Forgiving Others

Very recently I was praying for the Iranian pastor, Yousef, who has been sentenced to die because of his Christian faith.  He is young and will leave a young family.  He has endured a great deal.  As I prayed for him, considering that he will die unless God intervenes, I asked the Lord to vindicate Himself on the people who would do this.  Of course, I meant that the Lord would punish them.  But almost immediately I heard in my mind, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Honestly, that was not what I was thinking.

But it was what He was thinking.  Vindication, revenge, punishment, forgiveness, and mercy are His concerns, not mine.  It is not for me to tell Him how to handle His other children.  He is the Lord and He will deal with them.  At another time in my life I was concerned about an abusive leader who was ruining the careers of some friends of mine.  I told the Lord that I would let Him deal with the guy.  Now, I was expecting that the Lord would remove him from his position or somehow nullify his influence.  But the conversation was so clear.  I said, “Lord, you will have to deal with him.”  The Lord said, “Or not.”  I was shocked.  This is not a normal thing for me, but it was clear. 

So, what I have learned through these things and through answering questions from others is something you may find helpful. 

Forgiveness belongs to the Lord.  When you came to Him, you gave Him the right to all offenses against you.  That may sound strange, but think of it as coming under His care.  You died to the past and to all the things you held onto in order to feel alive.  Instead, you found life in Him and He filled you with His life.  All your sins of the past (and present and future) were forgiven in Him and washed away from you at that time.

Now, you maybe didn’t know all that happened.  That’s okay.  I think we will continue to learn and understand the things that happened as we entered into a real relationship with Jesus.  The church does a poor job of teaching people things like forgiveness and freedom and victory, but that doesn’t make them less true.  We are rooted in Him, drawing our life from Him, but we have a great deal to learn about Him and about what He has done for us.

So, we understand that He took our sins away from us but do we understand that He took the sins of others against us away from us also?  I think that’s what the Lord’s prayer means when it says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  It isn’t cause and effect—that we are asking Him to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.  That would be a very difficult thing to pray.  No, it is that both things happen in Him.  He forgives us and He relieves us of the burden of the offenses against us.  In Matthew 11, Jesus ties the two together and most teachers read it as though we will remain unforgiven until we forgive.  But think about that.  If our salvation is a free gift that we neither deserved nor earned, then how can our lack of forgiveness toward others hold back His love and work for us?  Almost all believers agree that forgiveness is what salvation is all about.  So do we have it or not?  If we do, then it does not hinge on our forgiveness toward others.  Instead, Jesus ties the two together.  If you do not forgive, then you are not forgiven.  Reverse those and you have something quite different: If you are forgiven, then you do forgive others.

I realize this is probably something you have never heard.  Let’s say it this way.  You are in Christ and Christ is in you.  If the people who hurt you are in Christ, then their sins have been forgiven in Him.  If they are not in Him, then He offers them forgiveness in Him.  In neither case is it about you.  When you came to Christ, you confessed your sinfulness.  That means that you agreed with Him that what you did was wrong and you gave Him the right to deal with those things.  He took your sins to the cross and washed them away from you.  But this same thing happens in regard to the sins of others. 

Now, I think this is a moot point, already accomplished, for believers.  I think we can say we already forgave those who have offended us because we are now in Christ and He forgives.  But I know that it doesn’t feel like it.  So I suggest that you go to the Lord and tell Him that you understand He loves the people who hurt you and you agree with Him that all sins are really against Him.  Then agree that He can deal with those people in whatever way He desires.  Give the whole thing over to Him. 

He has completely forgiven you—past, present, and future—and He bears the burden of the sins against you.  Isn’t that amazing?  Just think of the power that is taken away from the evil one when we understand this! 



Filed under Freedom, Grace definition, heart, Relationship

13 responses to “Forgiving Others

  1. Sue

    This was very powerful for me to read today. I’ve been having a difficult time dealing with NP husband lately, and I needed this encouragement.

    It’s very freeing to remember that the power to forgive is in Him….and not by my own power.

    Thanks Dave!

  2. J

    “Forgiveness belongs to the Lord.” Wow! I see what you’re saying! One question, what are your thoughts on getting rid of a root of bitterness?

    • This answer will be way too short, but here goes. First, the “root of bitterness” mentioned in Hebrews 12:15 is in the assembly, the church, rather than in a person.

