Resolution and Forgiveness
We all have been there. It’s a great day, everything is going fine, and then someone does something to hurt or offend us. Maybe, it’s a co-worker, our boss, a fellow student, a teacher, a clerk in the store, or even a member of our own family who says or does something that injures us physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Our first instinct, usually, is to feel a bit surprised and angry. We are now at an important crossroads, a significant point of decision. We must now choose what our next response will be.
At this “fork in the road,” we can choose the path that many take in this situation that leads to further anger. We may decide to remain angry and nurture this anger until it becomes expressed as malicious thoughts and hatred toward the person or persons who initially injured us. We may even use our time to formulate ways to “settle the score” with that person – to extract our “pound of flesh” as repayment for what they did to us. Holding closely to that “grudge” that gives meaning to our anger, we may now strike back by saying things intended to hurt their feelings and/or damage their reputation or even try to attack them physically. That same person may then be encouraged to respond in kind and so begins and is perpetuated the “cycle of hatred.” Is this resolution? Does this solve the problem? Hardly!
Anger is a God-given emotion. Even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, at times, became angry (Matthew 21:12 – 13; Mark 3:5) yet He knew how to control it. We, too, are expected by our Creator to control our anger and not allow it to be transformed into sinful, malicious thoughts and outright hatred (Ephesians 4:26 – 27, 31; Colossians 3: 8). We cannot, must not hold onto our anger – that’s the easy way out, the “path of least resistance.” That sort of attitude leads only to further sin and even more frustration, guilt, anger, malice, and hatred.
There is another, better path to take when someone hurts or injures us. In Luke 17: 3–4, Jesus offers us all a way to achieve a positive, righteous, godly solution to just such a situation. He tells His disciples (and us today):
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” [NKJV]
Jesus clearly lays out a step-by-step process to resolving the issue. We must, first, make the effort to approach the person(s) who sinned against us and “rebuke” them. The word “rebuke” is translated from the Greek term EPITIMAO which means: “to tax upon, i.e. censure or admonish;…charge, rebuke.” (1) We have to confront them and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that their actions were hurtful and wrong. They need to know! There is no doubt that people will do things intentionally, at times, to hurt and offend us. But there also circumstances where people can “sin against us” unintentionally, without knowing that they have done anything wrong. (We all have been guilty of this at one time or another.) Thus, we need to take the time to communicate with them about the matter. Then, once they have been informed, it is up to them to repent and make things right.
We must remember that forgiveness is not unconditional. It is always dependant on an attitude of repentance. Some may say: “I forgive everyone, even if they continue to sin against me!” How can that be? God only forgives us if we repent of our past sinful actions (Acts 2:38; 3:19; II Peter 3:9). We can do no more than what God does for us – He is our Creator (Isaiah 45:9 – 12; 64:8).
When the person who wronged us realizes that have they have sinned and approaches us with a spirit of true repentance then we should and must be ready to forgive them. This is to be forgiveness with a kind, loving attitude without any lingering resentment or ill-will on our part. Moreover, as our Lord and Master tells us in Luke 17, we should always maintain a spirit of forgiveness even toward those who frequently wrong us, even “…if he sins against you seven times in a day.” We can do no less for we should always remember how much God has forgiven us! Let us be reminded what Paul wrote to the brethren at Ephesus: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).