Archives For forgiveness

Why Forgive?

Alyson Kieda —  April 16, 2014 — 2 Comments

453458265_61cf90be28_z (1) Forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when it seems you are continually forgiving the same person over and over again. If you’re like me, you may forgive, sometimes grudgingly, but you wonder, When will that person ever change? Shouldn’t there be a limit to my forgiveness?

And the act of forgiving can be even more difficult when you learn the extent to which someone you know harmed your loved one and masqueraded the harm done under supposed Christian loving care and concern.

Recently, a wound inflicted on my loved one resurfaced. As I learned of the additional harm that that person had caused, my blood boiled. I felt so angry and helpless and full of regrets for what I could have done, if only I had known. But mostly, I wanted to cause that person harm—maybe not physically (although, if I’m honest, the thought did cross my mind) but definitely emotionally. I wanted that person to suffer for what he/she had done. I spouted and cried and finally prayed about it.

I’m working on forgiving that person once again, but it would be so easy to hold on and nurse the anger and hurt—and to retaliate. But I know that God calls me to forgive. And saying “no” to revenge is the first step. (I’m so glad that God keeps me from acting on such thoughts!)

I think of Peter’s inquiry of Jesus: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 ESV). How did Jesus respond? “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (v.22). Jesus did not make that statement lightly or casually. He knew what was soon to come.

What lay before Jesus was betrayal and desertion by His closest friends, humiliation, a brutal beating, mock trials, excruciating pain, and a horrible death. He had much inflicted upon His person that He needed to forgive. Yet He did so willingly! And He not only forgave those sins, but He suffered and died to pay the price for all the sins in the past, present, and future of all who believed in Him, so that they “should not perish but have eternal life.” Why? “Because God so loved the world” (John 3:16).

God loves us that much! In turn, He calls us to forgive others the way He has forgiven us. No, it’s not easy. It’s impossible! But it’s the renovation of our hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit that enables us to begin growing a heart of forgiveness. When I think of the many sins that I’ve committed—and how much God has personally forgiven me—forgiving others gets a little easier.

When I’m talking with someone who has been deeply betrayed by a friend, a family member, or a coworker, they often ask, “How can I ever trust him again? He said he was sorry, but how do I know if he is truly sorry about the damage he’s done or if he’s just sorry he got caught? I don’t want to get burned again.”

Those are tough questions, because there’s a lot at stake for both the betrayer and the betrayed.

Rebuilding trust in a relationship after a bitter betrayal almost feels like an insurmountable task. No one in his right mind would dare trust a spouse who was unfaithful, a coworker who stole his good idea, or a friend who lied about him behind his back. Would you?

But what if that person apologizes? Then what? How can you know if someone has truly repented?

As Jesus’ followers, we talk about repentance—that radical change of heart and mind that alters one’s perspective and reshapes behavior patterns to look more like Jesus.  It’s been a part of the Jesus story from the beginning. John the Baptist referred to it as “producing fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8).

Testing repentance is vital to rebuilding trust in a broken relationship. So what are some of the signs of a repentant heart?

King David—a man whose deceit betrayed his wife and his nation—said it best: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

One place to begin looking for “fruit” that reveals a deeply rooted heart of repentance is in how the repentant betrayer responds when questioned. A repentant person demonstrates a humble attitude that is neither demanding nor defensive when questioned. There is an openness that replaces deceit, a willingness to be accountable for his or her actions on multiple levels without resorting to blaming others or making excuses for failures.

It’s only through experiencing a consistency in both attitudes and actions that reflect repentance that the betrayed individual will over time begin to take the risky steps towards trusting again.

How much time? As much as it takes.

And the repentant person will humbly wait for as long as it takes, knowing that the celebration over restoration will be a sweet harvest for both parties—a harvest that repentance and forgiveness has made possible because of Jesus’ example.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor. 7:10).

October Baby

Jeff Olson —  January 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Over the weekend I watched the film October Baby. It tells the story of a college-aged girl named Hannah whose world is turned upside down after she discovers she is the adopted survivor of a failed abortion.

This story about a girl whose life almost wasn’t is a powerful film on forgiveness. Hannah had to wrestle through strong bitter feelings and forgive several people before she could move on with her life.

The film’s grace-filled, non-condemning treatment of Hannah’s biological mother, who had attempted to abort her, was also a surprising breath of fresh air. Women who suffer the heartache of having had an abortion may find watching this film to be a very healing experience.

