"Forgiveness - The Division of Labor"

"If anyone has caused grief...you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."
(2 Corinthians 2:5, 7)

"Forgiveness - The Division of Labor"
by Dr. David Seamands

Denny was obviously very upset when he sat down before me.  "I just don't understand," he said with almost a tinge of anger in his voice.  "I went to a retreat two weeks ago and the Spirit forced me to face up to the fact that I had not truly forgiven Mike.  Though it was a struggle, God gave me the grace to really forgive him.  And I've had wonderful peace in my heart since then.  But within the last few days, a lot of those old feelings have come back and I've been overwhelmed by them.  That's surprised me.  I guess I didn't really forgive him.  I thought I had.  Maybe I'll have to do it all over again; but to be honest with you, I'm afraid it's not going to work this time either."

This is a common experience for many Christians and one of those areas where we need to know the truth and be set free from unnecessary confusion, guilt, and condemnation.  We must first make sure that we understand the division of labor involved in forgiving others.  There is a human part, something only we can do.  And there is a divine part, something only God can do.

This division of labor means we cannot do God's part and God cannot do our part.  We get into trouble if we try to do what only God can do.  And we get into equal trouble if we ask God to do what He has ordained that only we can do.  The human part is the crisis of our will.  The divine part is the process of changing our feelings.

The crisis of our will simply means that there comes a time and a place where we have to make a definite decision as to whether or not we are willing to forgive the wrongdoer.  God's part - changing our feelings - is a process that usually takes time to accomplish.  Sometimes God seems to peel off layers of feelings as old memories return and new ones arise.  All of a sudden we remember some other wrongs and former wounds are reopened.  But as we once again, in an act of fresh obedience to God, reiterate our original decision to forgive and release these fresh hurts to God, He keeps replacing the old feelings with new ones in an ongoing process.

Reflection by Pastor Byron

Is there someone who has wounded you deeply that you would like to forgive?  In what ways have you struggled with old memories and feelings about this person?