We have all been hurt and may have been told to forgive, “let it go”, move on, you haven’t forgiven, forgiveness is for you not the other person, and just say you forgive and all is good now. I think we have meant well when we have said these things but I don’t think we fully understand how forgiveness actually needs to occur. I now believe there is a process in forgiving or better yet a process to healing when someone has hurt you, when these hurtful circumstances are still on going, when someone refuses to admit they were wrong and apologize, or maybe they have apologized and you still can’t seem to move past it. As I have pondered this subject with the Lord, He has led me personally to John 20:23.
It is imperative for us to begin at the right starting point. I want to begin with the correct understanding of God in regards to forgiveness. So, I must start with something that I had misunderstood and I believe many in the church community may misunderstand. I was taught over the years of my Christian walk and have many times, in the past, used the scripture found in Matthew 6:14-15: if you do not forgive you will not be forgiven by your Father in Heaven- to convince myself and others we needed to forgive someone. It was not a choice it was mandatory otherwise God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive me the next time I failed. I was literally so afraid. I saw God as this big mean punisher ever expecting me to fail and then laughing at me for failing. I didn’t say this is how I saw Him but in the very belief system, my core values created this outlook of Him. Not only did I believe this but I made sure to let other people believe this. God had to show me what I said about Him and what I really believed didn’t line up together. Last year when God took me away for three days in a row this subject came up between He and I. I was questioning Him and He most certainly was answering. He told me I had the wrong perception of this scripture and I was shocked. I wanted to understand and He told me it was necessary to read scripture with the understanding: is it stated before or after the Cross. This statement was made by Him before He went to the Cross. What I came to realize is really just how much the Cross changed things and brought those that choose Jesus as their Lord and Savior into a New Covenant with Him. It doesn’t make this statement any less true, but it does make it impossible. Impossible you might say. Yes, truly impossible on my own. Truly impossible for us to be able to keep the law-which was the purpose of the law. Let me explain….Maybe it is just me, but I am pretty sure since I am human there are many others that might have run into the same circumstances….
Many years ago while my husband and I were dating, he had made a promise to me. This promise was one he did not or could not keep. Many of us have made this mistake. He had been sincere at heart with the promise and the reasons why he couldn’t or didn’t are so many and varied; yet it caused a rift in our relationship to the point where we broke off our dating relationship. One year later we saw one another again, started to talk and eleven months later we were married. This broken promise and the hurt that occurred after though was impacting our marriage because of me. I said I had forgiven him and he had asked for forgiveness but still there was a deep part in me that would not trust him completely. He worked hard at regaining my trust and I wanted to trust him and yes I know that forgiveness is one thing and trust is another….but I believe both take something Divine….Okay back to my story…I forgave every time I felt like I wasn’t trusting or was scared to trust. I forgave every time this situation came up in my memory. I got really good at saying I forgive again, and again, and again. Yet, it still came forward. I told God and myself, I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this and yet it lingered and impacted my marriage and my family. I struggled to open my heart and love freely. People had taught me to just say you forgive and it is done yet my heart was saying something entirely different. I was so frustrated with my lack or inability to let this go.
I want to pause my story there for a moment and look at the importance of John Chapter 20 and what the Lord revealed to me there. When I had written Conviction vs. Condemnation I had stated how important the Holy Spirit was and is. I think for many people we know the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost like tongues of fire and the disciples spoke in many tongues. Many of us may forget what Jesus did when He first showed Himself to His disciples before the tongues of fire at Pentecost. Here let’s read:
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:19-23 NASB)
This is the same day Jesus rose from the dead; saw Mary Magdalene; ascended to His Father and our Father; and then came to His disciples. He speaks to them, “Peace be with you”. Yet, it was necessary for Him to show His hands and His side and then they knew Who He was and He again said Peace be with you and then reminded them their purpose had not changed from when He was on earth with them; but realize first He gave them peace (God’s gift of wholeness-to understand the fuller definition click here: How Much Do You Trust God?) then the purpose was given. The next thing He did was to breath on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He filled them with life. This reminds me of when God, in Genesis, breathed the breath of life into Adam and Adam lived. Next Jesus states if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven and if you retain they are retained. Wow…why that statement??? What I do need to clarify with the verb usage in this sentence is the first use of both forgive and retain are subjunctive mood verbs and the second set are indicative mood. This means the first shows a wish or a doubt where the second states a fact or asks a question. This does show the truth of the matter for ourselves personally and I believe answered a question battering around the disciples heads at that moment. Forgiveness was a large topic. The disciples asked how many times they should forgive. Jesus went and forgave people of their sins. I really think at this time the disciples wanted to be forgiven for abandoning Jesus, remember Peter said he would never abandon Jesus. They were mad at themselves and probably mad at all the people that had turned against Jesus and called out for Him to be crucified. They were probably mad at the religious elite and the government for their choice to have Jesus crucified. They may have even been mad at Jesus for leaving….And remember….Jesus had said forgive so that your Father in Heaven can forgive you…..uh oh!!! Can we do this as completely as He said we should. Will we ever know if we have done it well enough?!?!?!! OH NO!!!! First though He does something amazing He spoke peace (God’s wholeness) and then breathed the Holy Spirit into them…then He spoke about the topic of forgiveness– because Jesus always goes to the matter at hand, always in every situation we read in scripture. He knows what the disciples are in need of. Jesus knew and I am pretty sure by now the disciples also knew there was no way they could ever forgive on their own. This had been three days of hell on earth for them and Jesus knew they needed healing and they needed power that only He could give them so they could accomplish their mission. I really believe by know the disciples knew that to. They had come to the end of themselves after all that had happened the last three days. This is the New Covenant. Jesus came to them, they received Him for Who He is, they were made whole and filled with the Holy Spirit and then they are given choices knowing they have the very power they need within them to choose. So simple, yet so huge!
