The Misunderstood Truth About Forgiveness
by Michael Desgrosseilliers, Elijah House Prayer Counselor
When I first became a Christian, I believed that forgiveness was a “one and done” issue.
If forgiveness is real, I thought, I have to forgive someone who offended me all in one shot. Fully and completely, whether I want to or not.
With that as my mindset, guess how much true forgiveness happened in my heart? None!
Several years ago, my wife and I were part of a ministry team. We supported this ministry and strongly believed in the direction it was going, as well as in the couple who led it. The husband and I were best friends.
One day we were invited into a mutual friend’s office. He was a pastor. When we arrived, the pastor’s wife was also in attendance, and we were surprised to see my best friend and his wife there as well.
After some verbal pleasantries, my friend and his wife—people we considered safe for our hearts—began to accuse my wife and me of some very serious things, such as operating under a Jezebel and Ahab spirit. This duo in the Old Testament worked against God’s purposes, and Jezebel was responsible for slaughtering God’s prophets.
Being accused by leaders we loved dearly and served with shoulder to shoulder, and by a pastor who was a mentor to me—this was betrayal at its worst. To say we were devastated is an understatement.
I knew that, as a true Christian, I needed to forgive these people for the hurt they caused with their accusations. In particular, I had to forgive my friend for his betrayal.
But as I tried to walk out forgiveness, I realized I was dreadfully lacking and had little to offer.
“How can I possibly forgive these people who hurt me so badly?” I asked God.
As it happened, a new understanding began to dawn in me in relationship to forgiveness.
What You Have Right Now Is Enough
In the New Testament, Jesus explained forgiveness by telling a parable about a servant who was released from paying a huge monetary debt.
Okay, I thought, if we’re talking in terms of money here, I can see that I need $1.00 of total and complete forgiveness. But, God, I have only two cents. What am I supposed to do?
As I asked that question, something happened in my heart. It gradually became clear to me that God was asking for only what I had in my hand. I had two cents of forgiveness—and that was enough.
I also realized that any forgiveness I had came from Him in the first place.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (Jas. 1:17 NKJV)
That was a profound revelation for me—He does not expect something from us that we don’t have!
So I gave Him my pittance, and He accepted it.
True Forgiveness Comes From God
Fast forward all these years later, and the work of forgiveness in this instance has reached about $0.97. Not quite complete yet, but I know it will be complete one day. Of that I have no doubt.
The forgiveness that heals our heart—godly forgiveness—comes only from the Lord. We cannot muster it up from our own inner resources. As John and Paula Sandford wrote in Transforming the Inner Man, “We do no good thing. He accomplishes all.”
By contrast, worldly forgiveness looks very different: “I forgive you because I am a much better person than you.” Or “I forgive you, but now you owe me.”
Godly forgiveness says, “You owe me nothing.” It completely releases those who have hurt us. They no longer have to pay any measure of the debt.
Forgiveness benefits us far more than it benefits the person who hurt us. By choosing to forgive their debt, we release the pain and any bitterness the offense may have caused in us. And as we release that pain, we find peace and rest. At last.
Forgiveness is a work that can take time. We’re able to forgive some offenses easily and quickly, while others take longer because of the depth of the pain involved.
But that’s okay. Our “two cents” is enough to begin the process with God.