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
For many of us, this is the hardest thing to bear – seeing the wrongdoer walking around, carefree and not even showing any concern, let alone repentance, for what He has done. He may even taunt us about it and laugh about the harm he did to us. That is much harder to handle than when the wrongdoer recognises the wrong he did and is sorry for it.
In addition to the original wrong done to you, there is the fresh insult every day of seeing the wrongdoer’s brazen face, knowing that he feels no remorse and that he seems to have got away with it, i.e. that there is no justice, or at least not at present.
Perhaps the police are refusing to deal with it. Or, the people around you, even in the church, may seem not to care about the wrong done to you. They may even be more sympathetic towards the wrongdoer than they are to you, as the victim. That is often the case. In these circumstance it is as if a fresh wound is created, or at least opened up, every day.
So, in addition to forgiving the original wrong, we also have to keep forgiving each fresh violation, day by day. That is very hard, but it is still possible, because what you are being commanded to do is actually quite narrow and is entirely a matter of your will, which is always under your control. It is not about your feelings or emotions, which you are not necessarily able to control.
Remember that what we are commanded to do is basic forgiveness, i.e. narrowly defined. Therefore it does not necessarily involve going any further than simply stepping aside, ‘recusing yourself’, and leaving everything, including any new offences caused by the wrongdoer’s lack of remorse, to be judged by Jesus. It does not necessarily mean doing anything beyond that, or at least not to begin with. More could be required of us later.
So, whatever state our emotions might currently be in, we can always choose, purely as an exercise of our will, to step aside and leave the judging for Jesus to deal with. That basic act of forgiveness is all we are being required to do, until or unless God asks us to go further than that. Moreover, we are always capable of it. We just don’t always choose to do it.