Now back to my story…See I had been doing this process all backwards. People had taught me, forgive, move forward then God would heal me and then I could move forward. But it was not working and I was frustrated. I don’t know if you noticed but there were a lot of “I” statements abounding in the process I had been taught as a Christian. I finally got to the end of myself. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t get it right and I was only frustrated and feeling unable to love anyone, even myself. I felt in a pickle. It wasn’t just from the one promise broken but I believe from many hurts over my life that had piled up and I would just choose to forgive and then God could/would heal me. But see we now live in the New Covenant, no longer in the Old Covenant.
In the Old Covenant it was “when I do the requirements then God will”. In the New Covenant it is “God has, is and will do in abundance and only through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me and through me can I then do”.
This truth was realized one morning, over a year ago, as I had come to the end of myself forgiving, forgiving, and forgiving. One morning I was telling Him–I want to love not because I have to but because I want to. Abba, Help me to love in all things You call me to. Then I heard a creaking noise and I asked what is that?? Immediately, I was in colorless forest with a still lake, it looked and felt like only one dimension. In this area was a door in the opening of a cave. It had rusty hinges and I was trying to open this door but I couldn’t. I simply turned to Jesus (who was smiling at me) and asked Him to help me. He came and helped me open the door. We walked through the door into what looked like a dark cave. Yet, Jesus lit up the whole cave and it was glittery inside-beautiful jewel like crystals on the walls and ceiling all different colors with Jesus lighting it up. I knew that what was inside this cave belonged outside in the forest and I said I don’t know how to get this out there, how can I get all of this out there, it needs to be out there. So, again I simply asked Jesus to help me and BOOM it exploded out into the black and white, one dimensional place inside me and I heard Him say, “No more hiding!”. My heart instantly felt alive and I knew He had healed me from years of pain. I knew forgiveness had occurred and years of pain were gone. In this experience I cried out for help. I knew I couldn’t open the door, I couldn’t get the color back on the outside, I couldn’t forgive, I couldn’t do anything in my own strength. But Jesus He did it all. It wasn’t the backwards way of I forgive then God…It was God did it all and then on top of doing it all He gives me the ability, strength and all that I need to choose what a daughter of the Most High God would naturally do. We can not get this backwards because it only backfires. In the New Covenant, just like when He first comes on the scene with His disciples, first Jesus does it all and we have a choice. Remember it is subjunctive mood first–if we wish or desire to forgive or retain then indicative mood second–surely as a fact the hurt will be released or held on to.
I simply live out of Him which is who I really am. A new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So, to finish my story….the healing that Jesus did led to my ability to forgive or send it away, gave me the ability to trust again and love. None of my ability though was in and of myself but only through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what makes me a new creation with the ability to act or become like a daughter of the Most High God. I was finally able to move forward and what happened in the past did not rear it’s ugly head again and again like it had before…it was finished. So much so that I can’t even remember exactly what the promise was, in the sense that before I could remember word for word what the promise was and now I can’t. Only God can do something like that, not me.
As of late, I have been given the opportunity to forgive those that have hurt me, my family and my friends. I have learned to process with friends and ask God to heal me and help me to forgive. These opportunities are situations where there has been no reconciliation, no asking for forgiveness for the hurts said and done. So there is hope here too for those that may have similar circumstances. I have asked the Lord to help me love what is in front of me and for me to be able to do that, I have to go to Him and acknowledge I can’t heal myself nor can I forgive in my own strength. Sure these things have made me angry some things more than others. Yet, I do not want to retain these things. Retaining means living in the past not the present. I know what this feels like because for years I was trying in my own strength to forgive and then hoping God would heal me. But once I started at the right starting point which is knowing I fully stand in the New Covenant, God loves me no matter what, He has already forgiven me and He has wiped my slate clean; then it becomes very easy to go to Him and receive the abundance that His Son paid dearly for. I stopped relying on my strength and ability and came to Him for everything. What I do now is ask for His healing, know He is a just God, trust Him and move forward. Does this mean I trust these people? Of course not. When there is no desire for restoration or it is not a safe situation for restoration you do your part because it is imperative for me to go to God for healing and the ability to forgive and trust Him because I desire to love what is in front of me in the here and now. Is this my ability or strength to do any of this. Definitely not! It is the Holy Spirit working in me and through me to touch this world with the Kingdom of God. Am I perfect at this, certainly not…but I am going from glory to glory….much like Paul says in Galatians 2:15-18 when he confronts Peter:
“We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.”(MSG)
The New Covenant is the first thing Jesus performed or enacted on this earth when He returned from ascending to His Father-our Father. He not only spoke it, He did it. In the New Covenant God took care of everything for us through His dearly loved Son’s obedience. This is where, as believers in Who Jesus Christ is, stand, solidly, firmly, freely, equipped and dearly loved by our Father in Heaven. I am so very thankful! 💜💜💜💜