|Series Theme: Forgiveness|
Title: 2. Is there an Outstanding Offence Hanging over my Life?
These pages are primarily for Christians, but we hope that if you are a non-Christian you will benefit from them as well. This page is one of four and the subjects covered are:
On page 1 of these four pages about forgiveness, you will find the basics which need understanding whether you are the offender or the offended.
This page is for those who have been offended, but if you haven't yet read Parts 1 & 2 of the first page, you should do before progressing through this one.
If you have been wronged in the past and it has not been properly dealt with, then both you and your Offender will have things in your lives yet to be dealt with, things that stop you living completely at peace.
Perhaps for most of the time you handle it well, but every now and then, the past raises its ugly head and you realise there are still areas that are not settled. We hope this page will help you.
2. To Recap:
On page 1 we said that the approach of "offence then forgiveness" without acknowledgement by the offender, was unbiblical. Why is that?
First, because that is not the approach laid down by the Bible.
Luke 17:3 gives the order: offence - rebuke - repentance - forgiveness.
Moreover in Colossians 3:13 there is a clear injunction to "Forgive as the Lord forgave you ".
The vital question therefore, for an offended person is "How did the Lord forgive me?"
Whether the forgiveness was when you became a Christian, or at some other later times when you have been aware of needing God's forgiveness, the principles are the same.
3. How did God forgive me?
There were certain clear things that happened:
3.1 He confronted me
At some point God pointed out my wrong to me; He faced me with it. That might have been through your conscience, He might have spoken directly into you by His Spirit, He might haver spoken to you through His word, or He might have spoken to you through someone else, perhaps a preacher.
3.2 He made provision for me to be forgiven.
Wrongs deserve punishment. God ensures every wrong is punished. When He forgives you He doesn't condone what you did and write it off as trivial. He knows that every wrong will have consequences in eternity. For you to inherit all the wonders of heaven in eternity, God has to remove any stigma against you so there is no outstanding issue to be paid for.
The truth is that Jesus Christ paid for your guilt and shame, and took your punishment when he hung on the Cross. How could he? Because he is the eternal Son of God who existed in time two thousand years ago, but also outside of time in eternity.
God has done everything He could to ensure your forgiveness.
3.3 He was patient and waited until I came to repentance.
If God put a time limit on our repentance, we would be in dire trouble. Suppose He said, "I'll give you ten minutes after every offence for you to repent. If you don't, you're dead meat!" We would have been dead long ago!
Imagine an offence, let's make it a simple one: you get stressed with the children and you blow it, and you scream and shout and swear at them. That IS an offence against God as well against the children. You didn't realise it? Wow! And that was a simple one!
Anyway, imagine you did it. It takes you half an hour to calm down, and then another half an hour to come round to saying sorry. What is God doing? He's just waiting for you!
3.4 He still loved me while He waited.
Yes, this is staggering, especially when you think of bigger offences. The reality is that God still loves us while He's waiting.
Yes, He may discipline us and it may be painful (Hebrews 12:5,6) but He still loves us. What is even more amazing, He may actually bless us with good things while He's waiting!
Some of us take ages to come to repentance over some issues and amazingly God still continues to pour our His love on us. Don't ever say that God doesn't care about your sin because He's still blessing you. That's just a sign of His grace - He's still waiting!
3.5 He forgave me when I repented.
The moment you acknowledged it and confessed it, He dealt with it (1 John 1:9) - gone, a past event!
Now let's just list those things to ensure we take them in:
But note that He did NOT forgive me until I repented. To forgive when there is no repentance is to minimise the seriousness of Sin.
Go through the Bible if you like, and check it out - God only forgives when we have repented. This is of vital importance. Your sin is so important, Jesus had to die for it!
So, we said above that in Colossians 3:3 it says we are to forgive as God forgave us. We therefore need to look at this list of the things that happen when God forgives us, and see how they apply to us when we have been wronged by another person.
4. How must I go about forgiving my Offender?
Let's translate the list to me and my offender:
That looks a pretty awesome list, so we must go through them carefully to see what they mean.
On the first page we suggested the offender would really need God's grace to face the truth and come and ask for forgiveness. Now we suggest that you, the offended, will need God's grace even more.
The likelihood is that even as you look at the list, everything in you, in the first instance, will scream "No!"
Please, read through what follows carefully:
4.1 I must confronted them.
Here are some suggested guidelines:
a) I am to do it gently.
