“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” Hebrews 12:14-15 [NASB]
Much of my time over the past week, really couple of weeks, has been committed to seeking the Lord to better understand repentance, forgiveness and restoration in relationships. I know God has clearly instructed us to immediately go when we have hurt or offended someone to reconcile with them (Matt. 5:23-24). And we are told even if someone sins against us seven times in one day, if they say they repent, we must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4). I am told I am to forgive just as God in Christ forgave me (Eph. 4:32) and I am told, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions” (Mar. 11:25 NASB).
God clearly called me to entrust to Him the deep wound inflicted by another and to forge in my heart the gift of forgiveness, but I struggled to understand what I was to “do” with the forgiveness. Repentance always precedes forgiveness, so where does the forgiveness “go” when there is no repentance? Forgiveness, especially in the case of deep, grievous wounds, is a precious, costly gift sacredly offered by the forgiver. When the wound is deep, forgiveness should be handled by the recipient as an exquisite treasure, recognizing it has been painfully birthed out of agony in the heart of the forgiver.
I initially prepared to offer my tearstained gift of forgiveness to the intended recipient, presuming they would come desperately desiring it, but they never came. I was left with this precious gift in hand uncertain where to put it. After much prayer and study, I now realize that I am to entrust that costly gift of forgiveness to God, alongside the wound that necessitated it. I trust Him fully and He alone knows the broken heart from which they have come, so who better to possess them?
As God does His work in the other person, in His time, perhaps the other person will come to repentance and desire restoration. If they do, I believe He will hand my precious gift of forgiveness back to me so I can personally gift it to them. But if that person never comes to repentance and never desires my costly gift, my Savior is holding it close to His heart. It is a fragrant offering to Him, sacrificially offered up in obedience. As I daily entrust the wound and the forgiveness to Him, He is miraculously healing me day by day as only He can.
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Roman 12:17 [NASB]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening