Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
The degree of our release must correspond to the magnitude of our redemption. The secret to letting go the hurts of others is to get deeper into the severity of my own. When I fixate on how I was wronged the only out is to focus on how I have wronged. This is not done to encourage the growth of shame but enable the access of freedom. Self-reflection is not the same thing as self-esteem. Often my truest reflection on self brings little esteem with it. Yet it can offer when led by the Spirit to a better and richer place of personal peace, because I have made God’s relationship to me the orbit of my life rather than my relationship to others. The former creates hope for the latter. Growing with the Lord is stepping into the infinity of His existence, a vast expanse of forgiveness, wisdom, power, truth and love which provides capacity to be presence in finite relationships that hurt, are confusing, can distract and don’t always edify.
We need to dwell with God and visit others. Our home needs to the Lord and every street of life which leads from Him is seen as a connection back to Him. Picking flowers will not kill the plant because despite the fact they possess the most obvious attraction they contain the least necessary energy. In fact they are the end result of the plant’s stored energy – they are the thing that the roots make possible. They need the roots but the roots can survive without them. In fact sometimes they have to be plucked so the plant itself can be healthier and put energy back where it belongs – to the roots. Sometimes we need pauses in those relationships which are the ends of our energy so we can return to the One who is the source. Jesus drew away to be with Father before and after ministry to others.
We forgive as the Lord forgives us – we extend what we have. And in that there is great power because God is not asking us to give away anything we don’t have. God is not asking someone with twenty dollars to give a million. He is asking someone with a million dollars to give away twenty.
Note that the grievance here isn’t imaginary. That is what is lacking in a lot of forgiveness work – naming the truth that the sin and wound was very real and that the offending party does indeed deserve to be judged and condemned for how they acted and what they did. Forgiveness cannot occur without sin. Otherwise it is just reframing. Forgiveness isn’t about seeing things a different way. Forgiveness is about seeing things for the truth of what really happened and combining the reality of sin with the character of God. True forgiveness requires real sin – and that means that we have to get real with how harmed we have been, or how harmful we have acted. What someone did to you was wrong – that is the truth. In fact they so moved out of God’s holiness that their life of rebellion to Him deserves utter destruction. And so has our own. The hard part about really forgiving others is accepting that we have been forgiven ourselves – and that our fate should have been the same. Indeed, if you find yourself holding onto shame despite knowing that you are forgiven by God, consider the possibility that you haven’t forgiven someone else as deeply as you should, because there is a connection between how aware we are of our prior lostness to how loving we are can be in our current crisis.
God is the measure by which we evaluate our actions. Thankfully He is the power through which those actions become possible. In a fallen world it is difficult to live a day without some offense being done, great or small, traumatic or troublesome, horrific or hidden. The question will be whether the call to endure the presence of others will be greater than the temptation to condemn their error. Will we choose the temporary elation of feeling superior or the permanent freedom of forgiving well? Because there is no middle ground. We can either be eternally free or feel forever wronged. Either we will be tormented by what we cannot release or released from what tormented us. Either we choose to see ourselves from the perspective of grace and therefore view others, or see others from the lens of judgment and therefore define ourselves. Jesus has taken the sin of all upon the cross of one. That includes what happened to you, and happened by you. If we desire liberty from the latter we must give to Him the former.
By God’s grace we can do for others what has been done for us. We are not being tasked with the impossible, but the eternal. God will handle the justice. You live the grace.