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How do I forgive people who have INTENTIONALLY hurt me? Made me suffer? How do I forgive evil? Will they get what they deserve?
God will bring justice.
“Lord, help me to want to forgive.”
This was the bold prayer of my friend who grew up with parents who were in a cult. They subjected her to every type of sexual and sadistic abuse you can think of.
This friend came to mind during two lectures I heard during my recent trip to Oxford. One exercise in particular got me thinking…
“Think of the three greatest lives that have ever been lived.”
I thought of my abused friend.
“Then imagine one of those lives and subtract all the suffering.”
My friend is amazing. But one of the reasons I know she is amazing is because of the ways I have seen her choose to let God transform her suffering into something good.
Contemplating my friend’s life, as well as these Oxford lectures, I wanted to share some of my recent epiphanies.
“Justice and Persecution” was the title of Tanya Walker’s lecture, so I naturally assumed it would be about social justice. I was wrong. It was a lecture on forgiveness.
Her three main points were simple but were unleashed with a convicting freedom:
1. Do not take revenge.
2. Forgive. (As He forgave us.)
3. Love our enemies.
Just rereading these reminds me why Christianity can be so contrary to every FIBER OF MY BEING.
Walker shared a story of a woman whose father repeatedly had sex with her and her sisters. The lecture hall was completely silent as she described the unfathomable: Jesus’ healing the woman’s wounds and enabling her to forgive her father.
I was sick, and convicted. And I don’t think I was alone.
Walker explained that we serve a God of justice, but not one who delights in judgment. Read that again.
She said when we expect God to simply be our big bully, we are misusing a God who takes no pleasure in the wicked dying. This is a God who wants everyone to turn from his or her ways and live in communion with Him. Walker explained how Christ gave us an example when He said, “Father, forgive them,” rather than, “I forgive them.”
Walker’s words led me to this realization: When I forgive, I am entrusting my desire for judgment into the hands of a just God who doesn’t long to see any of us suffer.
I haven’t suffered at the hands of a cult or a father’s evil perversion, but I have encountered evil. I have been deeply wounded. But I have realized two painful things about how I react as a “Christian” when the pain and memories resurface.
1. I want freedom from the pain, so I forgive.
2. In my own piety and desire for freedom, I have forgiven with the caveat of “I serve a God of judgment, and He will make that person pay. Big time.”
Am I alone in this?
“We and true persecutors stand in the same camp,” said Walker.
Yes, we are all sinners and because God wants all His children to turn to Him, I know Walker’s statement is true. But, at the same time, I still want to stomp my feet and say, “Yeah, but…!”
Let me be clear. We have our justice system in place for a reason. A father who rapes his little girl needs to go to jail, and parents who perform sadistic rituals need to be put in straightjackets, but what I am proposing is how to find personal freedom in the midst of people who choose to hurt us, people who choose evil.
I thought freedom from pain would come on the heels of seeing those who have wronged me or my friends suffer. But true freedom comes only when I realize and appreciate that Jesus suffered for me AND the people who hurt me. When I can forgive my persecutors and desire for God to forgive them without giving them their due…then I have truly forgiven.
Until I believe and appreciate God’s goal of bringing us ALL to Himself, I will try to manipulate God into a judgmental bully instead of a God of true justice who longs for us all.
One of the verses that has always made me feel this camaraderie with Jesus is when He tells the disciples shortly before He suffers and is crucified, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”
Now, I know it’s heretical to change Scripture, but I wonder if this could work too:
“Joy, If the world hurts you, remember that it hurt me first.”
And what was Jesus’ response to those who INTENTIONALLY hurt Him?
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
Is there hurt from a relationship that is too deep to let go? Have you suffered emotionally? Physically?
Jesus asked for the Father to forgive his persecutors because He knew they were lost and trusted the Father’s bigger story. Do you do this, or like me, do you want your persecutors to suffer?
Has God ever transformed your suffering into something good? Could He?
1 John 2
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only butalso for the sins of the whole world.”
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.