Forgiveness is a biblical concept. We all know we are supposed to do it. Forgive our brother and move forward. But what does that look like practically? In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement so sharp that they parted ways. They did reconcile later, but were things ever the same? In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive, He answered seventy times seven.
Now, I hear that. I do my best to live it. But it is hard. When someone does or says something hurtful, depending on the severity of the offense, it takes time to heal. How am I supposed to live alongside someone who has hurt me? What does interacting, worshiping, and communicating with this person look like while I am still working through my pain?
If I am the offended party, once I am able to forgive, I must then decide if I am willing to return. How am I to know which situations constitute moving forward together and which constitute separation? And if separation, how do does one walk away properly? Ghosting is always an option, but I am not of the opinion that is a biblical approach. I am not sure God receives any honor or glory in His children treating one another so haphazardly. In fact, ghosting is cowardly and absolutely rude— I say that as someone who has been on both sides of it.
And not all people are of the opinion that they need forgiveness. These are the people who are sorry you feel that way. I love these people as they are a special breed. Being kind to someone who has been or is being unkind to you is an exercise in humility, to say the least. I've had to smile, say thank you, and work alongside someone who was actively mistreating me. But this post isn’t about them or that. It’s about believers interacting with each other after an offense has been committed. The time between forgiveness and restoration. Because they aren’t events-- not between human beings anyway. How are we supposed to relate to one another in the interim?
I wish I had more answers here, but it is still something I am working through. There have been situations in my life where I believe I walked away too soon, some where I should have walked away sooner, and others where I shouldn’t have walked away at all. In the middle of a stormy situation, it is difficult to see and think clearly. It is all so confusing and a bit overwhelming.
There are times I’ve been so upset with someone for doing something, I’ve sat up and planned out my attack, “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that,” I say. Then I think, what does the bible tell me to do? And it turns me around completely. I remember that my bible tells me to forgive (Matthew 6:14) and to love (John 13:35-34). It tells me to love my enemies as well as my friends (Matthew 5:44). To love my neighbor as I love myself (Mark 12:31). It tells me that love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not proud, and it is not rude, it keeps no record of wrongs, and it perseveres (1Corinthians 13:4-8). It tells me that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the fruits of that spirit are love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Thing is, when I go out and do this, I feel like I am allowing people to walk all over me. I feel like I’m losing, and I’m permitting people to mistreat me. Because what I really want to do is give them a piece of my mind and tell them about themselves! Then I remember that’s not my job. God told me to leave room for His wrath because repaying is His job (Romans 12:19). It is an exercise in obedience and well as humility.
King David, who had every reason and every resource and even had a few opportunities to exact revenge on King Saul didn’t. He left it to God. Leaving it to the Lord. Giving it to God. Something I keep returning to. It is my Sankofa. I pray, I remember, and I go back and get it. Perhaps I should stop putting it down. It is my pride that gets me all riled up. Caught up in the offense, feeling like the victim. My mother used to repeat the second half of Matthew 10:16 to me when I was younger, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” As a believer, God does not call us to be ignorant, He calls us to be obedient. Just like David did. Often, I see it. I know that aught is amiss. That something disagreeable reeks just beneath the surface. It is the knowing that someone is being sneaky, dishonest, withholding elements of the truth, treating me unfairly, and doing nothing about it, not defending myself that kills me. It eats away at my pride. But I will continue to return to the truth I know. Forgive and love. Love and forgive. Because God said that if you love me, you will obey me. God’s love for me is unconditional, but my love for Him comes with a condition. For a moment, when I am caught in a battle between my pride and my love for Christ, I remember that I have been down pride’s road, and I know exactly where it leads. I remember that I am not my own and that God is the leading authority in my life. No matter what things seem like and feel like, He is my truth. So, I go back because I love Him. I treat my broken brother the way God has commanded me to. Because I am broken too.