The Heart of Forgiveness

There are 4 main sections in this blog:

  1. Why Forgive?
  2. The Fake Apology
  3. Getting Walked On
  4. Conclusion

1. Why Forgive?

The heart of forgiveness is compassion–the motive behind forgiveness is restitution.  If you’re not interested in compassion or reconciliation then real apology and forgiveness is not your thing.  But it can be!!  You cannot make others reconcile with you, you cannot make others do the right thing, but that has nothing to do with your own decision to be healthy by never losing your compassion.  Maybe you think you are compassionate and desiring reconciliation, but just cannot see that you are actually more concerned with judgment?  I confess that I was guilty of the latter for many years.

  • John 3:17  For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Judgment will come, God promises that, but only after compassion has been trampled on.  We get a chance in this life to accept the compassion of Jesus.  If compassion does not produce change then restitution does not exist–there is still enmity.  If we are not reconciled to Jesus it is not because He did not extend the opportunity to us, it is because we chose to deny Him a real apology.  Because the fact is that every thing we do wrong is an offense against God.

  • Psalm 51:3-4  I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.

You forgive out of compassion, regardless of the other person’s actions.  This maintains your heart’s integrity.  But restitution is only made when the other person is part of the process–sometimes this is possible and sometimes not.

Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18 and sheds light on what drives us to forgive others.  He outlines the process of Christian confrontation, apology, and forgiveness.  If there is something to remember about this parable it is this:

  • We all owe somebody.
  • When you hurt someone, you owe them.

If you owe someone an apology for hurting them and refuse to admit you are wrong, then you will pay the penalty for not doing so.  This is the way God’s economy works.  Our own denial and lack of insight does not preclude us from eventually having to see the truth.  When you refuse compassion on others you demand that justice be brought on yourself.  That is why it is so important to forgive.  We all want mercy.  We all want to escape punishment when we do wrong, but most of us shutter at the idea of other people not getting what they deserve.  This is the hypocrisy of the human race that directly contradicts perfect love.

In Matthew 18:26-27 he says: At this, the slave fell face down before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

We want to be forgiven because we cannot take back what we’ve done, we cannot–for whatever reason–make it right.  There is no way to undo the wrong thing that happened.  The only restitution that can be made is if the person we owe apology to, grants us forgiveness.  If they do not forgive us, then we are still under their condemnation.  This is what was about to happen to the slave in Jesus’s story.  The slave was about to be condemned for his unpaid debt and the only thing he could do was beg for mercy or face the consequences.  The one he owed could have refused his request for mercy, but he did not.  The reason–COMPASSION!

  • A forgiving heart is compassionate
    • It will accept a real apology, forgive the pain that has been caused, and no longer hold the debt against them.
    • When a person is forgiven, their account is reconciled and they have restitution is granted through another’s mercy and compassion.  Not by anything the debtor did to repay the debt.
  • An unforgiving heart lacks mercy
    • It will reject a real apology and require full payment/punishment for the wrongdoing, until the debt is paid.
    • It wants retribution.
    • When a person is unforgiven their account goes to collections and they are forced to make restitution themselves.   The one they owe is requiring restitution be made–they are not making any allowances or forgiveness of the debt.

2. The Fake Apology

An example of a fake apology:

  • “I’m sorry you were offended about __________”.   The one apologizing does not believe they were wrong, instead, they are affirming that the other person has no grounds to accuse them.  So why apologize?  The answer–to maintain superiority and ensure the other person understands that they stand in error.

We all do this from time to time.  Some more than others and some do it constantly.  By even delivering this type of apology we are trying to be respectful and give some credit to the other person, but we just cannot stomach taking responsibility.  We want to sound compassionate, but it is clear to the other person we are not.  Then, we walk away believing that the one who got offended for no reason has serious problems and that if they could only see the truth, they would get it.

Here’s the truth…they do have serious problems and YOU triggered one of them!  What is the reality then.  Logically, either you did do something wrong or they are projecting an insecurity onto you that has been previously introduced into their life (either by you or someone else).  So, what do you do?

In EITHER case, your response is COMPASSION!  Because here is the kicker, if you are in the wrong, you will not know it unless you assume a position of compassion (which is based out of humility).  Only then can you actually hear and understand.  Without compassion you assume a position of superiority–a moral and intellectual high ground–that you will not be shaken from.  You stand on your truth and reject any pleas for mercy because what that person needs is compassion and to be heard.  WHETHER OR NOT YOU AGREE!  If the assumption is that you are better than them you will always see their reasons for being upset as flawed and stemming from something other than you!

