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Understanding Forgiveness

Understanding Forgiveness

Do you struggle to forgive someone who has not admitted wrong doing?  Maybe you wonder whether you are supposed to forgive someone who has never admitted hurting you.

I’m pretty sure we have all struggled with this at some point in our lives.  It is important to understand there are two kinds of forgiveness; one restores our souls while the other reconciles our souls.

In Luke 23:34 Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  This is a remarkable conversation Jesus is having with God while he is hanging on a cross.  Giant nails are the only things that pin his hands and feet to a cross.  His body is limp and the weight of it compromises every breath.  Yet, in his immense pain, he is more concerned for the welfare of those who hurl insults at him than his own discomfort.

If you ever doubt the love Jesus has for you, just remember what Jesus begs of God in this scene.  He knows and understands God’s wrath on those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet Jesus knew in due time, many of those people who nailed Him to the cross would come to believe He was actually their savior; the promised Messiah the Old Testament had prophesied about.

In Luke 23, a lot is going on regarding that dark day.  Jesus is asking God to forgive those who are crucifying Him.  Meanwhile, a thief on the cross next to Him is making his own observations.  If you are familiar with this story, then you might see what I see.  I see something “click” with this thief.  He has obviously been in enough trouble that it resulted in execution by crucifixion.  A troubled life for sure, yet something happens here.  He observes Jesus’ unconditional love for mankind while suffering immense pain mankind has inflicted.

Jesus understands the confused, the lost, the troubled, the rebels, the persecutors; and he prays for them to be forgiven.  He does not desire revenge.  He does not desire God’s wrath on them.  He desires God’s forgiveness of them for He knows the future might change their understanding and their ways.

There are two thieves; each hanging on either side of Jesus.  One is hurling insults at Jesus while the other is observing and processing what he is seeing.  Somewhere along the way in this thief’s life, a seed was planted in his heart.  It has never taken root until this very moment.  He, in fact, confesses he deserves punishment for his crimes yet he is unafraid to ask Jesus to take him into His heavenly kingdom.

The kind of forgiveness Jesus shows is a forgiveness which “restores the soul”.  It puts love back into the equation of life.  This kind of forgiveness makes us approachable.  Maybe this is the only love this thief has ever witnessed.  The power of forgiveness not only changes the way we respond to others but it restores our souls in a way that draws people to us and not away from us.  This thief could approach Jesus because Jesus’ soul did not hold bitterness toward the ungodly.

So, what about the forgiveness which “reconciles” our souls? The two thieves on the cross were literally separated by salvation.  One rejected Jesus and would forever be separated from God.  The other, however, understood he was a sinner, admitted he deserved death and recognized Jesus as his one and only savior.

Jesus’ took this man into his heavenly kingdom never again to be separated from God.  Sin separates us from God.  Jesus reconciles us back to God and we are promised an eternity in God’s presence.

The key to this thief’s salvation and restoration was repentance.  The key to any “reconciled” relationship is repentance.

We forgive others even when they don’t ask for it so that OUR souls are restored.  We can be “restored” without being “reconciled” in a relationship.

Harboring bitterness and anger does not change the other person or the situation.  It changes us.  Instead of exuding love, we exude hate and bitterness.   We rob ourselves of joy.  We become unapproachable.

Forgiveness which “restores the soul” is for our benefit and does not depend on the action of others.  It is entirely our own choice and responsibility.

Forgiveness which “reconciles our souls” is for the relationship’s benefit and can only be done through genuine repentance.  Once again, it is our choice and our responsibility to repent or forgive those who genuinely repent of their wrong doing against us.

Repentance reconciles our relationship to God through Jesus Christ.  Admission of wrong doing reconciles our relationship with others, as well.  We trade our pride for something far more valuable.  Nothing lost; only gain.

Do you need to let go of bitterness and forgive someone who has never admitted they wronged you? You may forgive them in your heart but you may never be reconciled.  At least you will be restored even though the relationship doesn’t get reconciled.

Maybe you have rejected Jesus your whole life.  Do you need to repent and be reconciled to God through the love of Jesus Christ?  He understands you perfectly! He has even been waiting for you to approach Him about it!

What are you going to do today to “restore” and “reconcile”?


Janice Bobanis

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