The Power to Forgive

Author: Julie Simpson
April 19, 2019

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:4,5

The promise of the gospel says that whoever believes that Jesus died and rose again to pay the penalty for their sins gets to enjoy eternal life in heaven with Him. This is the best news ever. But I’ve struggled with this idea of completely merciful forgiveness.

You see, when I was a high school student, I was sexually abused by a youth group volunteer in my church. Someone who professed to believe that Jesus died and rose again to pay the penalty for their sins.

In the aftermath and healing from that trauma, I’ve often wondered: what if my abuser really did have saving faith? What if I have to see them in heaven someday and spend eternity with them? How is that going to be possible? 

It’s not surprising that I had a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness of my abuser, considering that I have also always struggled with understanding His grace toward me. Even though I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid, I still lived for a long time as if His love for me was conditional, based on the strength of my faith or my usefulness for His Kingdom. I was constantly weighed down by the thought that He might have forgiven me, but that He regretted it. That I wasn’t worth the price of admission. 

But the older and deeper I’ve grown in my faith, the more I’ve come to understand: the good news of Easter isn’t just acceptance and forgiveness. It’s death and new life. 

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In God’s eyes I have died with Christ, and I have been resurrected with Christ. His death was my death, His new life is my life. 

This is much more radical than my previous understanding of Easter events as just the wiping clean of my sinful slate. My price wasn’t just paid. I was transformed into something new, buried and raised up in resurrection with Jesus.

And it’s interesting that the more this forgiveness soaked into my weary heart, the more I understood how it might be possible to forgive my abuser. 

Paul says:

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-15

The power of the resurrection isn’t just that your sins and my sins and my abuser’s sins will be wiped away, but that our sinful selves will be killed dead and gone forever and we will be rescued from the kingdom of darkness we’ve built for ourselves. A better understanding of this reality has brought about a miracle in my heart.

Before, I couldn’t imagine a good heaven with my abuser in it. 
Now, I genuinely hope to see their face among the redeemed. 

What about you? Is this sort of radical forgiveness difficult for you to accept, for yourself or for someone who has hurt you? Bring your doubt and pain to the cross and the empty tomb.
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