveness is a painful thing.  It hurts and, contrary to popular belief, it is not therapeutic.  That misses the whole point of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is about blessing the other person, not blessing myself.  It’s about blessing someone when they should be cursed; loving someone when they should be hated.

But why on earth would we do such a thing?  I know why I would.  For every one thing I could find to forgive, God has forgiven me ten billion more.  My life is utterly hopeless without God’s forgiveness, not just His forgiveness of what I have done against Him, but His forgiveness of what I have done against all I have sinned against.

Thinking this way, then, forgiving others of all they have done that causes me pain—whether it was done directly against me or done against me by hurting someone I love—is the only way for me to be.  It is the only way I can reflect, in a tiny and broken way, the love shown me by God.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV)

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own people holy and dearly loved, with tender-heartedness, kindness, lowliness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another and readily forgiving each other, if any one has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13, Weymouth)


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