Only people who have nothing serious to forgive find it easy to talk about forgiving. Wrestling with forgiveness can twist your mind, emotions, and spirit into Gordian Knots. Conflict results from matters that cannot be reconciled.
If you haven’t wrestled with forgiveness it may just be that you haven’t had to face the things that you find irreconcilable. Hitler is the poster child for irreconcilable acts. It’s hard for me to imagine those whose loved ones were murdered by him reconciling with him. I think there are many less heinous things in this world that cannot be reconciled.
Most of us could never be reconciled with a mate who had an affair or abandoned us. Most rape victims could never reconcile with their violators. These are pretty serious matters most of us can grasp. But there are simpler things, everyday things, that cannot be reconciled.
You cannot reconcile with someone who intends you harm. You cannot reconcile with someone who chooses not to be reconciled with you. God cannot be reconciled with sin.
If you equate reconciliation with forgiveness, you probably have a huge problem with that last statement. Fact is, they are not the same thing. God is able to forgive us and be reconciled with us, but he will never be reconciled with sin. Sin must be vanquished. According to scripture, sin creates a debt that demands both physical and spiritual death. He sent his Son to die on a cross for that debt. We can be reconciled with God because Christ paid for sin. It is not simply overlooked. There was a high cost.
SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to reveal details about the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
In the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the woman is humiliated and tossed in the street by her husband, who leaves her for a young bimbo on their 18th wedding anniversary. Yes, she was very angry. And rightly so. Tides turn, however.
The man is seriously wounded when he is shot by a druglord he is defending in court after the thug is found guilty. When all is said and done, he finds himself paralyzed and helpless with no one else to turn to except the wife he scorned (scorned as in “Hell hath no fury like…”). She is seething with venom for him but shows up anyway.
At that point in the movie, she takes some time for revenge, punishing him by leaving him stuck in a bath tub for a whole day, with no way to get out. When she returns, still angry, she begins the process of exorcising the demon of unforgiveness that owns her. She takes care of him, providing for his needs. In time, he heals and is able to walk again with a cane.
Most stories would stop there and deploy a fairy tale ending. They’d fall in love, renounce the past, and live happily ever after. That’s not real life. Neither is this movie, but it continues with a much more plausible ending. The man sees that she has helped him so greatly, his attitude changes. He repents, and asks for her forgiveness, hoping she will take him back. She forgives him, but reality is still a player. She serves him with divorce papers.
Some things cannot be reconciled in this life.
Scripture says, “Without repentance there is no forgiveness for sin.” Repentance is a choice we have to make before God. When we do, he forgives us freely and instructs us to forgive freely. Even when we are forgiven, we can be out of sorts with God when we choose to sin unrepentantly. Christ died for all sin, past, present, and future, so those who receive salvation can count on his forgiveness. But if we continue to engage in willful sin, God promises discipline will come. If a person continually denies God in this way, it calls into question whether they ever truly opened their heart up to receive him. The Holy Spirit lives in God’s children and pulls them towards him. God tends to win. If God is not winning, there’s reason to suspect he isn’t present.
In the same manner as God, in Christ we forgive the way God forgives us. We do not collect on debts because God canceled such a huge debt for us. Sadly, God will collect on the debts of those who do not receive Christ. But His is a righteous judgement. We don’t get to make those calls. For our part, though we can release debts to God, we may find we are unable to reconcile with some debtors. That’s a different issue. And It may be for good reason; protecting us from further harm.
A struggle with forgiveness can be painful. It may make you feel like someone is stabbing you right in the solar plexus, or like a vise is squeezing your brain, bending your mind. When it feels that way, you should ask yourself: Is it forgiveness I’m struggling with or reconciliation? You may just have an actual human need not to intersect with the wrongdoer. That’s ok. God has other people. In time, you may or may not feel differently. But you can still let God have the debt. That’s all forgiveness is. God doesn’t command us to do what what can’t be done.