Why is forgiveness so hard? Could it be that you never have to forgive someone for something that doesn’t matter? Think about it…you never have to forgive someone for helping you or making you feel good. The times you and I have to forgive are occasions when we’ve been hurt. Forgiving someone who has hurt us is very difficult indeed.
One of the words for forgiveness in the New Testament is macrothumia. This is a compound word of macro meaning “big” and thumia meaning “to set aside your anger” Thus, macrothumia means “to completely set aside your anger”. This is a conscious decision you make with your will. Long before your feelings change toward another person, God commands us to forgive – macrothumia – to set aside our anger toward that person.
Forgiveness is not a onetime event. It needs to be done repeatedly. It’s like peeling an onion. I initially decide to set aside my anger toward someone who has hurt me. I peel off a layer. But, guess what I still have left? More onion – more to be forgiven – more anger to set aside. So I forgive, and then something comes up. Something reminds me of what that person has done. And I get mad. So what do I do now? I peel another layer off the onion. I forgive again.
And if it’s a fresh wound I may have to forgive 5-6 times a day. If it’s an older wound, I might feel myself having feelings to set aside every few weeks, or maybe every few years.
Sometimes when you peel an onion, tears come. That doesn’t happen every time, but often. It’s the same with forgiveness. Tears may be a part of the process – we are seeking to deal with the hurt, aren’t we?
When you forgive, realize that you have to forgive the same offense more than once – keep peeling off layers. Now this is not because an offense needs to be forgiven multiple times. No, it’s because you need to set aside your anger multiple times. We need to keep on forgiving. How many times? Jesus says in Matthew 18:22 that we need to forgive 77 times [in the NIV and the KJV says 7 X 70 or 490 times]. The message is that we need to forgive as many times as is necessary for us set aside our anger…again and again and again.
Forgiving someone is a process – peeling an onion layer by layer. Over time as we repeatedly set aside our anger – when we remember the hurt [you won’t forget it] it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. Our emotions don’t heal by themselves so we have to make the conscious decision to set aside our anger over and over again. And over time God will honor our choice to forgive by healing the hurt little by little.
Isn’t there an onion in your life that you need to peel?
One Layer at a Time,