ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FROM March 5, 2017
"Is Forgiveness actually worth it?"
Q - Would you forgive if your pancakes were burnt?
A – Absolutely! It is the love that stands behind the making of the pancakes, not the perfect result that counts!
Q - How do you forgive someone who doesn’t even know they have hurt you?
A – That is a very tough question. Jesus, in Luke 23:34, is our example. As he was being crucified he said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Sometimes it is appropriate to confront someone and talk to them about how they have hurt us, but at other times, it is best to follow the example of Jesus and trust the situation directly to the hands of our heavenly Father.
Q - Is forgiveness a concept that came once Jesus came?
A – No, the Old Testament talks a lot about how our God is a forgiving God. The power of that forgiveness always flows from the cross, whether that is before or after Jesus came, but the idea of forgiveness is definitely present in the Old Testament. Two great examples are Psalm 130:4, speaking of God, which says, “You offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you,” and Psalm 32:1 which says, “O what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!”
Q - Are there times when forgiveness is not possible?
A – There are times when forgiveness is incredibly challenging, and there are times when it will be practically impossible to ‘get over’ the hurt that has been done to us completely, but it is never impossible to forgive. It seems impossible sometimes, but as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “with God, all things are possible,” even forgiveness. Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, we need someone else to journey with us on the road to being able to forgive as well, as we find the spiritual resources from God—there are none others available—we need to forgive.
Q - Can you forgive someone for doing something they haven’t done yet?
A – Yes and no. If someone is habitually sinning against you, you can release them of this sin in the future, even to the extent that individual instances of hurt haven’t happened yet. We can’t, it seems, however, process the hurt of being sinned against or disappointed before it happens, and offer a blanket forgiveness. We can prepare ourselves to forgive, but there will be work of forgiveness to do even to the end of our lives, just as there was right up to the end of Jesus’ life.
Q - How do you continually forgive someone for doing something over and over again to you? For example a family member.
A – That is an incredibly challenging situation, and one of the places where forgiveness really starts to show its authenticity. Jesus taught that there should be no limits to our forgiveness, that is clear, and so your question is a really good one: how? Sometimes a part of the answer is the creation of constructive boundaries within the relationship, or, if it has not yet taken place, a clear conversation and a set of ground rules, if necessary in the presence of a mediator or counsellor or pastor. The actual forgiving is only possible when empowered by God – he is the one who has forgiven us again and again, and he is able to make us forgivers again and again. Our hearts have to be changed by the Holy Spirit so that we see the situation differently. If you are in a situation of habitual or cyclical hurt, I do recommend that you enter into conversation with a Christian friend or pastor to make a long term plan with you for how forgiveness can be possible and sustainable in your situation.
Q - Can you help someone forgive or does it have to be a purely individual thing?
A – I think that it is very often helpful to have someone help us by walking alongside us on the journey of forgiveness. We cannot ‘make’ someone forgive, or even ‘help them along’, but if someone wants to forgive but is struggling with the hurt and the process, we can definitely walk with them and help them deal with everything that comes along the way.
Q - Is there a process to forgive someone?
A – Almost always. We sometimes go through seasons where we go a long time and move forward slowly, and then there are times when we take big steps all at once.
Q - How do you forgive someone when they are not deserving?
A – In part by remembering that we are all not deserving, and that just in that way we were forgiven by God, when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8In part by being compassionate on the other person, in spite of the fact that they are not apologizing, or not trying to get better, or are remaining bitter or stubborn in the situation. And in the largest part by relying on the strength that God provides. Remember that Ephesians4:32 follows Ephesians 4:23. Before we can forgive, especially in a challenging situation like that, the Holy Spirit has to renew our thoughts and minds.
Q - My understanding is that forgiveness is for reconciliation of relationship. I’ve heard people say “I forgive them, but don’t want to be their friend anymore?”
A – We should never out and out close the door to friendship, but sometimes, even when we have forgiven, we need to set up constructive boundaries for our relationships. Sometimes there has been so much hurt done within a relationship that although real forgiveness can happen, it can be impossible to return to the place where the relationship started from.
Q - In what does Marilyn Iva Elliot have her PHD?
A – Dr. Marilyn has a Doctor of Ministry from Asbury Seminary, from the same program in Biblical Preaching and Leadership that Ed Mangham graduated from.
Q - Should forgiveness not be given as a gift, something given with no expectation of return? Luke 23:34And Jesus said, Father, forgive them: they know not what they do as Christ did for us at the cross.
A – Yes, forgiveness is freely given. Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” God has forgiven us freely, and so we forgive one another freely, just as Jesus Christ spoke on the cross.
Q - How do you forgive if the person you feel has wronged you is The Lord?
A – That is a tough question, and you are not alone in having disappointments with God. Even in the Bible there are people who were in a place a lot like yours. And it is ok to be in a place like that, even for a season. One such place is Psalm 74 – “O God, why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture?” Psalm 77 is another – “When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord, but my soul was not comforted.” I would encourage you to pray the prayers of these Psalms, and other ‘Psalms of Lament’, and to pray your own story into them, of the times when God has been near to you and of times when he has been far away or has not rescued you when you have needed him. Praying prayers like these with another person would also be a very healthy step toward being able to forgive God.