You will hurt. If you’re in a relationship of any kind, sooner or later, you will be hurt by someone and someone will be hurt by you. And the deeper you love the deeper the hurt will go. Only those who never love never hurt. Only those who hurt have ever loved.
Love, then, is not a barrier against hurt (offense or sin). It is a barrier against unforgiveness. Love seeks forgiveness (Proverbs 10:12) and forgiveness seeks love (Provbers 17:9). Love is not at peace while an offense stands in its way; it resolves to move that obstacle out of the way. Forgiveness is not at rest while sin makes an advance; it purposes to move forward and to go deeper and higher into love, to explore the furthest boundaries of love. Why?
THE POWER OF UNFORGIVENESS
Unforgiveness seeks its own way. Daily I get up early to enjoy time to myself—my time. I french press my coffee. I grab my book. I sit in my chair. I claim ownership of all this. Until,…. Often my son or daughter, my wife, or some interruption lays claim to what is “mine”. I feel the annoyance, the frustration, the anger mounting. Then I realize the reason I’m really upset: my claim of ownership has been denied me.
This is at the heart of unforgiveness. “A legitimate claim has been denied me. Now you owe me. I am owed and I demand repayment for what you’ve taken.” Here unforgiveness seeks to make us master over others. In turn we seek to control, to dominate, to manipulate. We can’t let this go; we won’t let our will be undone or go undone; we can’t spare them for what they’ve done.
We intend then to shape and conform them into the image of our choosing and liking: the perfect person we can control or the monster we must condemn. All the while we are oblivious to the misshaping and deforming taking place to our own hearts by the power of unforgiveness.
The longer you hold on to unforgiveness, the longer it holds on to you—the deeper its claws and grip go into you. Where you think or feel you are receiving power from it over others, you are actually giving it power over you. In exchange for this power you have surrendered your heart little by little, until in the end you belong to it completely, and, with your life, everything it promised would be yours. Turns out nothing is actually “mine”.
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
To escape unforgiveness we must escape through forgiveness, and we must escape before it destroys not only us but all of our relationships.
The act of forgiving is a double act. First, we surrender ourself and in doing so declare, “I will not be mastered (by unforgiveness).” Second, we surrender the other and in doing so declare, “I will not master them (through unforgiveness).”
The possibility and the ability of our doing this, though, because of our heart’s claim on itself, cannot be found in itself. It must be found outside itself. Precisely in the love and power of Another.
For any slave held under the power of its “owner”or captor, the power must first be broken and defeated before the slave can be granted their release and freedom and a new life can be realized. This happened in the story of The Exodus (Exodus 12-16). Pharaoh was the power that held slaves captive and the Israelites were the people held captive under his power. But God came down and defeated and broke the power of Pharaoh, the power of slavery, and set free the people of Israel into a new land and life.
In the same way, a New Exodus has occurred. The Apostle Paul was sent by God to preach to the prisoners and captives in sin the gospel—the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16)—“to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:17-18). But how would they receive this forgiveness? How could they? “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.” (Matthew 26:28). Here, Jesus—at the feast of Passover, a feast of remembrance and celebration of the saving act of God through which He delivered Israel from Pharaoh and slavery—is making a statement and act of profound historical and eternal significance.
Sin must be dealt with before forgiveness can be granted. In an extravagant and generous act sparing nothing (Romans 8:32), God would give Jesus to the world and Jesus would give himself for the world on the cross, to pay for our sins with his own blood and to break and defeat Sin’s power and hold over our lives, in order that through the cross we may be granted forgiveness of sins: release and freedom and the realization of a new life.
Forgiveness is not only in the act of what Jesus did but also in the reality that it created. Forgiveness is a declaration of power over sin—The Power of Christ: we will no longer be mastered by sin nor shaped and twisted by its power. Our sin has been forgiven, because Sin’s power has been broken, because our sin has been dealt with in and through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is the reality we live in now.
Now every act of forgiving is a double act: when we forgive we experience again, and anew, and afresh, the power of God’s forgiving love in Jesus at work for us and in us and through us in the lives of others. We are resurrected a little bit more; healed a little bit more; conformed a little bit more into the image of Jesus.
As a result there is nothing now that we can’t forgive others of in Christ Jesus, because there’s nothing—no hurt, no offense, no sin— that He hasn’t forgiven us of. In and through Him comes pouring into our hearts His all forgiving-love and His all forgiving-power. It is Christ Jesus who lives in us and teaches us to be forgiving (Galatians 2:20).