Perhaps the most difficult aspect of breaking up, particularly for those of us who love Jesus, is figuring out what forgiveness looks like. And what it doesn’t look like.
How many break ups get patched back together for the sake of “forgiveness” only to fall apart again later and more painfully?
How many of us have attempted agonizingly close friendship post-break-up because anything less is categorized as unforgiving and not at all like Jesus?
How many women give the man who cheats, manipulates, or abuses another chance because “that’s what Jesus would do?”
Beloved, the rest of our lives hang in the balance when it comes to forgiveness within romantic relationships.
So, what should forgiveness look like?
Forgiveness always, always, always begins at the cross,
where the Prince of Peace absorbed all the just wrath of the King of creation.
Forgiveness is, first of all, the attitude of your heart. Forgiveness always, always, always begins at the cross, where the Prince of Peace absorbed all the just wrath of the King of creation. Our hearts need to stay right here in the realization that we have not been given the punishment we deserve. The mercy of God has intercepted all of our offenses against the Righteous Judge.
When we start our hearts from this place of humility, we’re ready to view the ones who hurt us from a place of freedom. We, who have been released from the just demands of the Law, are most eager to extend the same mercy to others.
Even if it has to start anew every moment of every day at first. Even if the temptation is to murder him mentally over and over again. We choose to forgive. We take the thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. “I forgive him again. I forgive him again. I forgive him again.”
Refusing to forgive will only keep your heart enslaved to hate and hurt. We cannot handle the weight of making ourselves into judge and jury. The pressure will crush us. We forgive because Jesus forgave us. And we forgive because our own souls depend on it.
You allow the death of Jesus to cover the death of your relationship,
and you trust that Jesus will make all things right one day.
It is this inward work of forgiveness that transforms our behavior in interacting with the people who have wounded us.
Forgiveness means you are no longer demanding justice for how he hurt you or seeking to make him pay. You allow the death of Jesus to cover the death of your relationship, and you trust that Jesus will make all things right one day. As we remember what grace God has given us in Christ, we are freed to extend the same grace to one another.
We no longer exact from others the payment for their offenses. We don’t try to make his life miserable or incite jealousy, because Jesus has never lorded our failures over us. We don’t nitpick or overanalyze his every move or take up offense all over again because God has been unbelievably patient, long suffering, with us.
Forgiveness means we live for peace, not payback.
It’s not a giant eraser of consequences.
But do you notice what forgiveness has not required? Forgiveness has not implied continued relationship. Forgiveness speaks nothing of moving on as friends. A lack of ill-will? Absolutely. Kindness in your interactions? Yes. Saying and doing what makes for peace? So far as it depends on you. Ask the Spirit for the strength and love to live forgiveness in every encounter.
Still, forgiveness does not mean the relationship is restored. It’s not a giant eraser of consequences. It means you’re leaving judgment to Jesus, but it does not make continued intimacy safe or beneficial. In most cases, pursuing friendship under the name of forgiveness only prolongs the hurt and deepens the grievances as your feelings and attachment are given no relief.
Beloved, do not be guilted into friendship or involvement because anyone tells you it’s part of forgiveness. For other relationships, that is likely to be true, but not for the post-break-up ones. Entrust the justice to Jesus and trust Him to provide friends for each of you too.
And for those who find themselves guilted and manipulated into staying, over and over again, know that your God is not the one who asks it of you. In fact, you are esteemed and loved by the King who died to release you from such bondage. You don’t owe that man anything. Your Rescuer, Jesus, has seen to that.
We have a tender Savior who is eager to make peace in all our turmoil. Let Him speak forgiveness and freedom over you, Beloved. And then let Him move for peace between you.