      Second, bitterness is a reaction of the flesh for its protection. By becoming bitter, the flesh pushes people away so they can’t hurt us again. The problem, of course, is that the Lord desires unity and love among His people and that can’t happen when we are pushed apart for self-preservation. We get rid of bitterness by acknowledging that Jesus loves that person.

      Third, acknowledging Jesus’ love for someone does not necessarily mean welcoming that person back into my life to enable them to hurt me again. Not all people are going to be close to us. Sometimes their flesh endangers us. So, I believe it is possible to maintain healthy distance while remembering that we both share the love of God. I believe that God will forgive that person, but – unless the Lord tells me otherwise – I will love him from a distance.

      Does that help?

  3. There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
    And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
    Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
    And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

    The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
    And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
    Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
    And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

    Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
    Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
    Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
    Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

    E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
    Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
    And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
    Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

    Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
    When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
    Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
    When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

  4. Rebekah Grace

    This was very good!!!! I have pondered such things recently and I usually come back to this….if I’m not able to entrust the offenses done against me to God, than it’s about my lack of trust in Him as my Heavenly Father, as well as my need for control. If I can’t see that God forgives others in Christ, believer or unbeliever, I’ve missed the point. This post is about grace. Thank you Dave!!

    • Hi Rebekah! So good to hear from you again! You are right on, as usual. We need to look into ourselves for the source of unforgiveness. While it may be normal and understandable, it does hurt us. Trusting the Lord and giving control to Him, even for past pain, is the way to freedom and joy.

      • Suzanne

        Ok, I see what you, Dave, and Rebekah are saying. Forgiveness really does come down to trusting God and giving control to Him. And to do all of that you have to believe that God loves you and the offender. But, ugh! I still find it difficult. It seems that when I forgive, I erase the boundry line that kept me safe and in tact. Forgiveness makes me uncomfortably vulnerable.

  5. Suzanne, it would be truly hard to forgive if we had to erase the boundary lines that have kept us safe. I understand and agree. However, I would never tell someone to ease their boundaries in order to really forgive. Instead, I would suggest that they release the desire for vindication and punishment to the Lord. Let the Lord deal with that person, but you don’t have to let him into your home. The major portion of forgiveness is moving on. Imagine yourself taking the burden of the offense against you and giving it to the Lord. Nothing changes except that you are no longer carrying it. Christian forgiveness is not about “let bygones be bygone” or “let’s all have a hug.” It’s about letting God be the Judge.

    To be honest, I know people I don’t ever want to see again in this life. In close relationship with them, I found them to be liars and traitors. I know better than to trust them again. In fact, unless they gave evidence of true change of heart (partly by acknowledging their offense) I would not allow them to be members of my church again. Have I not forgiven them? I believe I have. I have no desire for their hurt, no desire to see them suffer in any way, and I fully expect to see them in Heaven..I do not expect them to come and ask my forgiveness – ever – and I do not need that in order to enjoy life. I am free of their offenses against me, but I am not stupid. I will almost certainly not give them the opportunity to do what they did again. (Of course, the Lord could change my heart even on that and I would welcome His work in that way.)

    Ask more if you have questions on this. I feel strongly that forgiveness does not mean foolishly taking away boundaries.

  6. Confused in God

    This may sound juvenile or emotionally immature. But I’m the adult child of a mother narcissist and have recently ended a 10 month toxic abusive relationship with a narcissistic man. He was everything a narcissist could be: devious, a liar’s liar, an empty shell, an opportunist, a braggart, and a disgustingly entitled man. He truly could have killed me if it weren’t for God’s grace.

    Only recently have I come to learn about toxic abuse, narcissism, and personality disorders. Needless to say I am now feeling all of my repressed feelings: rage, bitterness, deep sorrow, deep hurt, and sometimes even hopelessness and yes I am in relationship with the mystery that is God.

    According to what you say all God’s children are automatically forgiven for sin. So I guess my narcissistic ex will get to have fun for the rest of his parasitic life using one woman after the other. How does he suffer if he continues to use others and have his way? How can God love a person who intentionally uses and abuses others?

    My ex has never apologized to me for the hurt he caused. He will never make amends and his entitled smugness makes me want to bash his handsome face in. Its been almost year and I still desire for him to die a painful death. I have not acted my negative feelings because I want to surrender those vindictive and victim feelings to God. With no closure or knowing that he won’t ever feel sorry for what he did to me I’m really struggling to let go.

