Has anyone ever really wronged you? I mean really trampled on you and broken your heart and hurt you in a way that caused you to not sleep at night? I have. And it sucked.
My immediate reaction was a desire for justice. They deserved to be hurting just as much as I did. When they treated me the way they did, evil prevailed. It was not “good” that caused my heart to break and tears to fall but it was evil winning in the heart of my friend.
After I was hurt, I had a decision to make because there’s only two things you can do in such a situation. You can hurt them back. You can remove your suffering and return it to the sender– and this is what I chose to do. I defamed their name and gossiped about their character and made a mockery of them. It broke them down and I felt relief that it was no longer me who was suffering, but them. This was my justice.
But I had another choice, and that was to forgive. Now forgiving isn’t easy. There are so many people who can spit out the grand wisdom of, “oh, just forgive them.” If it’s that easy and you’ve been able to “just forgive” them, then you haven’t been truly wronged to begin with.
Because it’s not easy to forgive when you’ve been caused a lot of pain. Because what forgiveness means is instead of removing your suffering and placing it on the other person, is that you continue to suffer. It is suffering not being able to yell at a person who mistreated you, it is suffering to know that you were right when they believed in wrong. It is suffering to hold in retribution. But here’s the kicker:
Evil already won once when you were hurt and began to suffer. It prevailed when your friend said those words to you or treated you the way he or she did. When you respond with more hurt, you allow evil to win again. It is not “good” to retaliate, it is evil. But it can be defeated.
When you decide to forgive somebody, you decide to suffer so that they do not. We need to remember that forgiveness can never be made without suffering.
It’s a simple principle and it’s like debt. When there is a debt between two people, someone has to pay. Either the person who owes suffers to cough up the dough, or the person who is in debt swallows the debt and suffers the loss.
This image of forgiveness and suffering gives us insight into how we ought to understand the gospel and how understand our relationship with God.
We have wronged God, we are sinners who are broken and unworthy to be in his presence. We have taken his creation and defiled it, we haven’t and can’t live up to his law which leads to the righteousness and holiness that he demands. And so God, like us, is presented with the same decision.
Now we know that there is a debt in our sin. And it needed to be paid. Now, God could have made us pay it. How do you pay for your sin?
“For the wages of sin is death..” Romans 6:23
Sin costs us our lives and separation from God. He could have chosen, just as I did, to make us suffer for the suffering we caused on Him. But he didn’t.
He forgave us, and it cost him. He had to suffer, and in this case it cost him the life of His only son.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (completed)
How does your understanding of forgiveness help you understand the sacrifice of Jesus that God made so that you can live?
Forgive, knowing that you will suffer, so that you can be an example of the sacrificial forgiveness that God has had on your life, and that you may defeat evil in doing so.
All of this was inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a sermon by Tim Keller on the significance of communion that Jesus made which can be found here.