Forgiveness in the Extraordinary
Last week, we dealt with forgiveness in the ordinary circumstances of life. We have opportunities to forgive people all the time. When people are rude to us, when they spread rumors and put us down, when they ignore us or say things that hurt our feelings – these are the ordinary circumstances of life. We can learn to readily forgive in such situations.
But what about those times where the hurt is deeper, even physical? What about the times when we have actually feared for our safety and well-being? Deep betrayal in relationships, victims of crime, those physically abused – these are extraordinary circumstances of life.
Forgiveness is granting a pardon to the offender then treating that person as if the offense had not occurred. How is this possible in extraordinary circumstances? I believe that it is, with God’s help. But how this happens is what is different in these circumstances.
When you have been hurt to this degree, you learn something about the one who has hurt you. If it is someone who is close to you, you realize that if you had known this about this person you would not have made yourself vulnerable to them.
For example, a couple gets married. Prior to marriage the man is just a big loveable teddy bear! But shortly after marriage, he begins to change. He becomes verbally and emotionally abusive and eventually physically abusive. Had the woman known this, she certainly would never have entered into a relationship with him, let alone married him.
In this case, for her safety, she should get out of the relationship. She can forgive and treat him as if the offense never occurred with the knowledge that this is the kind of person he is. Knowing that this behavior will continue and that she cannot place herself in danger, seeking safety and refuge is the right thing to do. This doesn’t mean she cannot or does not forgive, it is simply ensuring her continued well being.
Another example is when you have been victimized in a situation you had little control over, perhaps as a child or being caught up in a violent crime. Forgiveness can provide you with healing. The experience can also teach you about vulnerability and how to make yourself safer in the future. We forgive, we learn, we adapt and we continue to follow Jesus.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit within us that allows us to forgive. It is the wisdom of the Spirit that gives us guidance and direction as we respond and adjust what we do in the future.
There is no biblical expectation that we should place ourselves in danger for the sake of maintaining an earthly relationship. As followers of Jesus, we may be subject to extreme danger from persecution. Yet, even Jesus and then Steven, were able to forgive their executioners!
When we follow Jesus closely, we will hear warnings of danger and we can escape many situations that might have caused us extreme pain and suffering. It is so important for us to continue to follow and stay close to Jesus. He will always see us through!