How do you forgive someone? James 4:11-12
James 4:11-12 : Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Law giver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (New International Version)
Back from a brief holiday to visit some of my wife’s wonderful family in the South Island of New Zealand. While I was on holiday I got chatting to a guy who asked me this question: ‘Mark how can I forgive my daughter in law who had an affair after many years of being married to my son?’ Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Praise God!) the answer popped into my head immediately: ‘Forgiveness is handing the situation over to God and knowing that God will judge her, God will deal with her sin. That isn’t your role. So you forgive her when you hand the judgement over to God to deal with.’ And then I read this amazing passage from James! ‘There is only one Law giver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.’ For my friend his hurt was very real, he could not comprehend how his daughter in law could cheat on his son, and in the midst of this he knew as a Christian he needed to forgive. His heart and his head were not connecting, his heart hated what she had done and refused to forgive, his head told him he should forgive her. The connection of the head and the heart happens when we make the decision to hand the judgement over to God, and to pray that God is merciful with them.
Only God judges, it is not our place to judge. Yesterday I was reading and reflecting on Philippians 2:12b-13 which reads: ‘continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.’ And what struck me is the ‘fear and trembling’ bit: I am to respect our great and glorious God, a God who blesses, and takes blessing away. When I forgive someone, actually what I am doing is handing them over to God to deal with. In practice, God will deal with them regardless of any decision I make!! But still, for me to take that mental step is key, and then rather than be angry at someone, I find myself praying for them that God is merciful with them.
Rev Mark Brown
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