There’s no doubt about it: forgiveness is hard.
When we are placed in the difficult predicament of forgiving someone who not only isn’t sorry for what they’ve done, but continues to stir up strife in our lives—it can feel infinitely harder.
One of the most challenging things is seeing your ex for who they have become, not for who you thought they would be in your life. We tend to give too much slack, too many chances, because we still hold onto the hope that they will actually turn out in the end to be who we thought they would. But, people will show you exactly who they are and what they are willing to be in your life. The hard part is believing them.
As Christians, we know we are called to forgive. That’s easier to get our mind around when we think we can forgive and move on. But, in some cases, the behavior repeats and continues with no end in sight. It can feel impossible and make us question the common sense of forgiveness.
But, have you ever considered that God finds Himself in that very same predicament with us?
He forgives us—forgives it all—knowing that sin will continue in our lives because we are imperfect and will struggle with it until the day we meet Him. Maybe it will be the same sin that we just can’t shake. The sin we feel terrible about, or the sin we feel validated in committing. Maybe it will be one whose consequences make it still apparent in our lives even when we try to move past it, or the hidden sin we think no one knows about and He won’t notice.
Regardless of the sin—and make no mistake, every single Christian still sins—sin will always be a part of our lives. Becoming a Christian allows Jesus to forgive all of it, but it doesn’t stop us from doing it in the future. That’s true today and has been true since the beginning.
“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
Thankfully, instead of taking us sin by sin—as in waiting for us to sin, then forgiving, then waiting for us to sin again, then forgiving—God chooses something radical instead.
Maybe that sounds like a harsh term to use for what God gracefully offers in our life. But, as I was reading my Bible this week, that exact phrase stuck in my mind and wouldn’t let go. So much so, that I started looking up the exact definitions of the words because it just seemed so different from how I’d thought of forgiveness in the past.
Aggressive: marked by combative readiness
Combative: marked by eagerness to fight or contend
We could combine these with forgiveness: Marked by an eager readiness to contend with our sin and forgive.
When God looks at forgiveness, He does so with an eager readiness to contend with the issue at hand. He has already forgiven the sin we are about to commit. He gets ahead of it, and has decided before it is committed that forgiveness is the result.
He takes a proactive stand, friends. One that can’t be swayed by us, because His mind was made up many years ago—before we even existed. And forgiveness was blanketed over us the day we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
He knows we will still sin. He’s not surprised by that. But, by aggressively forgiving us, he sets that part of our relationship aside so that He can build upon the rest of it.
It doesn’t mean that our sins don’t have consequences, they do (this is where “contend” comes in). It doesn’t mean that He won’t correct us because of them, He will. But, He chooses a loving parent-child relationship in which He forgives because of His deep love for us, and chooses to value the relationship over the sin itself.
This is infinitely harder (at least it seems) when the relationship that we need to forgive is one that we no longer want to be a part of, like that of an ex. But, if we are called to become Christlike in everything we do, we need to learn forgiveness from Him in the same way that He offers it to us.
I know, this is easier said than done. And it’s going to take a radical mind shift to adopt it.
But, what if you did?
What if you chose not to be offended ahead of time? What if you chose to cherish your children’s bond with their father over anything you have against him?
Would there still be consequences they have to face? Yes, there are natural consequences as well as ones we may have to instill to protect our children emotionally and mentally (such as boundaries, or getting others involved when they refuse to follow court orders). Will you have to correct them at times to point out the pain they are causing? Yes, if it is continuing in a way that hurts your children or your attempts to rebuild a life for them. Will it still anger you? Absolutely, as it should when someone is insistent on continuing harmful behavior.
But practicing aggressive forgiveness with your ex has one distinct advantage: it removes their actions from your mind so that you can focus on your children and their need for a parent who is wholly there.
When we are in a relationship with an ex who continues to do wrong—without remorse—there is no one being hurt more than our children. What a gift it would be to them to have the other parent (You) helping them to understand that while we can’t make people be who we want them to be, we can find freedom in forgiving them so that we can focus on loving and taking care of the ones we cherish. Show them that you have chosen to follow Christ in this regard. That you have chosen aggressive forgiveness that isn’t dependent on your own personal feelings, but rather an obedience and deep love for God, in a way that also honors our children.
Expect the behavior.
Accept that it will continue.
Choose to aggressively forgive.