Forgiving is an obedient act of the will. I no longer demand justice. I release you from being punished for the harm youve done to me. I no longer hold you in my debt.
But where injuries are deep (betrayal of trust) or persistent, forgiveness must be chosen over and over again. We grow weary of the process. The memory of the offense or a fresh offense stirs resentment again.
How do we become free from the cycle of forgiveness?
Joseph shows us how (Ge 50:15-23).
When Jacob dies, his brothers fear he will at last take revenge for what they did to him so many years before.
They beg him to enslave them rather than kill them.
He weeps at their fear and distrust.
In his answer he explains to them why he doesnt want revenge. He is free and has found peace. He doesnt have to keep forgiving.
There are three reasons for this:
1) v19 Im not your judge. God is. He who knows your hearts will do whats right.
2) v20 Though your intentions were evil, you cannot change Gods plan for my life.
I dont have to stay angry to protect myself.
I dont despair that you ruined me forever (victim) because
Nothing you can do can stop God from blessing me.
3) v21 The devil is trying to destroy our family and our destiny. There is a spiritual attack that goes beyond you and me, to the nation of Israel and the coming Messiah
so rather than starve you as you once tried to do to me, I will feed you.
The root of perpetual forgiveness is often fear. The fear that you have taken my blessing and ruined me. Or that I must remain angry and vigilant to protect myself (there are situations where I must protect myself and others from a dangerous person).
Josephs faith in God set him completely free from fear. He was at peace because he had faith that:
1) God will judge
2) God can overrule in human affairs
3) God had shown him how to overcome this attack. He was to treat them the way they should have treated him.
Our warfare is not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12) but against a spiritual enemy bent on destroying the ministry God
plans for us and our households.
To become free from the cycle of forgiveness these truths become principles upon which we stand.
Now lets apply this to our own lives:
Is there someone you have forgiven over and over, to the point that you doubt whether or not you really have forgiven at all? (Something in the past.)
Is there someone who persistently offends you? No sooner have you forgiven than they wound you again (family, work place, spouse)? (Something continuing in the present.)
The answer is more than to just forgive again. Freedom comes by walking in a deeper level of faith in a God: whos just and powerful, whose plans for you are for good and not evil, and whose call to participate in His great saving work is the ultimate target of the devil. You and I are just soldiers in a much larger war.
Like a healing ointment such faith takes the infection out of the wound and lets our hearts finally heal. (Mt 5:23, 24)