To err is human, so it’s almost impossible not to wrong or be wronged by others. So forgiveness is a necessary part of life if we are to build healthy relationships.
We need to realize that God’s purpose in the process of forgiveness is accomplished when we obey His command to forgive others. We cannot see God’s mercy on us or His intent in a bad experience until we first forgive the offending person. If we try to do it the other way around, it only leads to confusion. Some of us have asked God to show us His purpose for the pain or hurt, and only then are we willing to release the one who has wronged us. The way it works is that we live by faith. God says we must release them first and then He will release what He has for us.
We must first take whatever action we can, and only after releasing someone do we have the freedom to understand the purpose. While holding a grudge, we separate from God and He cannot properly speak to us. When we release the offending person(s), we open the doors between us and God so that He can teach us. He can then show us His intention in pain.
“God works for the good of all things in those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV). This verse is very important on this point to understand God’s purpose in this process. Not all things are good. The Bible never says all things are good. The pain we have experienced is not good. Things like sexual harassment, physical abuse, and other painful experiences are not good. God understands that we live in this broken, sinful world and bad things happen. Call it what it is; it’s bad – but release the offenders and then God can miraculously bring good out of bad situations. God does this repeatedly and we experience His miracles in our lives. This shows us the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph forgave his brothers and could see God’s salvation through his bad experiences caused at their hands.
When we release the person and process God’s purposes, the Bible says the next step is to meet face to face. Jesus said: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his guilt, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15 NIV) The Bible tells us to restore the relationship whenever possible.
However, this is not always necessary. We may have heard that we need to forgive, forget, and restore, but all of these activities are different. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same.
There are times when you should not reconcile and restore the relationship. For example:
• Do not restore the relationship if doing so will result in further personal harm.
• Do not reestablish the relationship if the other party is not in the emotional or mental state to make the attempt.
• Don’t restore the relationship unless it was broken. Sometimes we’re hurt, but the other person didn’t hurt us on purpose, so don’t create a problem if there isn’t one.
• Don’t restore the relationship based on an expectation of how the restoration should go. That said, don’t expect the person to get on their knees and beg for forgiveness or put themselves at your mercy.
Forgive in obedience to God and watch Him miraculously work it out for your good.