Forgiveness is something many of us, including myself, struggle with. On the one hand, God’s Word is clear about forgiving your enemies and blessing those who curse you. Yet it also tells us to guard our hearts.
I confess, this is an ongoing issue in my life, particularly with people that I have been close to in the past where the relationship for many reasons turned toxic. Part of my writing this is as much to process my thoughts and feelings on the subject as well as to give you encouragement in dealing with this particular subject if you happen to find yourself in a similar quandary.
I received a phone call from a relative with whom I have not spoken in close to a year. This person left a message letting me know that she would like to re-establish a relationship with my family (meaning my husband, kids and me). I’m praying and trying to sort out the best response before I do anything.
One thing I have learned over the past year in dealing with messy family relations is that God wants me to love from a pure heart and yes, to forgive, not seeking to get even. I’ve really tried for the most part to leave it in His hands, though I find myself turning feelings of hurt and anger over to Him a lot still as they come up.
The other hard thing is setting boundaries, which is something I have always struggled with. What I did this past year was make the decision to separate myself and my immediate family from the toxic situation. I’ve learned that I can love people and pray for them from afar, but that being in close relationship is not necessarily healthy or wise, depending on the situation. I think a lot of us as Christians misunderstand or feel guilty about setting boundaries, believing that the admonishment to forgive means allowing ourselves to be mistreated over and over again, or placing ourselves in the same situation repeatedly. I know I have misunderstood this in the past.
One thing that stood out to me this morning in reading the Bible during our church study was Luke 17:3-4 (NKJV) which says, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying ‘I repent’, you shall forgive him.”
To repent means “to turn from”. I believe true repentance is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It is making an effort not to repeat the same behavior.
Another question is, “What does forgiveness look like?” I believe, in that when we are forgiven, God no longer counts our sin against us, we should do the same for others. I’m working on doing this for the relative I am speaking of, even though there has been no genuine repentance on her part.
Reconciliation is another matter. I will be much in prayer about my situation, asking God to help me to act in love if I am to act on the request for reconciliation. I pray for wisdom to establish necessary boundaries with this person.
I think of how Christ has forgiven me, and how nothing and no one is beyond the reach of His grace, and yes, this includes my relative. Prayer is the best way to seek the right answer to this messy, complicated situation.
I will keep you posted on how it goes.
“Lord, please bless those who may be reading this. Thank you for your grace and for giving us another day in this sometimes complicated life to give You the glory. Thank you for loving us, whether or not we get things right. Help us to learn more about what it means to forgive, and to have wisdom as we seek to honor You in our relationships. Help us to know when to take action and when to wait. And be with all of those in our families, those we are close with, and those that may be estranged from us, that all of our hearts may be open to the truth of Your saving grace, for this is where relationship really begins. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”