Something Hannah’s adoptive dad shared with her near the end of the movie also stuck with me. Hannah’s discovery and search for her birth mother caused a lot of tension between the two of them, which he often didn’t handle well. As they stood next to each other at the graveside of the twin brother Hannah never knew she had, her dad confessed,

“It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s that I’m trying honestly to learn to trust God again.”

Leaving things we care about in God’s capable and loving hands is a most important lesson for us all to learn.


Jeff Olson —  April 12, 2012 — 4 Comments

A comedian once mused that he wished someone made a GPS for husbands. It went something like this:

GPS: “Compliment your wife on her appearance.”
Comedian: “Hey honey, you look really good tonight.”

GPS: “Ask her about her day.”
Comedian: “How was your day, sweetheart?”

GPS: “Pretend to be listening.”

GPS: “Compliment your wife’s hair.”
“Uhmm…Hey, your hair doesn’t look as gray as it did yesterday.”

GPS: “Recalculating.”

The Bible is far, far more than a GPS, but it records Jesus dropping “GPS like” directives to help us “recalculate” how relationships are to work now that He had come.

Here are just few:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NLT).

“There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent” (Luke 24:47, NLT).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus birthed a new way of doing relationship with others and with God. The fallen way of selfishness and revenge and pride is now being replaced with His Kingdom way of love and reconciliation and humility.

As theologian NT Wright puts it, “It’s a way nobody’s ever tried before, a way that is as unthinkable to most human beings and societies as—well, as resurrection itself. Precisely. That’s the point. Welcome to Jesus’ new world!”

Trust & Verify

Tim Jackson —  June 22, 2011 — 8 Comments

I work with a lot of couples in crisis. Promises made at a wedding 3, 7, 15, or 28 years ago that expressed good intentions and carried so much hope were somehow forgotten. Vows are broken. Hearts betrayed. Trust shattered.

Rebuilding trust? That’s one of the the greatest challenges any couple will ever face in their marriage.

(By the way, it’s not just couples where trust can be broken. Parents break their children’s trust. Children break their parents’ trust too. Employers and employees alike can cultivate an atmosphere of distrust. Friends can betray friends.)

So what do you do to begin rebuilding trust when you find yourself standing in the smoldering ruins of a relationship that’s been torched by betrayal? Here are a few suggestions for a couple who is beginning this process.

First, recognize that rebuilding trust is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Everything inside of you screams, “Don’t do it! Are you nuts! They’ll just do it again! They’ve already proven that they can’t be trusted! You’d be crazy to set yourself up again!”

But that seems to put Jesus’ followers in a real bind. Because Jesus has called us to forgive those who have harmed us. Right? But how can we forgive after we’ve been so deeply betrayed?

Second, understanding that forgiveness begins a process that opens the door to the potential for rebuilding shattered trust (Luke 17:3-4). This is not a quick fix. This takes time for both the forgiver and the offender. And forgiveness doesn’t mean simply letting the person off the hook after they say, “I’m sorry.” It’s not forgetting. There is accountability in healthy forgiveness.

(For more on forgiveness, check out some of our Round Table discussions and Insight Videos on the topic of forgiveness.)

Third, understanding that rebuilding trust requires two willing participants who are devoted to Christ first and then to each other. One person doesn’t make a relationship. It takes two individuals who long for restoration and are willing to submit to God’s purposes and then risk being vulnerable with each other to learn how to love. Oh, and the offender in the relationship needs to set the tone by taking the initiative to be vulnerable first. Unfortunately, if the offender refuses to take ownership, makes excuses, resorts to explanations, shifts the blame to the other person or bulks at requests for accountability, rebuilding trust is impossible.

Forth, recognize that the only formula for trust building is consistency over a long time. That’s  the hard work of reconstructing the core foundation of a relationship one thin layer at a time. It’s a daily thing. It requires an intense amount of energy and investment on the part of both spouses.

The best analogy that I have found to describe trust building is the process of applying a fine lacquer finish on a piece of furniture that I’ve made in my wood shop. Here’s the process:

Lacquer is a finish that I spray on one thin layer at at time. After giving it sufficient time to dry, I lightly sand out the finish with extremely fine sandpaper. Sanding smooths and levels out the surface, allowing the finish to fill in the grain of the wood. It also creates thousands of micro-fine scratches in the finish. Then, when another layer of finished is applied, the scratches are filled in by the fresh layer of finish and binds the layers together. Then, after it dries, the sanding process begins again.

