Forgiveness, like love, like our identity in Christ, is not a feeling. It is not rooted in our feelings, our soul-life. Forgiveness, like love and living from our identity, is a choice – a choice made because we know we have the Forgiving One living within us who is our Life. I don’t have make myself feel like a king, a priest, holy, blameless, not condemned; it is my place to choose to faithe (exercise faith, rely, actively believe and act in faith on what I believe – faith as a verb instead of a noun).
Sometimes we have to choose again and again. In the mid nineties I had an identity crash, and had been so bound up in false identities that I had to choose again and again to believe in my real identity in Christ. This revelation doesn’t come to us and get through to us without opposition – we have a very real, a very hateful enemy that deeply desires to quell the rising expression of Christ’s life, love, and power in us. A mature Christian, one who relies totally on Christ, is very dangerous to the darkness – he sheds light wherever he goes, because he relies totally on Christ’s light within himself – and faith puts God into action.
So – we have forgiveness issues. People have done wrong things to us, and very rightly we are bothered and angered by the injustice. We feel angry, and we feel we want to avoid them. These feelings are neither right or wrong – they are just feelings. Our feelings follow our thinking, our choices of faith.
What we must remember is we are containers. Cups. Vessels. Branches. We are not meant to “forgive others” in our human effort. All we do is affirm that the One who hung on the Cross and said of his executioners, “Father, forgive them – they don’t know what they are doing,” lives in us. He is our forgiveness for others. All we do is thank Him for being our indwelling, faith-accessible Forgiveness.
So, as with our identity in Christ, we choose – a naked choice that is not dependent on feelings, because it is driven by something so much deeper. “Lord, because you are Love in me, I choose to access your Love; what belongs to You belongs to me, because we are married, because we are in union, because we are ‘one spirit,’ not two. You laid down Your rights; You had done no wrong, and yet You were wronged – and You forgave. You are my indwelling source, my power to forgive ________. I totally and completely absolve them of any wrong, and ask that you would bring them to know you deeply. And furthermore, since You “work all things after the counsel of Your own will,” I say in faith with Joseph that You “meant evil for good” and You ordained that these people should wrong me in this way; You purposed to use their wrong to show me the power of Your forgiveness in me, and to show them the power and love of God.”
That’s the naked choice – trust God no matter what we feel, think, see, hear, experience. God said it; we rely on it.
I woke up on our band bus one morning a few years ago, anxious, fretting. I prayed through my identity in Christ. I asked God to work in my life. I prayed and prayed as I laid there.
And after awhile a still, small Voice said calmly, You’re just trying to change how you feel.
I laughed out loud, said, “You’re right,” and got up. Once I stopped centering on the feelings, they slowly dissipated as I went about my day.
In forgiveness, as with other aspects of the Christian life, we often center on feelings, and since we’re trying to change them they won’t cooperate; it’s like trying not to be nervous. Taking our attention from feelings, putting it on Christ, will cause the feelings to dissipate as we continually choose to trust. We recognize and rely on God’s Facts – and God works through us.