Forgiveness Without Explanation

We have all been hurt before, or maybe even betrayed by somebody at some point in our lives. (If you don’t know what that feels like, be on guard, because it will inevitably happen to you at some point. It even happened to Jesus and He was the Son of God!) None of us are immune from the pain of these moments and recently I was reminded of just such a thing.

I won’t go into too many details of the exact situation, but after I called them out on it, the other party quickly became aware of their transgressions and admitted how wrong it was. Of course, they didn’t mean to offend me, but what they did definitely struck an unfavorable chord within my heart. And it left me with the bitter taste of the bigger unanswered question—why?

Even though the person admitted their wrongdoing and was asking for my forgiveness, I have a tendency to hold on to things longer than I should, and so they advised me not to overreact. But what can I say? When a person is mad, they’re mad. The least I could be offered is an explanation for their actions, right?

Well, that’s where it starts to get into the gray part of what should otherwise be a very obvious command—forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him (Colossians 3:13, but in many other places in Scripture as well).

Yet the other party never offered up an explanation as to why they did what they did, so even though I had been quite ready to forgive them, I was still struggling to understand the rationale behind the choice. Were they truly sorry or just saying so? What does a truly repentant heart looks like in Christianity? I came across 12 signs that a person has a genuinely repentant heart, which was helpful but it still didn’t answer my questions.

As Christians, we are called to forgive, provided the person repents and ask of our forgiveness. But let’s say we are still confused as to the exact motivations behind the offense to begin with. Before offering up the forgiveness card, aren’t we at least entitled to an explanation as to why someone chose to offend us in the first place? Or should we just forgive without being provided that information? Is it truly repentance if the person is unable or unwilling to explain their actions?

I decided to seek proper counsel from my friend Dylon—the youth pastor of my home church and one that is being trained to eventually head up a new ministry a few towns over. He concluded that we are definitely called to forgive and echoed words that he had heard once before—bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Holding on to this could rob me of my joy and peace.

That being said, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with asking for an explanation. Dylon went on to further say, “Sometimes even when people are forgiven, there are still natural consequences. And sometimes, we need God’s supernatural help to forgive people and not hold their failings against them, especially when it has been at our expense.”

Even though I still don’t understand the logic behind why the offending party chose to do what they did, I decided to forgive them for it anyways. After all, I didn’t want to go to bed angry that night (Ephesians 4:26-27). And I had no right to hold something against them, especially if they were truly being honest with me in their regrets (Ephesians 4:32).

Although painful at first, it is in moments like these that I admire Jesus Christ and those that have followed in His footsteps. On the outside looking in, it’s super easy to say we can immediately forgive people that have wronged us. But in the heat of the moment, it’s surely not that easy. We need His strength all the more to get us thru it. And perhaps that’s why He lets these things happen—to get us to realize that although we cannot rely on our own strength, He can get us thru anything, because His strength is sufficient enough.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

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