SOURCE: Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 209.
Have you ever been told words like these?
“Well, you know I’ve forgiven you. But I’ll never forget the time you …”
If so, what was your relationship like afterwards?
Was trust restored? Did you feel the warmth and intimacy of true friendship and a restored relationship? Probably not.
Why is such false forgiveness so incredibly unsatisfying? It is because this is not forgiveness modeled on the forgiveness we receive from God in Christ.
When someone claims to forgive you, but continues to remind you of your wrong over and over again, it is easy to feel ongoing guilt and shame. This is in contrast to the happiness–blessedness–and freedom we have knowing that when God forgives us, he removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)
If the person you wronged constantly brings up your past offense and keeps you at a “distance,” it is incredibly hard to relax and be yourself around that person because of the sense of ultimate rejection.
Compare that to the sweetness of our loving relationship with “Abba Father” who grants us the gift of repentance and then runs to his prodigal children to lavish forgiveness on us and restore us into his family.
So what are we called to do?
First of all, we worship God and thank him for his amazing forgiveness.
Secondly, we pray for the grace to never say such harmful and unforgiving words to anyone ourselves.
And lastly, we are called to persevere in relationship with someone who claims to “forgive” us, but who consistently brings up our past offense, tells others about it, and keeps us at arms-length.
We look for opportunities to bless them, share Christ with them, and prayerfully strive to help deliver them from their bitterness and unforgiveness towards us.