Thursday, June 25, 2009

Are You Able to Forgive?

Wednesday South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford held a news conference where he confessed to being unfaithful to his wife and having an affair with a woman in Argentina.

Thursday morning long time ABC reporter Sam Donaldson appeared on Good Morning America and commented that “it is hard to forgive Republicans because they are so sanctimonious. They thump the Bible. They condemn everyone else, and when they- human- they don’t have much credit in the bank for forgiveness.”

Donaldson’s comment stuck with me because I had just had a conversation with someone about a third person that we both love. The “someone” feared that the third person had fallen into a sin and wondered how I felt about it.

Obviously the behavior of the other is out of my control and I’m a firm believer that worry does absolutely no good. So I verbally replied, “I want to hope for the best.” However, internally I thought, “I will forgive him.”

You may wonder how I could make such a decision in advance. I’ve already decided that I’ll forgive my wife and children whenever they sin against me. I’ve already decided to forgive my friends and colleagues when they sin against me.

Not that I want to be put to the test but I think I have a pretty large “forgiveness tank”. I have a significant capacity to forgive because I’ve been forgiven of so much by Jesus Christ.

Let me hasten to say that I’m not minimizing Governor Sanford’s sin nor picking on Donaldson’s political and moral commentary. I was simply reminded that it’s hard to forgive anyone when you’ve not been forgiven yourself.

As you read these words if someone comes to your mind that has wronged you and you feel stirred to forgive, I would take that as a “God thing” and ask for His grace to forgive.


Anonymous said...

Pastor, I have some questions on what true forgiveness is and the interactions of the relationships after someone has wronged you. In the Celebrate Recovery steps, there is a section about "my part" in the forgiveness aspect when you encounter this person again. The thing is, this person is from my past (and from a far distance away) and all of a sudden wants to be my Facebook friend. We left on unresolved terms - they just didn't understand or acknowledge what we confronted them with. Nothing was ever productive in the final confrontation of the issues. Since then I have forgiven them in the sense that I harbor no anger towards and have overcome regret from their reactions. But I don't really want to associate with this person, especially since I saw how damaging their actions were to my other friends as well - many who have not fully recovered since then. I also don't feel like I want them to know about all the details of my life because they haven't really earned that trust to jump right back into our lives. I can't tell if they want to add me as a friend to just be nosy about what we are doing and gossip to their network of people, or if they sincerely want to get to know me again. At the same time I also don't want to associate with them because I don't want people to think I endorse their beliefs which they still hold onto. There are plenty of other Facebook friends I currently have who have "issues" and I don't endorse their beliefs but I don't know why I feel so uncomfortable about adding this particular person. Have I not truly forgiven them?

Is true forgiveness about giving a second chance in trusting that person regardless of the wrongs done to you? Should I be happy that this person wants to connect with me again?

Scott Brewer said...

You have raised some very important points. Sounds like you have taken steps to forgive and "clean your side of the street".

If in the process of communicating about the issue they never fully comprehended the depth of the matter then it is likely they are not a "safe" relationship for you.

If that is the case it is totally possible to forgive but not reconcile, that is, the relationship can't move back to a point of being safe. You are under no obligation to have a close relationship with an unsafe person.

One other point, forgiveness sometimes has to happen over and over. It doesn't mean that you didn't truly forgive the first or second time. It means that the wounding was such that it replays again in your mind/heart. Whenever it replays then you need to forgive again until the replays no longer occur.

Thanks for taking all of this so seriously. I pray God's grace and guidance for you regarding this relationship.