Somewhere around 2,000 years ago, the Son of God died on a cross. Bereft of friends, beaten until unrecognizable, He climbed that hill, laid down and stretched out His arms. Lifted up on the cross, hung between two thieves, He called out to God to forgive His murderers.
Jesus did what no one else could have done. He was not only God, He was also Man. Fully both, born of a virgin so that He escaped the stain of original sin, He lived a perfect, holy, righteous life that fulfilled completely the holy Law of God. Thus, He was able to lay down His life for sinners, because He never sinned. He never failed. Not even once.
He didn’t fail on the cross, either. The cross wasn’t an afterthought of God’s. It wasn’t His second plan. It was His plan from the beginning. His Son would die so that sinful men might live. Trading His heavenly Home for our lowly earthly one, He, by dying, took on our sins, so that we, through faith, by grace, might take on His righteousness. Then, on the third day, He rose again, defeating death, and sealing Satan’s fate. There’s never been a more beautiful expression of love and sacrifice.
In agony, Jesus called out to His Father, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34, KJV). He willingly forgave those who beat, tortured, and murdered Him, just as He now willingly forgives those who come to Him in faith, believing Him to be the Son of God.
He forgave them. He forgave me.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. When God forgives, all guilt is wiped away and He chooses not to remember the sin. When God looks at the redeemed, He doesn’t see them in their sin. He doesn’t remember them as liars, thieves, adulterers, blasphemers; no, He sees them as perfect, pure, and clothed in the holy righteousness of His Son.
We forgive because we have been forgiven.
If you are a child of God, you must forgive your enemies, just as I must forgive mine. Luke 6: 27, 28, But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. So we must, because God says so. And because He has forgiven us so much.
But we’re not God. And try as we might, we are going to remember that which has happened to us. We shouldn’t dwell on it, mull it over, and harbor bitterness. If we say we forgive, yet we do those things, we’re fooling ourselves. We’ve not forgiven anyone. But we will remember, because we’re human. And that’s alright. By remembering, but not dwelling on it, we enable ourselves to set boundaries, to protect ourselves.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you become a doormat, it doesn’t mean that what happened to you is alright, it doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened, and it doesn’t mean that your abuser shouldn’t be held accountable or that you should be quiet about what you endured. It is good to tell the truth about what you endured; it is also good to see that he can no longer hurt you. That might mean that he is arrested, or that you get away and stay away from your abuser. It is not only okay to do those things, it is good to do them.
What forgiveness means is that we give up our right to vengeance. God will deal with our abusers. If he ever fully repents, and turns back from his sin to walk in newness of life, he will be fully forgiven of God, just as all other sinners who come seeking forgiveness. That doesn’t mean you should trust a profession of faith immediately, that you should go back to him, or invite him into your life in anyway. Many abusers claim to have “found God” but most abusers will remain just that: abusers. Most abusers never really repent, never change, never even really care that they are abusers. Most of them will never really “find God”. Just because they say they’ve been saved, doesn’t mean that they have. They might be using you. Again. So forgive, give up your right to vengeance, but be wise. Don’t trust immediately, even if he claims he’s been saved. If he says he’s a Christian, wait, and watch for growth. No growth means he’s not saved, and he doesn’t deserve your trust, now or ever.
Forgiving also doesn’t mean that your abuser shouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions in light of the law. It doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened. It doesn’t mean that the abuse is just gone, forgotten, and he’s getting off scott-free. Leave him to face his sins and failures, and you move on. Forgiving honors God, helps you heal, and gives you freedom.
You forgive, not because your abuser deserves it; he doesn’t. You forgive because of what Jesus did on that cross nearly 2,000 years ago. Because of the price the Son of God paid to rescue you. Because of the terrible guilt we all have, and because, if we are Christians, we’ve been forgiven of that guilt. You and I might have been abused, but that doesn’t make us holy. Only the blood of Christ can do that. And He offers that to us. If you know Him, rejoice in the freedom you have in Him. If you don’t, He invites you to come.
Revelation 22: 17, And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
(This article was written for my blog for those who have been abused, https://abusedchristianwife.wordpress.com/)
Soli Deo gloria!