How would YOU like to be faced with your failures? I suspect the answer is, gently.
b) I am to remember I want to do everything to help them come into a good place.
As a Christian, and as you have read the first page, you realise that this person has been missing the mark in life because they have an outstanding unresolved issue with God. If we obey Jesus' command to love one another ( John 13:34 ) then however much this person has offended us, we must want them to come to good with God. (You can hate what they did but still look for their best - look on the "Knowing Love (2)" page for an illustration of this.)
c) I am to acknowledge any contribution I made to their sin, e.g. provoking them?
It is possible that when I look back on what happened, if I am honest about it, then I can see that I contributed to the wrong. If we are to act righteously before God, then we must be truthful. This may also mean that I am to confess my own sin and ask their forgiveness if necessary, and if I do this, I am to do it unconditionally, and it is not to depend on how they respond to me!
Now you can see why you will need God's grace to do this properly.
4.2 I must make provision for them to be forgiven.
Again here are some suggestions about this:
a) I am to ensure MY attitude is right.
My attitude has to be first godly and second righteous. I am to have one eye on the wishes of my heavenly Father, and the other on ensuring that I am acting in a way I know He would approve.
b) I am not to be attacking but seeking reconciliation.
If I go in on the attack, looking for revenge instead of seeking reconciliation, then I am not genuinely looking for them to come to repentance so that I can bring forgiveness.
c) I should look for a good opportunity.
If I come across the person and they are clearly stressed, then this is unlikely to be a favourable time for them to come to repentance. I know if it was me, being confronted when I am off guard and stressed would make it very difficult to respond graciously and correctly - and this is what we are desiring.
4.3 I must be patient and wait until they come to repentance.
In this instance, I need to think through the following:
a) I need to recognise that I cannot force their repentance.
My coming to this point is an act of God's grace. It will need to be the same for them. This cannot be rushed and I may need to be patient.
b) I must rest in God's love and let Him bring this repentance.
I must trust that God wants us both to come into a right place with each other and with Him, and that He will work to bring repentance in my offender, if He has prompted me to this point of confrontation (2 Timothy 2:25). I may have to wait for a good conclusion, and while waiting I must just ask for God's love and grace to handle it well.
c) I must recognise that I may have to leave them in God ’ s hands many years.
If God has been patient with me, then I may have to wait many years to hear or see a good conclusion to this, and it is possible that they may never, to my knowledge, put it right. I may not be able to pronounce forgiveness, but I must keep myself in a good attitude by the grace of God.
4.4 I must still love them while I wait.
This is where it really gets difficult! This is why we said these pages are for Christians. If you have never come into a relationship with God through Christ, you will not be able to have the grace we've been talking about when you've been hurt, abused, derided or whatever, by your offender.
But if we are a Christian, then Jesus' teaching must be taken seriously. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. Surely this must now include this person who "offended" us and for whom we quite likely don't hold good feelings! Somehow I need to get grace in this situation!
4.5 I must forgave them when they repent.
If I have been through the above stages honestly, and seeking God for His grace, by the time we come to this stage it will be easy.
To forgive means I declare it. To forgive means I never raise it again
5. No Repentance - No Forgiveness
To forgive like God forgives, also means I do not forgive when there is no repentance.
If you have taken in what has been said above, you will begin to see that for YOU this is not a big issue.
You will have checked and corrected your attitude towards your Offender before you get to the state of actual confrontation. You ARE wanting them to accept your challenge and come to repentance so that you can declare forgiveness, but once you have done that, you need to leave them to God.
If I have been through all the stages correctly, and there is still no repentance, then I:
- May simply state that I believe they have an outstanding issue with God for which He holds them accountable. Difficult to say graciously, but necessary.
- Must hold a compassionate attitude while saying it and concluding the contact. I must not low er my guard and lessen the quality of my good attitude.
- Seek to leave the door open, for them to be able to come back to me at some future time. They may yet think it through and want to come back to you. You must always have that possibility in mind.
6. And So...
To summarise, if we have been wronged by another, and we are a Christian, then we will be looking to God for grace to deal with the situation as the Bible shows it.
This is NOT:
We recognise that what we have on this page is difficult. In fact without God's help, it is probably impossible. In the Christian life many things are like this, and God allows them expressly to bring us to the point where we realise we cannot get by without Him, for in His presence is life and peace.