    My issue with forgiveness is not fear of erased boundaries; my struggle is believing that he deserves to suffer because of his intentional narcissism. My struggle is understanding how God can love such intentional vile trash? If my ex gets a free pass on treating others like disposable products then what’s the point of being good to others when God sees me and the narcissist as the same in his eyes? Narcissists are intent on destroying others around them. How can God love and accept that into heaven?

    I’m confused.

    • Confused,

      First, thanks for your comment. I thought about answering it privately, but you have stated very well what many others are thinking. Your concerns are valid and very much worthwhile. These are not juvenile or immature thoughts at all. In fact, they are the thoughts we all have about those who have hurt us and continue to hurt others. I think these questions make a lot of sense.

      So let me take a stab at some answers. My first question is whether the narcissist you describe is a Christian. How would you know, right? Certainly not by his actions. Probably also not by his narcissism. I have said that I believe God could save a narcissist in past post, but I always put in the caveat that I doubt many narcissists will come to Him for that salvation. Why would they? To do so would be to expose the truth of their weakness and shame. Of all things, this is what the narcissist hides most securely. So, while I believe anything is possible for God, I don’t believe that many narcissists will be saved.

      With that in mind, apart from a real relationship with Jesus, your narcissist is not a child of God and will face punishment for his choices and cruelty. However, that is a matter in God’s hands. He will deal with the sins of those who have hurt us in whatever way He chooses. It is not our problem. In the post above I said,

      “You are in Christ and Christ is in you. If the people who hurt you are in Christ, then their sins have been forgiven in Him. If they are not in Him, then He offers them forgiveness in Him. In neither case is it about you.”

      My point is that your forgiveness from God does not hinge on your ability to forgive your ex. Give that over to God and wash your hands of this guy. You are right that he will probably never apologize to you. He probably just doesn’t care. There is no heart in some of these people.
      God will take this from you if you let Him. He will deal with this guy. He will not receive a “free pass.” If he is willing to confess his sins before God and come to Jesus in humility and repentance, then Jesus will bear the penalty for him. Can you see him doing that? Now, as Christians, we believe that if the narcissist would do that, repent and come to Jesus, then Jesus would take the guilt of his sin upon Himself at the cross, just like Jesus did for you and me. That would be a great miracle of God’s love and it would be His right. But that’s the only way.

      Narcissists get into our heads. They can control our lives long after they are gone. Parents who have died years ago still manipulate and manage their children because of the thinking that was put in place. But when we recognize this and decide to walk away, by the power of God, we can be free. We can begin to think for ourselves again. You have a right to be healthy and the only way is to find life truly apart from your ex. Not just physically, but emotionally as well.

      My post was meant to show that you can forgive him simply by placing him in God’s hands. This does not excuse what he did and it does not mean that you should have a relationship with him again in any way. In fact, if I were counseling you I would very strongly tell you to avoid this guy as much as possible. The evil of his heart has affected you enough.

      I hope that everyone who reads your comment feels some of the anguish of your heart. The pain of those who have been victimized by a narcissist is real and is severe. You have every right to be angry and to feel this pain. But eventually, you want to move beyond it. The Lord loves you. He is with you and He accepts you. He will help you.

      Please feel free to write me directly and ask anything or just dump. My email is dave at gracefortheheart dot org. I will respond to you and I will pray for you. You are also welcome to continue to share through these comments. Whatever works for you. I do care.

    • Hi confused,

      tho i am not the wife, but i feel you.

      long before I came to know about Jesus, I believed I was a christian. just like you also, I believe in God. 2 years ago, Jesus revealed himself to me. I got a revelation of His amazing grace.

      i’ve seen abuse at home. as a child i’ve seen knife fights, gun shooting, fist fights (normal thing) at home. I’ve seen abuse of drugs, adultery,… we experience death threats from other clans too.

      when I got married and had my own family, I though i left that childhood past already. I was wrong.

      my wife has the same childhood background as me. physical abuse creep in the family. I wont go into detail, but when Jesus revealed himself to my wife and I, everything changed. there was a total complete change. as if we were born again into a new being.

      we are indeed a new creation.

      you ask

      @”How can God love a person who intentionally uses and abuses others?”

      it is the same question I asked God, before I had a revelation of His grace.

      now my question is this.

      How can you love me Lord? How can you send Jesus for me? I am so undeserving!

      I pray that the Lord will show you His grace. and that you experience grace.

      “We love because He (God) loved us first”

      not that we need to love God or others, but rather We experience God’s love first, then we can love Him and others, the unlovable.

      grace and peace

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