“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.” (Colossians 3:13)
There are three ideas that I want to present to you over the next 3 weeks that will help you put forgiveness in action in your relationships with others. The first thing to remember we covered last week and is that when you’re faced with the need to forgive someone…
- Put yourself where they are, and put them where you are.
Here’s the second idea that will help you see forgiveness in action.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you abandon all boundaries.
Let’s think about how God forgives us: He throws our sins behind His back and He tosses our them all in the depths of the sea and separates them as far as the east is from the west.
This is absolutely true. It’s also true that when God forgives, His Spirit continues to work with us and in us, so that our sin is not just forgiven, it is ultimately eradicated.
In other words, He forgives us as many times as necessary — seventy times seven, Jesus said, which means forgiveness without limit — and He also works with us through His Spirit so that our bad behavior is replaced with good behavior.
You could say that God loves you too much to let you stay the way you are. There’s a sense in which we need to have this same attitude with others — not in a condescending way, not in an I’m-better-than-you way, but in a way that says, “This is a serious issue between us, and I’m not here to condemn you or judge or withhold mercy, because I too need mercy. But I love you too much to not try to make this right.”
I’ve seen too many situations where well-meaning and sincere people, in the name of forgiveness, become enablers to the destructive behavior of others. Or they become a doormat. Or they allow themselves to be mistreated, again and again and again and again. And they think, “That’s what I have to do, because that’s what grace and mercy and forgiveness is all about.” And that’s not really the case.
Grace and mercy and forgiveness are not about abandoning all boundaries and giving everyone free reign in your life to destroy everything that matters. You can forgive someone completely, and still maintain proper boundaries. Doing so is not only good for you, it’s good for them too.
Paul said to the church in Galatia…
If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.
When it comes to forgiving others, we need to remember that the goal is not to forgive them and pretend it never happened and give them carte blanche to come back and hurt us more. The goal in forgiveness is to bring restoration and healing — not only to restore your relationship with that person, but to restore that person’s relationship with God.
When you forgive, if it’s at all possible, put some boundaries in place — not just to protect yourself, but to protect that other person from themselves.
I’m saying that when it’s on you to forgive someone else, forgive them. Don’t seek revenge or try to hurt them back, just forgive them. And then, in love, set up whatever boundaries you can to protect both of you, so that it doesn’t have to happen again.