You know what it’s like when a friend commiserates with you when you are upset. They often assure you that the emotional reaction you described is “normal.” They often tell you that “anyone would have felt that way.”
So, what do we consider normal when we’ve been hurt by another person? Whether our injury is emotional or physical, it’s “normal” to move into retaliation mode. Normal thinks, “You hurt me, so I’m gonna hurt you.” This kind of response is the natural, normal pattern of the world. It’s no secret that forgiveness is not the normal response.
But Jesus shows us a new normal. In fact, He calls us to give the opposite response when we’ve been wronged. We’re to reflect Jesus and give the supernatural response. Returning evil for evil is not how Jesus responded to the abuses heaped upon Him. He responded in the exact opposite way! He said, “if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). With these words, Jesus Himself lets us know what He desires from us.
Jesus is asking you and me to forgive as He did—to reflect Him. He wants us to respond to a higher standard, a divine standard. Like the saying goes, “To err is human, but to forgive, divine.” This means that if the person who hurts you or devastates your life never repents…or never acknowledges the pain caused to you…or never asks you for forgiveness…or never even says “I’m sorry,” you are still willing to extend forgiveness. Forgiving that person will free you of a heavy burden of bitterness. Forgiveness is not about “them.” It’s not about those who hurt you. It’s about you and your connection with God.
A pure heart filled with God’s security and love will enable you to forgive someone who’s wronged you. Forgiveness must come from the inside and work its way out into a physical response. Jesus knows your heart and He also knows that at times it’s difficult in your heart to forgive those who have hurt you. So, as an act of your will, try responding with a new normal:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:27-31).
How is this done? You can reject the “normal” response of bitterness and holding a grudge. First, mentally refusing to constantly rehash or dwell on a hurt will demonstrate a new normal. A next step would be to extend kindness and goodness. You can send a note. You can give a helping hand. You can smile at that person. Many times you’ll discover that your first move will melt their coldness toward you. But regardless, you will have activated — or defrosted! — any coldness in your heart. You will be moving forward in forgiving a person who’s wronged you. You’ll find your heart melting so you can freely forgive another just as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
Question: How would our churches and outreach to the world be affected if we applied Jesus’ “new normal” for forgiving others? Have you ever witnessed a supernatural act of forgiveness that impacted you?
For more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.