Forgiveness Doesn't Require Relationship

June 21, 2017

As believers, we are commanded to forgive, but that doesn’t mean we must trust everyone we have forgiven.




Years ago I had a family relative that violated my trust countless amounts of times. I thought I had forgiven this person, but later realized I had harbored unforgiveness in my heart. I wrestled with the idea of forgiveness because I knew I should forgive. However, I also knew that I couldn't keep in contact with this person for my own mental health’s sake. My pattern was that I would ‘forgive’ and continue the relationship only to be hurt again and again.


A Piece of Paper


I was given a piece of paper on forgiveness during a Sunday school lesson and, because I believed I had no problem with forgiveness at that point, I didn’t even read it. Yet and still, this unhealthy relationship continued. I finally happened upon this copied paper about forgiveness again one day, as I was clearing unnecessary clutter. I decided to sit down to read in order to make the decision of which pile it belonged in- trash or keep.


As I read it, my eyes filled with tears because I needed to hear everything that was written. It explained forgiveness in a way that I had never thought about, and it helped me separate the difference between forgiveness and trust.


Christ's Example


Jesus told us to forgive and we would be forgiven (Luke 6:37). How can we not forgive when Christ has forgiven us? We have sinned against God more times than anyone has ever sinned against us. If Christ forgave me, I too must show Christ-Likeness in my forgiveness of others. While reading I learned that, when we forgive, we release people from what we think they owe us. 


This can even be as simple as an apology. That was my case. I just wanted this person to acknowledge the wrong done. They wouldn’t, but the lack of an apology shouldn’t have stopped me from forgiving. Christ forgave me of my debt. I had no right of not forgive this person.


and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Matthew 6:12


For you, it could be that someone never paid you back, or someone might have been really rude to you. It can be even something as simple as not keeping a promise. It might be that your friend lied to you, or that your child has violated your trust. These hurts can be a one-time happening or it could be repetitive behavior. Whatever the case is, you must forgive.


Not Just Words


When forgiving their faults we choose to release people of their debt to us. It is not the act of saying the words, “I forgive you.” It is done in truth. Notice I said the word choose. Sometimes we think that if we keep walking, forgiveness is just going to hit us at some point. It won’t! We are going against our flesh when we forgive. It is a choice in obedience to the Holy Spirit.


Forgiveness is Not Relationship


When reading that paper, I also realized that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily require a relationship. Relationships involve trust and communication. If the person you have chosen to forgive is not trustworthy, then it is not wise to trust them. It wasn’t a sin that I didn’t trust this person. They were not trustworthy!


When we trust, we depend on the character of someone. We can trust their word, which is just and extension of the person. We trust God because He has proven His faithfulness to us. Throughout Scripture we see God’s promises being kept even in spite of our sinfulness. His love is steadfast.


But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Psalm 13:5


Trust involves the heart. When we trust, we open our hearts to people. I could forgive this person, but it wouldn’t have made sense to trust someone who is not trustworthy. There should be no guilt in that. It is wise! 


Godly Trust


God has commanded us to share the burdens of others. This means trusting others with something in our lives that is too heavy for us to carry alone (Gal 6:2). We can’t do that with someone who we can’t trust. 


As forgiveness is a part of the Christian walk, so is trust.  Trust is commanded by God. We are first to trust Him.  Secondly, we make ourselves vulnerable to trustworthy believers who can help carry our burdens. Both of these require action on our part, they don’t just happen. It is an intentional decision. 


Guard Your Heart


We are not told to trust everyone. Paul often told us to guard our hearts, as to not be easily deceived. (Col 2:8). We must forgive everyone, releasing them from what they have done to us. But, we do not trust everyone. Trust must be gained. It is earned. Trust is not forgiveness. 

We must go to the Lord and ask Him to help us forgive those who have wronged us and to help determine who is trustworthy. Both of these acts are pleasing to God.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.
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