5 Common Lies Christians Believe About Forgiveness
Let’s face it, forgiveness is difficult. Sometimes it becomes even more difficult when we are faced with common lies about forgiveness. As Christians we are commanded to forgive others. The Bible says in Matthew 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” As I have ministered to others, I have heard many lies that Christians believe about forgiveness that inhibits them from forgiving others.
Forgiveness Lie #1: I just don’t feel like forgiving
I have heard fellow Christians say, “I just don’t feel like forgiving them for what they did to me.” What is wrong with this statement? The problem with this statement is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is not based on emotions at all. Forgiveness is actually a choice. We must choose to forgive one another and stick with that decision.
Forgiveness Lie #2: I forgave them, but the bitterness keeps coming back
Sometimes we are able to choose to forgive someone, but the next day we start thinking about how the person hurt us again. This is when it is important to remember that you chose to forgive the person. Forgiveness is a choice. When we start thinking about how the person sinned against us again, we must again choose to forgive. You must stand firm in your decision to forgive.
Forgiveness Lie #3: We must forgive and forget
We have all heard the phrase “forgive and forget,” but the phrase is not always accurate. We can chose to forgive someone, but we do not need to forget it completely. We just need to “forget” the anger and bitterness, leaving the “I-have-been-wronged” mentality in the past. We usually remember the events fully, but now we may remember it in an entirely different way. Love and forgiveness makes us sometimes remember the events very differently. Sometimes we are even thankful, remembering the events in a new, positive way.
We may not want to entirely forget how someone wronged us because we may have learned an important lesson from the situation. “Forgetting” will not help us teach the same lesson that we have just learned to others. Forgiveness can be part of how God teaches us how to apply the Scriptures to our lives in a new meaningful way.
Forgiveness Lie #4: Forgiveness requires reconciliation
Forgiveness and reconciliation are separate actions. In some relationships, reconciliation is possible after we have chosen to forgive. Reconciliation is not always possible in all relationships, especially where abuse has occurred. As Christians, we are commanded to forgive others, and forgiveness is an individual decision. Reconciliation involves both parties to come to an agreement which is not always possible. We are only responsible for our decisions, and in some cases reconciliation is out of our control. If circumstances are appropriate, we should do everything available from our side to promote reconciliation. Still, reconciliation will not always be possible.
Forgiveness Lie #5: If I forgive, then the offender gets away with it
This is a common lie that Christians use to justify unforgiveness. We must understand that forgiveness and justice are separate actions. If we forgive someone, this does not mean that they will not be brought to justice. God can forgive us of our sins, and we still have to pay a temporal penalty. For example, if we are caught stealing, God can forgive us. We may still, however, face the temporal penalty from local law enforcement. We must never take on the role of a judge, ready to mete out justice. This “judge” mentality will prevent forgiveness. If we desire to bring on the offender’s penalty, it can render us unable to forgive. God is the judge. It is wrong to take His place on the throne.
As Christians, we must remember that forgiveness is a choice not an emotion. We also need to understand that forgiveness is a separate action from reconciliation or justice. As individuals, God commands us to forgive one another as he has forgiven us.