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Forgive Always, Restore Whenever Possible

I was reminded this morning while reading 2 Corinthians 2 of the vital role forgiveness plays in our lives. “Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” (v. 7-8) The church in Corinth had a rather strange thing happening. A man was having an intimate relationship with his stepmother. How complicated would that be? The new church wasn’t sure how to respond. They had discovered the grace that comes from believing in Jesus and the freedom from guilt and shame that accompanies it. They, therefore, were not too sure if they should condemn the actions of these two or ignore the behavior since they were “free in Christ.”
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in part to address this concern and to call the church to take a high moral stand. He pointed out that grace leads to excellence rather than indulgence. The individuals who were engaged in this self-serving behavior were harming their other relationships and ruining their ability to represent a God of righteousness to a lost and hurting world. The story is instructive to us of the process of restoring fractured relationships.
It always starts with forgiveness, which is a private decision between an individual and God. It is a decision in our hearts to not allow the actions of anyone else, other than God, to determine our well-being. For this reason, we truly can forgive anyone for anything. The reason we forgive is to combat bitterness. Once bitterness takes over, it will continue to grow until it has completely destroyed the heart of the one who is holding onto it. This is why Paul stated in Colossian 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The simplest way I know of to make forgiveness real is to say the following six statements out loud when I need to forgive an individual:
1. I forgive (name the person) for (name the offense).
2. I admit that what happened was wrong.
3. I do not expect this person to make up for what he or she has done.
4. I will not use the offense to define who this person is.
5. I will not manipulate this person with this offense.
6. I will not allow what has happened to stop my personal growth
If I can say all six sincerely, I have forgiven. If I can’t, I ask God to prepare my heart and try again tomorrow.
Although this protects my heart from bitterness, it does not address the relationship. In order to restore the relationship, there must be repentance on the part of the one who caused the offense. That is exactly what happened in 2 Corinthians 2. The man realized the foolishness of his decisions, ended the relationship and sought restoration. There must have been a look in his eyes and decisiveness about his change because the people who knew him best were convinced there was a real, sincere change that had taken place. Based on that evidence, Paul urged the church to “reaffirm your love for him.” (v. 8 )
This is a simple recap of a complicated situation. I know many of you are embroiled in some pretty complicated situations that cause you to wrestle with intricate questions. In the midst of it all, these two simple truths are always applicable: We protect our own hearts by forgiving and the recipe for restoration always includes repentance.
May God lead in with His grace.

One Response

  1. Thank you Bill for articulating this essential simple truth and strategy to truly be at peace and in right relationship with God.

    Without forgiveness we cannot: (Hbr 12:14) “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Without forgiveness how can we: (Hbr 12:15) “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” Without forgiveness we fall straight into the Mat 5:22 trap: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘ You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” etc…

    – OUCH! Hardly seems fair when something bad has been perpetrated upon you but that is the paradox of God showing up again; but with the ‘six statements’ we resolutely (Eph 4:31) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” … and He tells us why we should (Eph 4:32) “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

    Let’s face this truth: (Mat 7:2) “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

    Forgiveness brings peace upon the forgiver; restoration brings peace upon the forgiven. In this way we (Eph 4:27) “and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

    Praise and glory be to God our Father and His marvelous Son Jesus Christ who first loved us when we were dead and who has both forgiven and restored us; we could not stand without that – so let’s all pay it forward.

    <: Jc

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