From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 13 – Some common errors and areas of confusion about what forgiveness is and how, and why, we are to do it
As you consider the issue now, does it occur to you that it is odd that we are so prone to misunderstanding words like forgiveness, but understand other words very easily? For example, have you ever met anybody who does not understand words like ‘refrigerator’ or ‘temperature’ or even more complex words like ‘democracy’ or ‘unemployment’?
In fact, I would go so far as to predict that if a survey was carried out, it would reveal that even theoffside rule in football (soccer) is more widely and accurately understood than the meaning of the word ‘forgiveness’. I would suggest that one explanation for this widespread lack of understanding is that the demons work hard to ensure that there is confusion about any word or concept which really matters.
They know which things would cause the biggest problems for the Church if they are not understood correctly. The demons don’t mind at all if you accurately understand refrigerators, the offside rule, and even democracy. So, they don’t bother to cause any sabotage in those areas. However, the demons know the huge significance of forgiveness.
It not only affects your relationships with other people, especially within the Church. It also has a major bearing on your effectiveness as a Christian, right across the board. It also affects the ability of the wider Church to function properly and to be a witness to the unsaved world around us. Most importantly of all, it even has a bearing on God’s willingness to forgive you.
It would therefore be hard to think of many things which could be more important than forgiving other people. The demons can’t stop you from reading the Bible or from seeing that the forgiving of others is required of you. However, what they can very easily do is to render your efforts to forgive others ineffective by getting you to define forgiveness differently from how God defines it.
In particular, they want you to see it as being something bigger, wider and more difficult than itreally is. If they can achieve that, then the chances are that you will:
a) consider it impossible to forgive others
b) therefore not even attempt it
c) attempt it but fail, or at least believe you have failed, because you are trying to go further than God actually commands, and to do things which are over and above what He asks of us
d) see forgiveness as something which has to be achieved at the level of your feelings when God sees it as taking place at the level of your will, i.e. a pure decision, or choice
e) conclude that your attempts to forgive are not working and therefore give up on it and lapse back into unforgiveness, bitterness, and even hate
f) avoid preaching to others on the subject of forgiveness, because you are discouraged and confused about it yourself, and find it hard to put into practice. That reluctance to teach others about the subject then compounds the problem of ignorance and confusion even further
As stated earlier, we don’t seem to have any equivalent difficulty understanding other words that are in common usage, or even the less common words. We don’t add extra layers of complexity to the meaning of those words, or mix them up with other things. Therefore, the fact that forgiveness is so widely and seriously misunderstood, and that our efforts to implement it are so profoundly ineffectual, shows how much effort the demons are putting in to sabotaging our thinking.
That in itself should help to persuade you that forgiveness is an exceptionally important issue and one which warrants a great deal of extra attention. The demons consider the derailing of our attempts to forgive each other to be of vital strategic importance to their war aims. Therefore, understanding it correctly, and achieving it in practice, must be equally important to ours. Accordingly, we should make at least the same effort to define its meaning correctly as the demons make in trying to obscure it.