Even as a pastor, it can be really hard for me to forgive sometimes.
If someone wrongs me and comes to ask me for forgiveness, I have no problem granting it without hesitation.
If someone wrongs me and asks for forgiveness only after I confront them about it, I still give them grace.
But what happens when someone wrongs me and I confront them on it, but they don’t ask for forgiveness? What happens when they feel as though they have done nothing wrong? What if they know they’ve done wrong, but they simply don’t care?
Honestly… this is when I struggle.
I struggle with wanting to forgive them at all. This is especially true when they have wronged me in the same way before.
You’ve heard it said before: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I find myself oftentimes feeling as though someone has to at least want my forgiveness in order for me to forgive them, right?
There should never be a contingency on the grace you give to others.
Take a look at the story from the Book of John when a woman was caught in the act of adultery.
At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Look at the order in which Jesus delivered His last line:
- I don’t condemn you.
- Leave your life of sin.
Jesus offered the woman grace BEFORE He even instructed her to stop sinning.
Evidently, the grace Jesus offered her was not available ONLY if she stopped sinning. The grace He offered her was available REGARDLESS of whether she stopped sinning.
It doesn’t quite seem fair though, does it?
It doesn’t seem fair because that woman could easily abuse His gift of grace by continuing on in her affair.
But then again, isn’t that the very definition of grace?
Grace is defined as “undeserved forgiveness”.
If the woman had to earn grace, it wouldn’t be grace. If she had to deserve grace, it wouldn’t be grace. If she had to start or stop doing something in order to qualify for grace, she wouldn’t be receiving grace.
Do you struggle giving this type of pure grace as I do?
Is there someone in your life who has wronged you in such a significant way that you have a hard time granting that person forgiveness?
Let’s be clear: forgiveness does not equate to trust. Someone may have wronged you and shattered your trust. Trust may take time to rebuild after someone breaks it, but forgiveness should be granted immediately.
Granting forgiveness does not mean that you cannot set boundaries in your life either.
If you are being abused or harmed by someone else—emotionally, physically, sexually—you need boundaries to protect yourself. There will likely be many times in your life that you need boundaries in order to protect your heart, mind and body.
But rebuilding trust and setting boundaries does not mean that you are justified in waiting to grant forgiveness.
After all, God didn’t wait for you to stop your sin before giving you forgiveness.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
As a Christian, I am called to follow the life and teachings that Jesus taught.
Jesus forgave ME while I was/am still a sinner.
Therefore, I need to forgive others even if they are still sinning against me.
Like it or not, so do you.
Let’s play Mad Libs for a second and switch some of the wording around in Romans 5:8 so you can make it personal to you.
[Insert your name] demonstrates [select pronoun: his or her] own love for [insert person’s name who has wronged you] in this: While [insert person’s name who has wronged you] was still a sinner, [insert your name] forgave them.
When is the wrong time to forgive?
Tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year. Or whenever you get over it. Or whenever they come and ask for it. Or whenever you feel like it.
When is the right time to forgive?
Today. Right now. Right this second.
If you’re struggling with granting forgiveness to someone right now, here’s a prayer you can make your own:
Give me the strength to forgive as You forgive. Give me your perspective for the other person. Regardless of whether they have earned it or deserve it, I want to forgive. It is so difficult, but you know this all too well. Thank you for the forgiveness you have given me. Help me give the same grace to others.
In Jesus’ name,
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Do you agree with this post, or do you feel as though there should be times that forgiveness should be delayed? Voice your thoughts in the comment box below.