In the Old Testament books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, God gives us the “hear and forgive” example of his forgiveness. This is an easy example for us to identify with, for it involves hearing the plea for forgiveness and then granting it. In these two books, the people of Israel called out to God, who heard them from heaven and forgave their sin (1 Kings 8:30, 34, 36, 39; 2 Chronicles 6:21, 25, 27, 30, 39). Forgiveness follows a plea for the same. It makes sense to us that if someone does us wrong, that person should recognize it and ask for forgiveness.
Some of us desire nothing more than for the one who wronged us to cry out for our forgiveness.
We dream of being in the position of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
We want the person to acknowledge a relationship with us (“if my people who are called by my name”), exhibit an attitude of submission to us (“humble themselves, pray, seek my face”), and show their remorse (“and turn from their wicked ways”).
If all these conditions are met, then we will consider following.
God, of course, restores the relationship broken by sin (“then I will hear from heaven:”), agrees to the request (“and will fogive their sin”), and goes even further to provide blessings (“and heal their land”).
That is what God does, but it doesn’t always work that way with us.
Even if the person does all of the above, we may still withhold forgiveness because of the depth of our own hurt. We may not have the freedom of forgiveness, but we’ll gladly settle for the satisfaction of their humiliation. The truth is, their humiliation is what we desire most. Through it, we feel vindicated and powerful, especially if their sin against us made us feel powerless, vulnerable, and victimized. We want them to beg for forgiveness in order to exact revenge.
We want to dangle the carrot of forgiveness in front of them in order to wield the stick of retribution.
This is not the purpose of forgiveness.
For example, God does not need to forgive us in order to feel powerful; he is almighty. It is not being in the position to forgive that exhibits power but the expression of forgiveness that proves it. The psalmist said, “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4, NIV). It doesn’t say that God is feared because he might forgive; it says he is feared because he does forgive.
The act of forgiveness is the sovereign act. It is not a submissive act; it is an act of power.
SOURCE: Chapter 3: “Forgiveness,” God Can Help You Heal by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.
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