Radical Forgiveness

By 15th August 2018community
Alissa photo.
by Alissa Hankin

‘You’re not good for me.’

I’ve observed a trending concept that is, if someone is rude to you, mean to you, disappoints you, or fails you, then they aren’t good for you.

And because you don’t need them, and because they aren’t “serving you”, then you can and should block them out of your life. Whether it be parent, child, spouse, church leader, or friend.

We can talk ourselves into a deep, deep ditch, endlessly justifying why we think that person is “bad” for us, or not “helpful” to have in our lives. Perhaps they take too much of our time, or emotional energy, perhaps they said something we didn’t agree with, perhaps they disappointed us one too many times, or perhaps they didn’t meet the expectations we had for them in their role.

Perhaps the people around us are also telling us that this person isn’t good for us, even our closest family members can agree.

But our God thinks differently. He has a radical idea. And it’s one that’s changed the way I live my own life.

It’s summed up in this passage,
Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV):

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Just stop and let the weight of that sink in. Because honestly, I think a lot of people probably would think that there is a limit.

I certainly used to, until I truly grasped it. Until God showed me what it really meant…

I am married to a brilliant man, who also happens to have a job he really loves, he’s also really good at it, and it’s also a job that requires a great deal of his energy and his time. About 6 months ago, when I was once again frustrated that he was home late and with no energy to give me – exacerbated by the fact that we now had a toddler and I was alone all day looking after him – I broke down.

I cried out to God to ask “Why? Why after praying and waiting for so many years to send me a husband, do you send me one I never see, don’t feel supported by, and that sometimes I even resent?”

I’d had friends and family express their concern at his apparent lack of presence and support. They agreed with me.

But then, I read this verse.

Seventy times seven.

When I felt like I’d had to forgive him again for being home late for about the thousandth time, all the world’s wisdom said that that was enough times. My family agreed with me. But God showed me that He saw it differently. He reminded me that I had to forgive my husband again and again and again.

I was storing up my husband’s “wrongs” against me, and it was eating at me. It was affecting how I thought and felt, and how I acted towards him. It was building up. I was justifying to myself that his deeds were wrong and unforgiveable. And although I wasn’t always outwardly showing this unforgiveness, it was building in my insides until it turned into something very bitter, full of resentment and a good deal of anger towards him.

But then I read this verse, and “coincidentally” saw the movie The Shack (2017), a movie so full of core truths I couldn’t escape them or justify my way out of them. It showed me God’s love and heart in a visual way so that I really understood how I felt, and it reminded me that Jesus came to release me from how I felt…

If God is endlessly patient, unconditionally loving and outrageously gracious to me, then shouldn’t I be that for my husband? For everyone around me? No limits?

If I truly believe that Jesus is real and He died for my sins, and I truly understand the reason for the cross, how dare I think it’s “inconvenient” or “difficult” to forgive? God DIED for my sin and for yours and for theirs.

When Jesus was on the cross, he said “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28) – His blood was shed so that YOU could be forgiven, so that you would be able to enter His eternal courts. The cost to Him was everything.

In The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant it ends by saying,
Matthew 18:32-35:

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

So God is pretty serious about how important it is to forgive. 

Once I realised that my unforgiveness towards my husband was a sin in itself, and arguably larger than those things that I perceived as sin in my husband, I chose to forgive him. Endlessly. Each time he would come back late or be too tired to give much to us in his free time, instead of being frustrated I would show him compassion, ask how his day was, try and see things from his perspective. Put my feet in his shoes.

I didn’t forgive him out loud, because actually it’s something that was happening inside my own heart. And through continually forgiving and forgiving, I came to a deeper place of love and understanding and our marriage is so much stronger now than it was last year.

One of the hardest things I found in the process was the act of changing my expectations of him and of marriage. I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I should have to. But I realised that those expectations were not only unrealistic but based on things I’d seen in movies, that taught me to expect everything from my partner. It taught me that I should seek perfection and receive everything I desire from him with minimal effort. It taught me how to be selfish in relationship rather than selfless, which was not the expectation God had for our marriage.

Obviously, I’m not perfect, and so sometimes I find myself back in a place of resentment, but now I’m quicker to spot the signs of unforgiveness in myself. And it’s still a daily battle to stop seeing things selfishly, but through the eyes of God and through the eyes of others.

I would urge anyone living with any form of resentment, bitterness or unforgiveness to seek the root in their own heart. Unforgiveness doesn’t affect only you and your Christian walk, it affects those close to you.

One of the best ways of helping to find that root is to talk about your concerns with someone you respect and that the church has put into some form of leadership position. And seek God, read His word, learn about His character and his expectations for how He wants to grow your character.

And always remember:

  • You cannot be the judge yourself
  • We can never see the full picture, but God can – He is the only true judge
  • Nobody is perfect, even (and especially) you! You cannot expect perfection from broken people
  • The way you see things isn’t the way God sees them. How can we say that one sin is worse than another?
  • Forgiveness isn’t easy, and it can take time – you may have to forever forgive those closest to you. Work out the things you can do to move forward, however small, to repair broken relationships.
  • What would Jesus do?

And lastly, I believe we are called to love other people even when they’re difficult… because it can be healing for BOTH of you. People won’t change the way you want them to by blocking them out of your life, I believe they change by you persisting with them, by loving them when it’s hard, by calling them on their ungodly habits.

We are called to be “set apart” (Deuteronomy 14:2) from those around us, to be a “light” (Philippians 2:15), and to,

“not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

We are called to do things differently and challenge the way the society around us does them, by showing radical forgiveness and radical Jesus-like love.

by Alissa Hankin

2 Comments

Leave a Reply