Within the arsenal of pastoral ministry is biblical/pastoral counseling. You’re the spiritual guru, or at least, should be. Within the pastoral endeavors, you’re bound to come across those that are spiritually lazy, faint and tender hearted, need encouragement, or those who refuse to stop drinking from the fountain of sin. Within my shepherding undertakings thus far, one of the major themes within my biblical counseling is that of broken relationships central to forgiveness.
Extending forgiveness is one those spiritual disciplines, yes I meant spiritual disciplines, that may be the easiest conceptually to see but the hardest to personalize. For example, one lady I’ve counseled communicates her longing to be forgiven by God for her sins. She comprehends the depth and extent of forgiveness that God will offer, but not it’s not for her and only for others.
Here is another, yet different, example, exhibit B: We have Jonny and Susie who love the Lord, have fully embraced the gospel, but have entered your office for the third time this month because they just can’t overcome obstacle A. Let “A” be whatever your hearts desire is, but it was big and drastic enough to hinder a fully enjoyable relationship. What I hear frequently in this “type” of counseling situation is the constant finger pointing for admission of wrongdoing but also a “secret” refusal to forgive the issue. And without question, an idea of time and forgiveness go hand-in-hand; that is, Susie will say, “over time, I’ll just get over it.”
This brokenness in the relationship is glaring, but will time and healing really go hand-in-hand? I say, ABSOULTELY NOT….well sorta! Offering forgiveness is an initial, “Punctiliar”, event, but it is also and progressive, “Iterative”, action. Before, I get thrown to the stake for saying forgiveness of others is not an instantaneous act, bear with my argument.
If a person refuses to forgive or does not actively pursue a forgiving heart, a compounding of issues will ensure. Let the dominoes begin toppling over. Time heals no wounds in the sense that a lack of pursuing resolution to a broken wound will only encourage the wound to fester and turn to bitterness, not heal. However, time does also heal wounds in the sense that, as we will see, pursuing reconciliation through forgiveness is an ongoing pursuit; therefore, time is in our favor.
We are all familiar with the Ephesians (Eph 4.32) and Colossian (Col 3.13) imperative or call to forgive: Our forgiveness is called for on the basis of two items, God’s forgiveness of us and our mimicking of God’s forgiveness. So, basically, when your wronged, be like God. Both of these verses tell us to mimic the way in which God extends forgiveness. Interestingly, God extends forgiveness in two forms: Punctiliar/Instantaneous and Daily Pursuit.
God Provides Instantaneous Forgiveness, requiring no time for healing
This one is the most obvious. Do we need verses? When you repent of your sins and call out to God, He immediately extends forgiveness. When confession appears, forgiveness follows suit (1 John 1.9)
Moreover, not only is this forgiveness instantaneous, it is purposely far removed from the mind of God. No, God does not have mind-lapses, as if He forgets. But there is something with our forgiven sins in which they cease to exist in the mind of God.
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is 43.25).
There is this conscious refusal to remember sins. Moreover, in relation to the New Covenant, the Lord states something very similar in Jeremiah.
…For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31.34)
The compassion, mercy, and graciousness of God is unmatched. The sins of His people should and ought to kindle the anger of God on a perpetual basis. Instead, what we find is a God who refuses to keep his anger kindled and chide His children. Further, He does not treat us in accordance to our sins. The implications of this are endless. How many times do we hear, God will let circumstances play out and let them reap the consequences. Okay, I grant a sowing and reaping concept is always present (Gal 6.7–9) in the pursuit of sin. But, as a specific sovereign ruler, God won’t grant liver cancer to the drunkard because he was a drunk. Instead, we find God taking our sins, in the extension of His compassion, and hurling our sins to the East and the West (no, not an allegory for the spreading of Christ’s arms). It is an allusion to the removal of sin from us.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Ps 103.10, 12 (cf. 8–13)
God provides forgiveness to His chosen as continuous, conscience choice of His own part
This principle seems to negate the instantaneous forgiveness of God. Before I’m thrown to the curb, consult the “high priestly” theme of Hebrews. Jesus serves as the High Priest. This priest is the intercessor between God and man.
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7.25).
The continued existence of the resurrected Christ is to constantly make intercession on behalf of the people. Wait? Christ continuously intercedes? This intercession is on behalf of sinners, as a continual activity. Overtly simplified to prove a point, Christ continually makes an appeal to the Father to forgive those that have been bought already.
The conceptual image of a High Priest portrays a continual appealing on behalf of sinners, though this Priest provided complete restitution.
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Does time heal brokenness between relationships? Sort of? Unresolved attack of sin and confrontation of wrongdoing will compound issues and inhibit true restitution. However, our forgiveness of others is to mimic that of God’s: comprehensive over every form of sin and extent of duration.
It’s no wonder why we are called to be forgiving upon those that wrong us: Forgiveness is the purposeful and conscience effort to remember and not to bring to our attention all forms of sin all the while providing continual forgiveness of that person on a daily basis when sin-filled memories do reappear.