When we wait for someone to apologize, it puts both of our lives on hold. It’s not worth it. Chances are that the person who did the most harm is probably the least likely to say “I’m sorry” because they are either too ashamed or didn’t mind what they did in the first place.
There are some people who will never take responsibility for what they’ve done. It would be best for us to forgive them and move on with our lives. How can we forgive people who have stolen from us, lied about us or violated us in some way that seems unforgivable? Many people feel the only way they can forgive another is to watch their abuser suffer. Of course that’s not forgiveness, it’s revenge.
Revenge might seem like a good idea at the time of our greatest pain, but in the long run it will only turn bitter. Imagine the worst crime that could be committed. Will revenge take away our pain or restore what we’ve lost? Revenge is simply the continuation of an abusive game called survival of the fittest. The way to heal our pain is to fix our own hearts. Because the wound was inflicted through unhealthy relationships, it can only be healed through healthy love.
Some people are afraid that loving our enemies will make us become door mats to our abusers. They question how love and grace could bring healing. Because the offense happened in the realm of relationship, the solution to restore our hearts begins with other healthy relationships. Our abusers may never acknowledge what they have done, but Jesus can still give us our healing through other people and His love. We can start by learning the healthy patterns of relationship Jesus taught and demonstrated.
There are four specific things Jesus taught us about conflicting relationships:
1. We have the right to confront those who have harmed us.
If another believer sins against you,
go privately and point out the offense.
If the other person listens and confesses it,
you have won that person back.
2. We are to forgive them over and over and over.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother or sister who sins against me?
Up to seven times?”
“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
3. Despite forgiveness, our family loyalty belongs to those who do God’s will.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd,
his mother and brothers stood outside,
wanting to speak to him.
Someone told him,
“Your mother and brothers are standing outside,
wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him,
“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
Pointing to his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
is my brother and sister and mother.”
4. We are to kick the dust off of our feet when others are not interested in what we have to say.
If anyone will not welcome you
or listen to your words,
shake the dust off your feet
when you leave that home or town.
This last act of shaking off our feet is never done with malice or contempt. It’s a humble acknowledgement we can’t force someone to change. By shaking off this dust, we are letting go of the burden of trying to set other people straight. Forgiving is like opening a window to bring fresh air into our soul. It empowers us to focus on new, more enjoyable projects. Jesus wants to go beyond being a victim, but He can only do this if we follow His advice and let go.
Jesus gave us healthy boundaries so we could confront with love and forgive each other. We shake off the dust when we are dealing with people who are not willing to reconcile. With the help of Jesus we can walk away from arguing and revenge. We can forgive whether others tell us they are sorry or not. We can build healthier relationships with people who choose to live with love and respect.