In a situation where the other individual has no grounds for complaint against you at all and they are totally projecting their own issues onto you, what is your response?  The same of Jesus:

  • Matthew 27:12-14   And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.  Then Pilate said to Him, “Don’t You hear how much they are testifying against You?” But He didn’t answer him on even one charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
  • Matthew 5:39-42    I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;
    like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Why be quiet and just listen?  Because it proves you don’t need to justify yourself and keeps the issue visible.

Jesus always told the truth, but when people would wrongly accuse him by projecting their own faults onto Him, His response was to take it.  He would not argue.  He would allow them to be heard.  That’s what they felt was important.  In doing this he demonstrated the true greatness of compassion.  That even in mistreatment one would not turn and seek justice over mercy.  In the end, justice will come.  We cannot stop God’s wrath on the day of judgment.  But vengeance belongs to Him.

We are to replicate a heart of compassion, patience, and longsuffering that is perfectly shown by God during the course of our lives where we engage in constant rebellion against Him.

One can ask for forgiveness without themselves having the proper heart.  This is a hypocrite.  They desire forgiveness and to reap its benefits.  They go away without receiving any consequences for their actions.  They have been shown mercy (by someone else).  Yet, when they asked for forgiveness, they did not understand that there was something that should have been learned previously–COMPASSION ON OTHERS.  In light of what they have been forgiven, they should assume a compassionate heart.  The problem is that the hypocrite either does not grasp the reality of their sinful demeanor towards others (an unconscious judgement) OR they have not really experienced forgiveness because they never truly considered themselves guilty without excuse.

  1. The ignorant hypocrite unknowingly passes judgment on others because they have not understood the depth of compassion that has been shown on them.
  2. The malicious hypocrite who is aware of their judgmental attitude is aware of the compassion they have received yet thinks that others do not deserve it, or that it is not important to show it to them.

This is tied to the concept of cheap grace.  Cheap Grace is a term used by Christians to describe a person who takes God’s forgiveness lightly and continues to sin, believing that they have freedom to do what they want without fear of real consequence.  Whereas Grace that is actually given by Jesus produces a change in the heart that does not desire any freedom to be selfish, but rather desires more and more to be conformed to the image of Christ.  But I digress!

How do you know it was a fake apology?

  • You feel judged
  • The forgiveness that is granted does not inspire compassion in the one forgiven.  Instead, the one forgiven walks away and judges others without mercy.

When a person does not want to grant forgiveness to another person, it means that they have taken advantage of the kindness, compassion, and forgiveness of another.  When a person offers a fake apology, they do not want to take responsibility for their actions, they simply want to be relieved of their burden.  They do not want to change the lack of mercy and negative behavior that landed them in the bad spot to begin with, instead they simply want to walk away without consequence and live their life the way that they want.

One who knowingly does this is to be despised above all.  They are wolves that prey on the weak and helpless.  They are the most selfish of all human beings.  On the other hand, those who unconsciously behave this way do so out of a lack of faith in God which originates from a place of pain deep within.  They do not grasp the fullness of the forgiveness that they have been granted.  They have not learned to be vulnerable, humble, and selfless because they need to have control so that they can accumulate good feelings.  The irony is that when a person has a free gift of forgiveness from God there is nothing else they need to accumulate, so forgiveness can be freely given.  They spend their lives protecting themselves; unknowingly hurting those around them because while they have accepted forgiveness from others, they have not truly understood what it would cost if they were held accountable.

3. Getting Walked On

What if the other person does not appreciate your compassion and forgiveness?  The only Biblical response is to endure.  We cannot always understand what is happening in an individual’s heart and mind when they are engaged in rebellion.  But we know that our own salvation is based on an unconditional love from one (Jesus) who endured rebellion and rejection at our own hands.  As a Christian, this is your highest calling.

Here is the idea:  Our unwavering compassion leads others to understand what true love is!  If we falter then that love fails.  And true love never fails!

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 13   Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end…Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  • Romans 2:3-5  Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.

4. Conclusion

A heart that truly apologizes and truly forgives will be one that is compassionate and pays those actions forward.  A heart that offers cheap apologies is one that lacks compassion and mercy on others and is instead concerned with judgment and others getting what they deserve!



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