Forgiveness, especially, is a ‘touchy’ topic for me personally. Of late, I keep running into posts and articles on this topic and when such a reoccurring thing takes place, I am of the belief there is a reason. I will post an excerpt from my book: ‘Gifts from the Ashes’, but before doing so, I’d like to add a few things.
First, I’d like to say that forgiveness is an act of the will…it is a choice, not a ‘fuzzy feeling’. I also do not believe that anger is a barometer that determines whether or not we have forgiven. I can forgive someone, be ‘free’ from any power they may hold over me by not forgiving them, and release them into God’s hands…all while remaining angry with their deeds. I could be off-base on this, however, at this point on this journey that is my understanding.
Secondly, I often see the Scripture of Jesus stating: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24) as a ‘teaching tool’ to instruct that we are to follow Christ’s example and forgive everyone all of the time. I think that’s an abuse & misuse of that Scripture. God clearly teaches us that we must repent and turn from our sins to be saved (1 John 1:9; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; Acts 2:38, etc., etc., etc.). So, God does not forgive us unless we first are sorry and choose to make a total turnaround. We are to show mercy, love our enemies, pray for them, etc…. but forgive? If God does not forgive a sinner unless he repents, does He require us to do so? I don’t think it’s as easily answered as some would presume.
Thirdly, God is angry with the wicked every day…EVERY DAY! (PS. 7:10-12). When Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, did that mean that all those who crucified Him were not held accountable? Personally, I need to take the time to dig deeper into God’s Word on this topic. I don’t like taking one or two Scriptures out of context and forming a black & white hard line law that it must be this way or that. Wisdom instructs me to search the entire Word for an answer and understanding.
Fourth, another passage commonly used in regards to this is found in Mathew 18:21-35. Something folks often do not differentiate between is when we are instructed to do something in relation to ‘brothers & sisters’ and those that are not. When Jesus said that most beautiful prayer for His followers, He distinctly made a differentiation: John 17:9 “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” (Please see all of John 17). Back to MT. 18:35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Clearly, when we do forgive, it must be complete, sincere, and final.
There are three people throughout my life that caused me great harm and sorrow. There were others along the way, but three specifically that caused more damage and heartache than the rest. Two were ‘abusers’ and the third killed my son. I ‘will’ to not harm any of them. I ‘will’ to show cordiality & kindness to all. If I saw ‘fruit of true repentance’ in any of them, I would welcome them. But until I do see such fruit, which extends beyond a simple: “I’m sorry”, I cannot. In other words, I am ‘willing’ to forgive all of them. But, until they are truly repentant and show fruit of such, they cannot be embraced (Mt. 3:8). All are not forgiven. All do not go to Heaven. Only those who ask for forgiveness and turn from their ways and receive God’s forgiveness, do. That’s the Gospel. The ‘Good News’ is that God is willing to forgive all who do come to Him in that manner. The ‘Sad News’ is that not all will.
So, it is a matter of the heart. It is between each individual and God. I do believe that when a person sincerely desires to please our Heavenly Father, He will perfect those things which concern us (PS. 138:8). I will always be angry with the abuse. I will always be angry with the actions of one that resulted in my son’s death. As for the abusers and the killer? I do not dwell on what they have done. I am not consumed with anger over what they have done. When those wicked deeds are presented to me, I will be angry at the sight of them. May God show me otherwise if I am in error.
Behave Like a Christian
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor (hate, despise) what is evil. Cling to what is good.
(excerpt from ‘Gifts from the Ashes’):
This is a difficult topic for me. My son was killed by his best friend who was driving drunk. The young man responsible, after my son’s funeral, asked to come to our home to speak with me. I had not permitted him to attend my son’s funeral, although I did allow for him to go to the funeral home privately. The funeral was about my son, not him, and although they had been friends I did not feel it to be appropriate that he be present. The night my son died and laid in the morgue, his killer walked away from the accident and went to their favorite coffee shop to meet with all of their other friends. There, he made it about himself from what I was told, to gain sympathy.
As he sat at the table, I waited quietly to hear what he had to say. I think once I may have heard an: “I’m sorry”, but it was mixed in with so many justifications and rationalizations that if he did actually say those words, I didn’t ‘hear’ them. The young man was eventually charged with aggravated vehicular homicide by the State (I never pressed any charges), served 3 yrs. in prison, then was deported (I never knew he wasn’t a citizen).
Three months passed between the time my son was killed and this young man went to court. He lived in the neighborhood so I had to drive past his house on a regular basis. Every time was emotionally/mentally overwhelming. I felt as if I was being repeatedly and violently stabbed in my heart.
I sought the Lord and His Word intensely and repeatedly. What did God say I should do about this person? The law in the OT was very clear: Numbers 35:
Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
The further I dug into the Scriptures, the more God validated what I was feeling. I learned about ‘blood avengers’ who were family members of the victim and that it was their duty to avenge. They were the ‘family executioners’. I also learned about the 6 refugee cities where those guilty of accidental homicide could flee. However, if the guilty left 1 of those cities, they became ‘fair-game’.
I was desperately seeking out the ‘mind of Christ’ in all of this.
I recall speaking to a Pastor about what I was finding and he couldn’t give me a response. Quite frankly, I think I frightened him with what I was discovering in the Scriptures.
After another 3 mos. had passed, I was approached by a State liaison person who said they were running a ‘pilot program’ in which the victim’s family would meet with the assailant in a monitored setting at the prison. They wanted me to be a ‘guinea pig’, essentially. I agreed to participate.
During that 1st meeting, I learned new facts. The murderer, for the 1st time, confessed to how much he had really been drinking that fateful night. I learned my son was not aware of the shots of whiskey his friend was consuming along with his beers while my son was out on the dance floor with the ladies. I was later told by another friend of my son’s that the killer liked to ‘hang out’ with him because they called him a ‘girl-catcher’ (“chick magnet”… because the gals did love him). At one point, I had to excuse myself and go to a stairway where I could have a private meltdown.
Many other things occurred over those 3 yrs., then it came time the young man was released to a local detention center to await his deportation. My eldest and I went to visit him a few times. We contacted the regional court on his behalf to intervene in the deportation. I got a lot of unfavorable comments from friends for doing so in the process. However, I believed by that point that my son would want me to do this. I know he would have acted in such a manner. So, although my heart may or may not have been in it, I did it for my son.
That is when I learned something new again.
This young man looked at me and said: “If this had been the other way around, my mom never would have put your son in jail”. Tears began to roll down my face, and his face turned smug in response. He seemed quite pleased that he made me cry. Thing is, he didn’t know why I was crying. He thought he had made me feel guilt and shame. Not so. I cried because upon hearing him say that, I realized that after all that happened, he still wasn’t sorry. He had hardened his heart with bitterness. For that, I cried.
I cannot honestly say after all these years that I have forgiven him for killing my son. I know I did not take revenge upon him. I know I did try to intervene and be an advocate on his behalf. I know that I do not hate him. I also know that I am, and may always be, angry that he killed my son. What I did learn, though, from the Lord is that He understood my anger. I have never felt pressured by God to not be. I, also, have never acted upon that anger. I also learned that God, Himself, is angry every day with evil and wickedness (Ps. 7:11). I also have learned that God will avenge me and my son if this man remains unrepentant (Rom. 12:19).
I have taken it to the foot of the Cross and have left it there.
One more thing…regret serves no purpose. We did the best we could with what we knew at the time. Please take it all to Jesus, receive His forgiveness, then forgive yourself.
That’s the best I have to offer on the topic of ‘forgiveness’.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728 Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/
Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))