This process is repeated time after time after time. The layers build on each other and meld together to form a singular bond of protection the displays the beauty of the wood. The last time the finish is “rubbed out” with a superfine rubbing compound that produces a smooth mirror finish. The surface of the furniture feels like glass.

What I like about a lacquer finish is that it highlights all the beautiful grain in the wood. It deepens and takes on a richer glow over time as it ages. It’s a durable finish that protects the wood.  But as with any piece of furniture that is used throughout a lifetime, it will wear and inevitably get scratched, chipped or even gouged.  The finish can be repaired by repeating the process of rubbing out the scratch, reapplying a layer or two of finish (depending on how deep the scratch/gouge is). With a little TLC, the finish can again be restored.

That’s trust building: two partners who are fully invested in the long term process of rebuilding trust by demonstrating love consistently one layer at a time over a lifetime. The result is a durable relationship that lasts and reflects the beauty of the love of Christ reflected in the love of the couple.



I know there’s a lot of talk and words written about what love is and isn’t, what love does and doesn’t, whether love wins or not, or whether we’re just to cynical to even believe in love in the first place. The fact is, on this good-est of Fridays, we need to focus on what perfect love is all about.


You see, whenever I question whether or not I’m truly loved, I mean deeply loved for who I am–warts and all, there is one place I’m always drawn back to. One moment in time that is undeniably clear. It’s historical. It’s believable. And it’s true. And I go back and touch it to remind myself, “This is real! This is core!”

Where do I go?

Romans 5:8.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

This is the bedrock of my faith–my touchstone. There is a place in time and space where God proved to me that he loves me. It’s the cross. It’s the day when perfect love collided with perfect holiness and justice was satisfied. And the Innocent died for the guilty. God punished his Son in my place.

Whenever I reflect on that singular truth, I’m undone. I’m left speechless. I have nothing to say. All my arguments, objections, doubts, and fears are crushed in the embrace of God’s overwhelming love for me.

I am loved.

And so are you.

I pray that today–on this good-est of Fridays–that you will be overwhelmed by the loving embrace of the God who sacrificed all so that you could be forgiven and free. And that you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday as you choose to follow him in living a life marked by loving sacrifice . . . just like Jesus.


Forgive & Forget

Tim Jackson —  January 26, 2011 — 11 Comments

I don’t know how to forgive and forget. And frankly, I find that I’m not alone. If forgiving requires forgetting, then we’re all up a creek without a paddle. Rather, I believe forgiveness is necessary because we can’t forget the harm that’s been done to us.

How often have you apologized to someone for the way you mishandled a situation and you’ve heard, “Oh, forget it. No big deal.” Truly, if it is no big deal, then it probably doesn’t need to be forgiven. My rule of thumb is this: If  I can forget it, it doesn’t need to be forgiven. Forgiveness is for the stuff I can’t forget.

If forgetting is impossible, then how do you forgive the things you can’t forget? And if I can’t forget the things that I’m suppose to forgive, then how do I not allow those things done to me that bring so much pain, heartache, betrayal, and distress to control me any longer?

Forgiveness means I will not allow you and what you’ve done to me to control me any longer. That kind of forgiveness–the kind that Jesus asks of his disciples comes from a deepening understanding that the person who has harmed me–no matter who they are or what they’ve done–does not have the power to destroy what I value most deeply in life.

If you can somehow deprive or rob me of what I value most in life–my job, my reputation, my marriage, you name it–then I will feel controlled by you and hate you for it. I will see you as constantly standing in my way and sabotaging what I believe I desperately must have to make my life work . . . on my terms, of course.

However, if I’m growing by learning how to embrace the truth that my life is hidden in Christ in God (Col. 3:3), then there is nothing that anyone can ever do to me that will cause me to lose my life in Christ. I’m secure in God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39). IF that is the core reality of my heart, then that changes everything.

Check out Larry Crabb’s response to the question as to how to begin the process of forgiving what you can’t forget.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a more forgiving person. I’m not nearly as forgiving as I’d like to be. I can hold a grudge as easily as the next person. But I’m committed to this process of learning how to be more forgiving. Why? Because of what Jesus has forgiven me (Eph. 4:32). In comparison, my attempts at forgiveness are so minuscule to his immense work of forgiving me all of my sin that cleanses me from all my wrongdoing. Following his example, frees me from being controlled by what others do to me.

To forgive and not be controlled by what you can’t forget . . . that’s forgiveness.

