Forgiveness. It is a concept that is central to our Christian walk, however it is taught more in theory than in practice. We are told to forgive when wronged and yet the details on how, are often left unsaid, leaving us confused and conflicted in how to fully forgive. In this episode of ANN InDepth, host Jennifer Stymiest invites Pastor Morgan Kochenhower and the Vice President/COO of 3ABN, Jill Morikone to unpack the nuance and process of forgiveness.
Whether we have been hurt, or the one who’s done the hurting, forgiveness is necessary for healing. Yet, as both Morikone and Kochenhower explain, forgiveness is a transactional experience. “The very foundation of forgiveness is a relational thing.” Says Kochenhower.
Be it with a friend, a coworker, a spouse, a child, or yourself, forgiveness is not accomplished in a vacuum, but is active engagement with a separate self. This detail may be understood in theory, but when it comes to actually forgiving, there can be corners of our mind that still hold on to resentment, vengeance or the core belief that we alone have been wronged. This ideology is the biggest hurdle when it comes to authentic forgiveness. It is a hurtle, we will never cross alone. The good thing is, we don’t have to.
Morikone shares 5 key steps when it comes to forgiveness.
- Ask God to forgive you. Even if we believe we are the one who was wronged, Morikone points out that we cannot give what we don’t have. Without asking God to forgive us, we still bear the burden of bitterness. Only the forgiven can fully know how to forgive.
- Pray for them. Honest prayer forces us to break through the barriers that prevent us from seeing those who have hurt us as people in need of grace. This is a space for confessing that we may not want to extend forgiveness, but asking the LORD to make our forgiveness authentic.
- Surrender the desire for revenge. This surrender is removing the obstacle and belief that we are responsible for invoking justice, letting go of the misconception that we know the whole story and have the right to punish or correct in our own broken power. Here is the beginning of emotional freedom.
- Choose to repeat the process. This step is vital both for forgiveness itself and our understanding of it. “Forgiveness is a process. forgiveness is not one-time and done.” We have not failed as believers if we struggle to forgive or if the process needs repetition, but we know that in the process we allow God to have authority.
- Allow God to change your feelings. This is arguably the most difficult and necessary step in forgiveness. It requires raw, uncomfortable, and transformative vulnerability that ultimately breaks the pattern that prevents liberation. To truly be free, we must embrace the truth that though we may not feel the forgiveness is sufficient, it is more than enough.
This is an endless cycle that reminds us over and over that though we are unable to fully relinquish with our own power, we serve a God who is more than willing to enter into the cycle with us every time as though it were the first time. This is a cycle that not only mends our hearts, but creates a habitual dependence on God. As Morikone states “It doesn't just stop with forgiveness, but there's the cleansing of us from all unrighteousness and to me that embodies the forgiveness journey.”
For some, forgiveness can mean confronting certain wounds that feel better left unopened. Traumas from abuse are deep pains that can be debilitating, and to confront past abusers in forgiveness can be mistaken for excusing such behavior. Abuse, of any kind, can and should never be forgiven, however the abusers themselves are still children of God in need of transformation and awareness. That being said, because forgiveness is extended does not mean that the abuser should be allowed back in your life. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Morikone clarifies, “ forgiveness is not dependent on another person”, it is a personal pursuit that does not guarantee or require a restored relationship. However, reconciliation is a two sided exchange that occurs when both parties extend forgiveness towards the other to heal and grow the relationship. On this side of heaven, there are some relationships that cannot be reconciled, yet for the healing deserved of those broken by a violation of trust can only be found in the individual pursuit of forgiveness.
Morikone speaks to the intimate liberation that comes from forgiveness, saying “If I do not forgive, if I do not release whatever is being held in my heart, God can't really have access to my heart, and that's what He wants. He wants to come in, He wants to change us, He wants access to everything.” Forgiveness is a testimony to Christ's character, in our inability to forgive by our own nature we are setting ourselves apart by the world in representing the radical nature of Christ's forgiveness. Forgiveness is a practice that must be done by everyone, whether a parent, a boss, or someone in leadership, this is an act of humility that is required not just of those “beneath” us, but an equalizer of our identity as God’s children. Morikone confirms that forgiveness is an application of God’s word, stating:
“You can read the word of God and put it on the shelf, or you can read the word of God and see Jesus talking to you, and see who you are as His daughter, as His child, as His son and understand that even in the midst of pain He can bring peace, and He can bring healing, and He can bring restoration.”