Forgiveness Is Not Earned

Forgiveness Is Not Earned

[Forgive] each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
—Colossians 3:13

We all know forgiveness is the preferred option when we have been wronged. So why do we find it so difficult to let go of offenses that are committed against us? I will suggest to you this week common fallacies about forgiveness that keep us prisoners of regret, instead of freeing us to experience the life God wants us to have.

One fallacy that keeps us from forgiving others is the idea that people have to earn forgiveness. Usually there is not much our offender can do to make up for what he or she has done to us. For example, what could ever be done to make restitution for a marriage destroyed by adultery? What could anybody ever do to restore a reputation that has been ruined by slander? What could anybody do to make up for a child killed by a drunk driver? The fact is, there is usually very little a person can do to earn our forgiveness.

Even more importantly, when we wait to forgive until somebody else earns our forgiveness, we make ourselves prisoners to that other person. And that means we can go no further in life than our offender is willing to go.

Have you ever participated in a three-legged race? In a three-legged race, your leg is bound to the leg of your partner. Everybody stands on the sidelines and laughs as the two of you hobble together toward the finish line. You probably remember thinking, “If only I could get free from my partner, I could make a lot better time. But I am tied to this guy.” The fact is, three-legged races do not allow for solo contenders. You can go no farther or no faster than your partner is able to go.

When you say, “I am not going to forgive this person until they ask for it, earn it, or deserve it,” you are tying yourself to the person who has hurt you. You are saying, “I cannot go any farther in life than my offender is willing to go.” Why would you bind yourself to somebody who has hurt you deeply? But when you forgive somebody, you are freeing yourself from your offender. You are saying, “I don’t want to be your partner any longer. I want to get free of your offense against me, so that I can move on with the life God has given me.” The idea that forgiveness must be earned is a fallacy that keeps many people living a life of relationship regrets.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living without Relationship Regrets” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.