Just finishing up editing some great discussions on forgiveness for the HFML website with author Dan Allender and Pastor Rod Van Solkema that I think you’ll find challenging. I know I did. One of the noteworthy remarks that I just can’t shake from our discussion was Dan’s comment that:

“Forgiveness is an act of defiance against evil.”

Does that strike you as an odd statement? It did to me. In fact, it takes me back to the surprise I experienced when hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana this past summer.

To my amazement, I witnessed beauty above the tree line in a hostile environment that totally took me off guard. Wow! The  delicate wildflowers that sprouted out of solid rock were breathtaking. My photos just don’t do them justice. They were exquisite! How could such delicate beauty not only grow out of solid rock but flourish in a hostile environment that seemed so utterly antagonistic to their survival?

That’s forgiveness. It’s a reflection of beauty and mercy that defies hostility and adversity. It’s overcoming evil with good.

Too often, I’m afraid, we as Christians have mistakenly fallen under the spell of a maudlin view of forgiveness. We’ve misinterpreted the oft-quoted “turning the other cheek” phrase of Jesus in Matthew 5:39 into a doormat kind of theology. We’ve settled for passive pleasantness and called it forgiveness. It’s not.

Forgiveness isn’t a command to “just play nice.” That requires a flight into a la-la land that has no reality in the real redemption story. Sweeping dirt under a carpet is no way to clean a house. Neither is it healthy to deal with those who are bullies, gossips, liars, deceitful, and a host of other forms of overt and covert relational violence that riddle our churches, schools, homes, communities, neighborhoods, and all relationships. It just gives them more power and permission to reek havoc on those who are more vulnerable.

And let’s face it: everyone struggles to love well. Or maybe it’s better said, we’re just poor at it. Violations of love (otherwise known as “sin”) infect even the best of relationships, making the need for forgiveness–either giving it or receiving it–an ongoing necessity in order for relationships to deepen and grow. No healthy relationships exist apart from a genuine heart of forgiveness that longs for restoration (which, in reality, is the Gospel story replayed day in and day out within the context of our relationships).

While forgiveness is often thought of as weakness, in reality, it’s a demonstration of incredible strength.  Forgiveness doesn’t flee from the face of evil. Nor does it stoop to the level of evil and fight fire with fire (Rom. 12:17).  Paul reminds us of the marching orders for the Christian in Romans 12, that our call is to an authentic Christlike love that joins with Him in the battle for good and against evil:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good . . . do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It’s mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12: 9, 17-19, 21)

Forgiveness is the unlikely weapon that God has given to us to defy evil. To look someone in the eye and be free to say without malice, “Your sin doesn’t control me. And you’re powerless to stop me from not only desiring to do you good, but choosing to do good to you as an act of kindness because of the benevolent kindness that God has shown to me.”

Now that ‘s a process of overcoming evil with good that requires humility and gratitude for the God who has addressed the evil within us with His mercy and grace that “forgives us our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So, how bout it? Today, in your one of your “difficult” relationships, are you up to being a little flower in a less than hospitable environment? Are you willing to be that splash of beauty that’s undeterred by adversity? Forgive someone the way that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32) and that’s what you’ll be . . . the beauty of forgiveness that defies evil.

Man’s Best Friend

Jeff Olson —  November 25, 2009 — 5 Comments

AndreI had to make the decision to have our family dog put to sleep last weekend. It was one of the most heart wrenching decisions I’ve ever made. Andre, affectionately known as our “little buddy” (pictured to the left), was a part of our family for fifteen years. We will miss him deeply.

There’s a reason why we refer to dogs as “man’s best friend.” Roger Caras once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

As we enter the Thanks Giving Holiday season, I find myself feeling deeply grateful for the joy our little guy brought into our lives. I’m also thankful for the lessons he taught me, mostly about forgiveness.

I can recall many times where I’ve gotten so mad at him when he wouldn’t stop barking or snatched a piece of food off one of our plates. He certainly had his moments where he took strong exception to the fact that he wasn’t the alpha male in the house. But as upset as I would get with him or he would get with me, Andre was always quick to forgive and move on.

He likely didn’t realize the significance of it, but he showed me what it looked like to keep short accounts. He illustrated what Paul stressed as essential for human relationships, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).

Rolled Away

Allison Stevens —  August 27, 2009 — 6 Comments

Do you have things in your life that sometimes creep back into your mind and haunt you? Things you did when you knew better? Times when you were “hell-bent” on doing whatever it was that made you feel good at the moment? Actions that if others knew you did it, they’d disown you?

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