Forgiving People You Never Want to Eat Lunch with Again

Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.
–Ephesians 5:15

Do you remember the old game show “Queen for a Day”? In every episode a housewife would be selected, given a crown and a scepter, and treated royally for the next 30 minutes. Today we are going to play a version of “Queen for a Day.” However, we will call it “Pastor for a Day.” Your pastor has fallen ill, and you have been asked to sit in his chair for a day. Instead of being given a crown and scepter, you have been given a Bible and two counseling appointments. How would you respond to each of these appointments?

First, you are to meet with Frank, the chairman of your deacons. He says, “Pastor, you asked me to serve on the long-range building committee with my fellow deacon Bill. But a few years ago Bill cheated my son out of $25,000. And while I have forgiven Bill, he never said he was sorry. I just can’t serve on a committee with Bill when he hasn’t shown any remorse for what he has done.” How would you counsel Frank? Would you tell him that he really hasn’t forgiven Bill if he won’t serve on a committee with him? Is Frank harboring bitterness in his life because he refuses to work alongside a fellow church member?

Your second appointment is with a godly church member named Sally. She and John have been married for 10 years. The physical abuse began when they were dating and has continued through their marriage, increasing in severity. Recently Sally persuaded John to go to a marriage seminar at the church. At the end of the seminar the speaker gave people a chance to trust in Christ as their Savior. To Sally’s surprise John raised his hand, indicating that he had become a Christian. That night when they got home John expressed sorrow for what he had done and asked for Sally’s forgiveness. That lasted a couple of days. Then the physical abuse began again, and now it is worse than ever. Sally asks you what she should do. She wants to move out of the home. She is fearful for her safety, but some of her friends have said, “If you have truly forgiven your husband, then you won’t move out. You will stay in that relationship and trust your well-being to God to allow Him to protect you.” What would be your counsel to Sally? Should she stay in the home and trust her protection to God? Or should she move out? If she has really forgiven her husband, must she be willing to stay in that abusive relationship?

During the last few weeks we have been talking about forgiveness. And we have been looking at some misunderstandings about forgiveness that keep many people as prisoners of bitterness. This week we will discover that while we can and should unconditionally forgive people, we cannot unconditionally be reconciled with people. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness depends on me. Reconciliation depends on me and my offender.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving People You Never Want to Eat Lunch with Again” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are 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.


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