Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Another fallacy people have about forgiveness is they think forgiveness requires reunion. They think, “If I forgive that business partner who cheated me out of $10,000, that means I have to go back into business with him.” Or, “If I forgive my mate for having an affair, I have to remain married to her.”
Forgiveness and reunion are two different things. You can forgive somebody without being reconciled to that person. You see, forgiveness depends upon me, but reconciliation depends upon us. Forgiveness has no strings attached to it; reconciliation has a number of strings attached to it. I can forgive people regardless of whether they ask to be forgiven or whether they deserve to be forgiven. I forgive people, not for them but for me. I forgive them because of what Christ has done for me. However, before I can be reconciled to somebody, the other person has to demonstrate repentance. They have to go through a process of rehabilitation and rebuild their trust with me. There is a big difference between forgiveness and reunion.
I know people who are prisoners of bitterness. They will not let go of an offense because they erroneously believe, “If I forgive the person, I have to get back together with them.” No. You can let go of bitterness. You can say, “God, I am going to leave it up to You to take care of what they did to me, and I’m going to get on with my life.” You can do that without being reunited with another person.
By the way, we see that beautifully illustrated in the prodigal son. The son demanded his inheritance, rebelled against his father, and lived in the far country for a long time. Then one day he decided, “I want to go back to my father’s house.” When he was almost home, his father saw him and felt compassion. He started running toward his son and embraced him. You see, the father had already forgiven his son. But the reunion was only possible when the son was willing to come back to the father.
There are practical benefits to us when we choose to be released from the prison of bitterness. But there is a spiritual reason we forgive, too. We forgive because we have been forgiven. Forgiveness is the obligation of those of us who have been forgiven by God. Paul said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is essential to living a life without relationship regrets.
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.