I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness recently, and what it means to forgive. A lot of people wonder why certain things don’t happen in their life, why certain blessings don’t seem to be coming. For many, it is because they have chosen not to forgive.
Forgiving someone does not mean you condone their behavior. Forgiving someone does not mean you accept what they have done to you or said to you. Forgiving someone does not give them a pass for what they did not do. Forgiving someone does not approve of their actions. Forgiving someone does not mean you agree with them.
I was looking at the definition, origin, and root words of “forgive” and I found some interesting tidbits. Depending on which dictionary you are looking in, to forgive means to give up the desire or power to punish. This reminds me of the scriptures where the Lord says:
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NLT)
Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. (Deuteronomy 32:35, ESV)
God is more powerful than we are, but when we are focused on avenging ourselves, we leave no room for God to serve justice way more creatively than we ever could.
There is a balance of awaiting justice and wishing bad upon someone, however. We must not let our hearts turn dark, but we can be assured that God has our back.
Now, let’s break up the word “forgive” into “for” and “give.” One of the origins of “for” means “thoroughly.” A more contemporary meaning of “for” which we are familiar with is “intended to belong to” like if someone said “this is for you.” This ties into the second part of the word “forgive.” Obviously, we know what to “give” means, but let’s think about it. You are giving something to someone. So with both words together, “for” and “give,” we are intentionally giving something to someone that belongs to them.
Do you see where this is going? There’s a reason why God says “vengeance is mine.” It totally and completely belongs to him, so we need to give it to him. This is what forgiveness is. To forgive means to give the person, the wrong, the situation, and anything else, all to the Lord. The person belongs to God; he created them, not us. This is not a robotic process; God will still help you to heal, process, and bring peace as well as wholeness. God hurts when you hurt.
Everyone who has ever hurt me or intended to hurt me, I’ve seen God avenge me. Everyone.
We cannot live in a state of offense, and this is how many of us live today, so offended at everything and everyone. We’re mad at political leaders, celebrities, artists, everyone. When someone is legally punished, that isn’t enough for us. When someone dies, that still isn’t enough. We want them to pay behind the bars and beyond the grave. It’s sick. It’s holding a lot of us back from the life God has for us. Even a speech from someone or a sentence on social media can offend us these days, and bitterness grows and grows in our hearts like a disease. There is a difference between righteous anger (which leads to pure justice movements) and just bitter anger (which accomplishes nothing.)
When a person is so offended at everything, and holds resentment in their heart, it slows down and can even stop the flow of heaven into their life.
In today’s culture we love to say things like “karma” and “the universe” will work everything out. Do you really believe everything will work out? Often, we don’t live like it by the way we want to force punishment on everyone. I believe these scriptures:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7, NIV)
Let the Lord handle revenge. To forgive someone means to let the Lord sit on His throne, not us. If someone has sinned against you, or did something awful in general, we want so bad for the other person to hurt, but they cannot pay for their sin. Not forgiving someone also holds the effects of their sin in your heart, in your mind, in your choices, and maybe even in your body. A human was never built to pay for sin. That’s why God said he will handle sin. That’s why God, in the form of Jesus, died for our sins.
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)
Yes, our sins, because none of us on our own are innocent.