Growing up, most of us were taught to abide by the Golden Rule. As Christians, that rule meant to love people as we have been loved by God. It also included forgiving others, since we have been forgiven through Christ. It was also taught that forgiveness should be given freely, because, after all, Christ laid down His life to forgive us–how could we hold grudges over small things?
And I truly believe that–that He, being infinite in love, gave Himself up so that sinners like me would be saved. Making the ultimate sacrifice, He gives an example of how we should not hold those grudges against others, considering we’ve been forgiven for so much more. I owe everything to Christ, even though I, sadly, don’t always act like it.
So it was when I was thrust out of a church I’d been in for over eight years, when everything in my world was turned upside down, when everything I knew about God seemed to be a lie, I strayed away from God and from the church for a few years. I still attended church, but it was very much going through the motions. I didn’t think I believed in God, because how could He allow people who I thought were my friends to betray me, my family, and many other church families?
Again, forgiveness is spoken of many times in the Bible. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving others as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Matthew 16:14-15 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Many, many other verses saying much the same are mentioned in Scripture. And so, it’s very clear that we’re to forgive. But what about the forgetting–not counting what happened as a sin against the offender? Here’s what I’ve worked through for the past several years since the incident happened:
1) As a human, I don’t really know if it’s possible to forget major trespasses. God spreads our sins as far as the east is from the west, but as sinful humans, are we able to do that? I really don’t know, and I hope I’ll discover it in the future.
2) Can one forgive and still have anger? Several years after I left the abusive church I was in, I still wrestle with spite and ill thoughts of the church. Not just for the injustice that I and, more importantly, others endured, but for the fact that the injustice is still carried out to other people.
3) I don’t believe I’m required to act like this never happened. Would I be required to go back to an abusive family member? Of course not, so why should I be reconciled to an abusive church?
4) This incident, while incredibly painful for me and for so many others, taught me a very valuable lesson. Cast out of that church at 18 (having been there since I was 10), my view of God was disjointed. Were we in some sin that I didn’t understand? Was I actually one of the elect? Was God truly just? I had dealt with depression before, but it sent me into that mindset even more deeply. And I’m convinced that, had He not been merciful in showing me His grace (which He had no reason to do except out of compassion), I wouldn’t still be here on the Earth. It took being brought to my lowest low to lift my eyes to Christ, and see how He loves, how He is merciful and great, and how He can take even the hardest heart and mold it to Himself.
5) My heart has been broken, not just for myself, but for the people who were even more hurt than I was by this. The attacks against us were malicious, and being a young adult, I didn’t have to bear as much of the brunt as others did.
Have I truly forgiven? I don’t know for sure. I would like to think I have. But I do know that God is in full control of the hearts of man. His is just, as well as merciful. And so I can pray for both my heart, and for the hearts of those who have offended me. I am a new creation, and though I am still relatively young in my faith, I know that even when I falter, I have the Ultimate Guide.
I found a new church family that uplifts, supports, and prays for its members, but I know that my hope is not in man, not in powers or princes, but my hope is in the Lord.
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