I so appreciate Christ’s effort on the cross which makes forgiveness available to me. All I have to do is accept it, ask for it and it is mine! Once I have repented of my sin and received forgiveness, could there be a discipline which attends it? Is there a practice which can bring me into greater proximity to God through forgiveness, the very thing He has given freely? Surely! I call it accepting the full force of forgiveness and that its power can ripple in areas within myself and any person who needs it.
I have seen some not get the full force of forgiveness when they have blocked its healing power. In Matthew 18, Jesus gives several lessons on forgiveness, and most pointedly in verse 35, he ends the series of lessons by saying, “Unless you forgive from your heart…” You are to forgive from the place of hurt and anger, the place you feel it the most. Forgiveness is not just a good idea, it is a balm to a hurting heart. The full force of forgiveness is to provide healing and freedom from the sin against you. It is surely a discipline to allow forgiveness that far reach into the center of who you are.
We may want to forgive in theory, but not practice. I heard this in statements such as, “I forgive her but…” or “I have tried to forgive” or “I have forgiven him in my mind.” People say this because they have only applied forgiveness as an idea. It may be a good idea, but just an idea. Not a practice.
Failing to get healed from an offense is proof that forgiveness has not been “from the heart.” Depending on the scale of the offense, seeking healing may be a severe discipline. I may need therapy. I may need deep community prayer and support. I may need to own any complicity in the sin (i.e. vengefulness, bitterness, despair) and repent so that the full force of forgiveness can enter my heart for someone else. To forgive as such is to be able to remember without hurting.
Another area where people often need the full force of forgiveness is in forgiving themselves. I have heard people say it is harder to forgive themselves than anyone else. As with any other person, forgiving oneself involves the same discipline. If this is you, I challenge you to think and say out loud the following:
I need to repent of _________, which has harmed me greatly.
- This means I know I have wronged myself and the good work God wants to do in me.
- I am committed to changing that behavior to keep God’s goals and power at the center of that change.
- I am committed to making reconciliation with myself, to prove that I can be trusted.
Don’t hold back the power of God from any person, even yourself. If we forgive like God forgives, it is surely a discipline. God went to extreme measures to make forgiveness available. He intends it to be a force in our lives, especially when we learn how to direct it towards all who need it.
To become ready to forgive may be the greatest part of this discipline and with God at the center, forgiveness is no longer a trite assent to a good idea. Instead, the force of forgiveness reverberates through our lives and rebuilds them, which can provide a testimony as to God’s power in and through forgiveness. What a discipline!