When I was twelve years, old I was sexually abused. Not by a parent or family member, but by a member of the clergy.
It took me years to find the peace of forgiving this person because I confused forgiveness with forgetting. I heard many messages on forgiveness telling me if I hadn’t forgotten – I hadn’t forgiven. This is unrealistic, untrue, and produces
guilt. Even if I could push it out of my mind for a while it would come back with a vengeance because I was only suppressing my emotions. What complicated it even more is this person died leaving me holding the bag of unforgiveness and damaged emotions.
In my struggle to find the meaning of forgiveness, God revealed a concept that gave me great peace. Suppose I came home one night and found a burglar in my house. I would have several choices:
- I could assault him
- I could shoot and kill him
- I could let him go, follow him to his house and do the same thing to him
- I could call the police and have him arrested.
The fourth option is the key. By taking my hands off of the robber and turning him over to the proper authority I am exhibiting forgiveness. Forgiveness is the act of giving to God the right to deal with the wrong a person has committed against me.
When I sin against God and I ask him to forgive me1, what higher authority does he give the right to deal with my wrong? You’re right! There is no authority higher than Him! So He chooses to forget!1 He does forget every sin that is confessed.
1 I John 1:9
1 Psalm 103:12