I was reading through the book Counterfeit Gods when I was punched in the gut by the following thought from that book:
No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator. If you have been robbed of money, opportunity, or happiness, you can either make the wrongdoer pay it back or you can forgive. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.
When I was going through my discipleship training school with YWAM back in 2000, we had a whole week of teaching on relationships. I don’t remember much of what the guy said, honestly, but there was this one line that he said over and over again that I will never forget (mostly because he said it over and over again.):
Every problem in the world is a relationship problem. The problem with relationships is pride. The solution to that problem is humility.
That sounds pretty basic. The problem, I think, is that we are so caught up in ourselves and “justice” and “fairness” for ourselves, that we don’t even realize how prideful we are.
It is true that the greatest cause of destruction in relationships is pride. A lack of humility. It is fatal. If it is present, relationships cannot succeed. We must die to ourselves daily. Ephesians says:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Since reading that book, my mind has been bombarded with ways that pride can kill relationships. Things we say or do that we call “godly.” We disguise our punishment of people and our pride and call it “an apology” or “confronting in love.”
The truth is that forgiveness, or saying “I forgive you” with the intent of teaching the offender a lesson is not forgiveness at all. It’s pride and it’s destructive.
“I’m sorry” followed by an excuse or an accusation (i.e. I am sorry but you were a really big jerk too) is not an apology and only widens the gap of dissension.
Confrontation that lacks love and complete humility only causes more damage. It’s arrogance disguised by a biblical principle.
I’m not sure exactly where to land this thing because I haven’t even come close to processing all of this. I think these verses from 1 Peter about sum it up though:
I Peter 3:8-12
8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
11He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”