I've had conversations with a friend of mine about something we've been trying to implement when we face confrontation in our relationships with others. I'm not entirely sure where she heard of this perspective on forgiveness but I'm almost certain I saw it randomly appear on my Twitter feed from one of those lame Twitter accounts that tweets all of these supposedly deep quotes and mind-blowing realizations about relationships, when in reality they have absolutely no credentials in dishing out trustworthy advice about life or relationships. The tweet said something to this effect,
"When someone wrongs you, don't tell them it's okay. Instead, tell them you forgive them, because if you tell them it's okay, they probably won't learn you were really hurt by whatever they did."I'm sure many a teenage girl retweeted and even took a screenshot of it to set as the background of their iPhones for a couple weeks, but for some reason, I haven't been able to forget about it. The fact that I can reproduce that tweet from memory, several months removed, really speaks to the impression it has left on me. Sad, I know.
While you probably shouldn't trust everything said by someone who tweets under the handle @tRu3LoV3facts, the principle is definitely there. Forgiveness involves change. A change of behavior from something that causes pain or harm, to a new manner of behavior that promotes love, honor, and respect to the person who was once wronged. Forgiveness is the recognition that something is not okay, and with that understanding in mind, change must logically follow.
I feel like I've really begun to trivialize the idea and practice of forgiveness as I've grown more accustomed to using "Christian" as an adjective when I describe my lifestyle. It sounds almost oxymoronic when I read that sentence out loud. How can forgiveness become trivial to a Christian when it is one of the core tenets of the religion? How could such an essential and foundational doctrine become so unimportant?
I've come to the conclusion in looking at my own personal rebellion against God that my low view of forgiveness has led me to accommodate a low view of sin. Naturally following this low view of sin, my understanding of grace has been dramatically cheapened, decreasing the importance of this absolutely vital aspect of Christianity. My low view of grace has ultimately led me to a point I never thought I would reach in claiming to be a follower of Christ, namely that my low view of grace has led me to a low view of Christ and his sacrifice.
This is the flow of events that characterizes my lifestyle as one who fails daily and desires to do nothing about it. It is my low view of sin and the rationalization of my unrighteous actions and behavior that ultimately makes forgiveness utterly purposeless in my life. When I am choosing to live with the mentality that my sins are really okay and they aren't really that big of a deal, it is no wonder holiness has not been a priority. I find myself asking daily, how could things have gotten so bad, so quickly?
I was reading an article on the Gospel of Mark the other day for one of my bible classes that really detailed the importance of forgiveness throughout Mark. The author took time to make mention of the concept of "tasting forgiveness" that really spoke to me as I've been struggling with this flawed understanding of forgiveness for the past month. The author describes this forgiveness encounter as not only understanding the concept of forgiveness intellectually but understanding forgiveness in an experiential sense, that forgiveness is not just something we can recognize in our heads but is something that must permeate the heart and effect change in our lives.
When Jesus encountered people in need of forgiveness, he did not simply heal them and send them on their way as if everything was okay now that they had been healed of what caused them pain. Jesus' healing accounts represented so much more than purification for the lepers, exorcism for the demon-possessed, and resurrection for the dead. The healing accounts of Christ are a physical demonstration of life change, a symbolic gesture of the change Christ effects in those who follow after him in obedience. These healing accounts all appear in the Gospel of Mark and are worthy of consideration as you think about this concept of tasting forgiveness.
When the leper was healed of his disease, an ailment that made every day of his existence extremely painful and prevented him from entering the temple as he was considered ceremonially unclean, he could not help but proclaim to all he encountered the miraculous change that had taken place in his life. Christ had healed this man of his affliction and he could not keep quiet about this remarkable event. Mark 1:40-45
When the Gerasene Demoniac was freed from the many wicked spirits that had taken control of his body, a state of mind that led him to self-mutilation with sharp rocks and cries of distress and agony day and night in the cemetery he was exiled to, the healed man begged to join Jesus in his ministry, desiring to travel with the man who had heard his cries and saved him. Mark 5:1-20
When Jairus' daughter was raised from the dead, a condition that was impossible to reverse in antiquity with their very limited medicinal knowledge, the mourners were left in a state of amazement. While Mark does not provide details of Jairus' actions following the resurrection of his daughter, one can dare to think his reaction mirrored those who had personally tasted the blessing of forgiveness when he saw his daughter walking and talking once again. Mark 5:21-43
To continue to live in the sinful state and depraved condition by which we were previously identified before Christ saved us is to refuse the change the gospel requires of those who claim to follow him. To continue to indulge sinful habits and act in rebellion against the God who saved us is to deny the life change Christ desires for us. If we allow our view of sin and forgiveness to be cheapened by refusing to change in obedience to Christ's expectation of holiness we completely ignore what the gospel meant to those who heard it from Christ himself.
Christ desires life change. The good news of the gospel is that Christ took our sin upon himself so that we could have the opportunity to be righteous before God, that we could reject our depravity and live in light of Christ's willing sacrifice. Although it is not our own personal holiness that saves us but faith in the righteousness of Christ alone, we should never allow ourselves to view forgiveness flippantly like I have been so guilty of time and time again. We must be humble when we fail, recognizing that God has already forgiven us for the sins we have committed against Him, but this should always prompt us to evaluation of the change that must take place in our lives.
May it never be that we take for granted the grace and forgiveness of Christ, for it is all that can sustain us in our striving to become more like him each and every day. Pursue holiness, be willing to change for His sake, not for our own glory but as testimony to the truth that Christ can change anyone. We are dead to who we once were. Buried in the grave with Christ, and made to live by the surpassing power of his resurrection.