Abuse affects a lot more people than just the one who is abused. Family, friends, churches, etc. are all affected by a single instance of abuse. How can we bring healing to these situations and stop the pain from continuing? Forgiveness.
Forgiveness has been used to cover up and continue the perpetration of abuse. This happens because forgiveness has been wrongly defined. Forgiveness is not a refusal to call the police. Forgiveness is not reconciliation and restoration. Forgiveness is letting go of the wrong that has been done to you. It is done within the individuals heart and is not dependent upon any change in the offender. Reconciliation is when the relationship is reconciled; this requires repentance upon the part of the abuser. Restoration is when everything returns to the way it was before the abuse took place. Restoration many times is not possible because of the offender’s desire for continued victory. (A repentant child molester would never want to be restored to a position where they exclusively work with children.)
Forgiveness frees the abused
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us a story about refusing to forgive wrongs that have been done. It is interesting that the whole story focuses on how a refusal to forgive harms the victim more than the perpetrator. Refusing to forgive, hatred, and bitterness place us in a prison from which only forgiveness can set us free. Forgiveness is part of looking after your own soul. Forgiveness is what starts the healing process for the abused. We so often think that the offender needs our forgiveness, but Jesus teaches that extending forgiveness is what brings about healing in the life of the offended.
People who are not the primary victim must forgive as well
Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians that even those who were not the primary victim must forgive. We can carry other people’s offenses. This is how Satan destroys churches, marriages, and families. Abuse can make many people carry bitterness and grudges even if they were not the victim. This ripple effect is stopped when we forgive.
Forgiveness brings love, peace, and healing
Christians are to lay aside bitterness, anger, and malice. How do we do this? By forgiving those who have wronged us. The end result of this forgiveness may not always mean a restored relationship. However, the end result of forgiveness will be our own love restored, our own peace, and our own healing.
How do we find the strength to forgive?
The strength to forgive the horrendous wrongs done to us does not lie within us; we are not capable of doing it. This is why we must look to Jesus. As I come to Jesus I realize that God has forgiven the worst of wrongs in me. I have abused and murdered His Son, yet He forgives freely. It is the grace of God forgiving me in Jesus Christ that enables me to forgive those who have wronged me.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Will you come to Jesus Christ to receive His forgiveness and the strength to forgive others?