“As much as depends on you live at peace with all people.” Romans 12:18.
People hurt, mistreat, abuse, abandon and betray us.
God sees and validates our pain. But he also tells us to pursue peace so that we do not fall short of His grace and let bitterness take root to defile us.
Bitterness comes when we hold on to hurt and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. It affects everything around us and causes us to have a hardened heart. We can even take on a victim mentality where we feel constantly wronged by others. It will pollute our overall view of the world and affects how we treat people.
No matter what we are not entitled to our sinful responses to how others have hurt us. Doing so only causes separation between God, ourselves and others. We can’t change people or make them see the error of their ways but God can. But we can take our wounded hearts, bitterness and unforgiveness to the one who has shown us how to love mercy instead of demanding justice.
Bitterness hinders repentance and forgiveness in relationships. The cure for bitterness starts with our hearts. It’s not something we do flippantly or dismissively without considering the cost of the sin committed against us, its effects and the wounds left behind.
Ask Jesus to help you process the hurts and choose to forgive. You will then have a beautiful gift to offer others – true forgiveness from the heart. A heart that says what you did to me hurt me deeply but I choose to forgive you and release you from a debt you cannot repay just as my precious Jesus forgave me and released me from mine.
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A huge barrier to forgiving others is the misconception about, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Many people believe that by forgiving they will continue to live as doormats allowing sinful behavior when nothing has changed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness focuses on the offense. It only involves one person and has nothing to do with what the other person chooses to do. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship. It requires two people engaged in the process.
Forgiveness is the choice to release the offender. Reconciliation is the choice to rejoin the offender. It’s being brought back into a relationship where there has been a wall of separation erected. Restoration is the process that makes that possible. Restoration of a relationship takes far more than forgiveness. It requires confession, repentance, and a strong commitment on both sides to work on the relationship and rebuild trust. And it often takes a much longer time.
For example, if a loved one is engaged in drugs, alcohol, abuse or some other harmful behavior they may ask us to forgive them. Of course, God’s heart is always that we forgive but if they ask that we go back to the way it was the answer is a resounding NO! That’s not what we do at all. Love holds people accountable. Love protects. We do not have to allow harmful behavior that hurt us and our families. Thus, there may be extremely toxic, unhealthy people who may need to be removed from our lives.
An example of this would be a relative who sexually molested us as a child. We can forgive them as God has called us to but having a relationship with them may endanger ourselves and others. So forgiveness does not mean we have to have any kind of relationship with the offender ever again. Forgiveness is an act of obedience that blesses the heart of our Father in Heaven and sets us free. And like Beth Moore is fond of saying “Sometimes you just gotta love people from a distance.” There is great wisdom in that.
“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.“ (Ephesians 4:32)
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