Fr. Al's 14 Questions on Forgiveness
1. What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is out decision to accept God's grace to let go of offenses committed against us and to express this by acts of mercy and love toward the offender (see Lk 15:20-24).
"Forgiveness is the restoration of freedom to oneself. It is the key held in out own hand to our prison cell." (Pope John Paul II)
2. How often must I forgive?
70 x 7, that is, indefinitely, always (see Mt 18:22).
3. Is there any offense, which I don't have to forgive?
No, the Lord calls us to forgive all offenses, even rape, murder, abuse, adultery, etc.
4. When I forgive, am I condoning sin?
No, the Lord forgives all our sins and condones none of them. (see Jn 8:11)
5. Must I forgive if the person offending me isn't sorry?
Yes, for-giveness is before-giveness to give pardon before asked forgiveness or if never asked forgiveness.
6. Must I forgive if a person continues to hurt me?
Yes, while hanging on the cross Jesus forgave His enemies while they continued to spit at Him and blaspheme Him (see Lk 23:24)
7. If I forgive a person, do I stay in an abusive situation?
No, you free yourself to obey God and remove yourself from an abusive situation until it is changed.
8. How do I forgive?
None of us can forgive by our own power. "To err is human, to forgive divine," and we are not divine. However, the Lord promised us His divine power to forgive. Therefore, forgiveness is our decision to accept God's grace to forgive.
9. What if I don't want to forgive?
We should pray and ask the Lord to change our hearts.
10. How fast must I forgive?
Immediately (Mt 5:25). We're in a self-made jail and at a stand-still in our relationship with God until we forgive.
11. What if I forgive and forget?
Forgetting offenses against us does not mean we have amnesia but that there is no special sting in us when we remember offenses. If it hurts us to remember offenses against us, either we need healing or have not truly forgiven.
12. How do I forgive myself?
The Bible does not speak of our forgiving ourselves. Not forgiving ourselves is a symptom which will take care of itself if we truly forgive others and receive prayers for healing.
13. What if I don't forgive?
§ We "give the devil a chance to work on" us (see Eph 4:27).
§ We are handed over to the torturers (Mt 18:34). These torturers are such things as fear, loneliness, depression, frustration, anxiety, and self-hatred.
§ We cut ourselves off from receiving forgiveness (Mt 6:12, 15), healing (Sir 28:3), prayer (Mk 11:25), and worship (Mt 5:23-24).
§ If we persist in unforgiveness, we cut ourselves off from God forever and thereby damn ourselves.
14. How do I know if I have forgiven?
Forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision. Moreover, forgiveness is not only praying for a person or treating him/her politely. We know if we have made the decision to forgive if we show it in acts of love and mercy to those who have offended us. For example, the father of the prodigal son threw his arms around his son, kissed him, gave him gifts, honored him, and celebrated his return (LK 15:20-24). By God's grace, we must go and do likewise.
Right now, decide to accept God's grace to forgive all that have offended you in any way. Say "By God's grace, I decide to forgive _____for____." Fill in the blanks and repeat this statement until you have forgiven everyone who has ever offended you. Then thank Jesus forever for the miracle of forgiveness.
Fr. Al Lauer will be at our Annual Conference this August: Open Wide the Doors to Christ!.