The Dreaded Word -- Forgiveness
Of all the Father's lessons imparted through the wilderness healing process, the chief one to be learned is the lesson of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the bridge that leads from woundedness to wholeness. We can't be healed toward the Father's greater wholeness without paying the price of forgiveness. And a high price it is.
Because of its importance, it is critical to accurately explain what forgiveness is and what it accomplishes. This is a complex subject with many variables. Here we are limited to forgiveness in context of rejection due to our venting of the Father's zealous anger and because of any other spiritual obedience for which others may mistreat us. We'll call this "prophetic forgiveness," distinguishing it from "personal forgiveness," i.e., forgiveness for personal hurts unrelated to spiritual obedience.
Defining "Prophetic Forgiveness"
There's been much ignorant teaching on forgiveness within the prophetic church. This teaching treats as one conflict over personal issues (personal offense) and conflict due to spiritual obedience (prophetic offense). It also fails to discern the dimensions of forgiveness in which repentance may or may not be required before forgiveness can be extended and relationship restored.
This is best evidenced in the extreme teaching of "unconditional forgiveness" that sees all forgiveness as the "absolving" of all people for all responsibility of their sins regardless of repentance, with a "let-bygones-be-bygones" basis for restored fellowship. This teaching removes the element of justice from relationship. It is a "lawless forgiveness." The inherently unjust nature of such forgiveness blocks prophetically wounded hearts from entering into the just healing prophetic forgiveness to which the Father calls us.
- Not Unconditional Absolution
Let's begin then by explaining what prophetic forgiveness is not. Prophetic forgiveness is not the unconditional absolving of all people of responsibility for rejecting us over our words and obedience regardless of their repentance. This indiscriminate notion as described above is rooted in a humanistic understanding of Christ's forgiveness on the cross.
It is oft said without qualification that Christ "unconditionally forgave" all men at the cross of all their sins. By this is meant Jesus unconditionally absolved men of responsibility for all their sins, including their immediate rejection of His prophetic ministry, without regard to repentance or to whether they knew what they were rejecting or not. And so we should do likewise.
Were this true however--had Jesus unconditionally absolved all men of their sins including the religious leaders for their willful rejection of Him--then upon His death, His sentence against Jerusalem would have been automatically lifted; the city would not have been destroyed for rejecting Him; no one since His death would have gone to hell; nor can He possibly return as a Judge who will execute vengeance on the unrighteous! In a word, all judgment would have been commuted for all time. (I have heard a "third day apostle" actually teach as much saying "all judgment is past.")
- Not Unconditionally Restored Relationship
Likewise, prophetic forgiveness is not about restoring relationship with our prophetic enemies--something which can only occur after they repent and recognize what they rejected in God when they rejected us. In the prophetic, it is often necessary to remain separated and turn one's face away from the disobedient, even though we are to forgive them for their rejection of us.
Relational restoration over prophetic rejection is a work achievable only by the Father as He corrects hearts in violation of His prophetic truth and brings them to the repentance necessary to enable us to walk in the same prophetic light. The Father does not require--in fact forbids--that we attempt to create unity over violation of prophetic truth until repentance back toward the truth is achieved.
The Lord's "care-frontation" of Peter after the resurrection proves this. Had the Lord's forgiveness on the cross purchased unconditional restoration of relationship with all men, then after His resurrection, the Lord would have warmly greeted Peter on the shore as if nothing had ever happened between them the night of Peter's betrayal. But that's not what happened. Restoration had to be worked out between the Lord and Peter over Peter's betrayal, even though the Lord had already forgiven him. Relational restoration is beyond forgiveness.
Obvious to all except Christian Universalists ("Total Restorationists") and the most blinded of Passionists, unconditional absolution and relational restoration is not what characterized the forgiveness of Christ.
Nevertheless, Christ forgave us all our sins, and requires that we also forgive those who have rejected His ministry through us if we are to be healed of our wounds: "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone--"(Mk. 11:25)
So we must still answer the question,
What then is prophetic forgiveness?
Peter shows us exactly what prophetic forgiveness is:
When he was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; [when] He was abused and suffered, He made no threats [of vengeance]; but he trusted [Himself and everything] to Him who judges fairly. I Pt. 2:23 Amplified
What is this saying? It is saying Jesus prophetically forgave by turning his focus away from his rejecters and toward His Father so as to release all men from His own personal judgment of His rejecters; committing all justice pertaining to them solely into the hands of His Father.
In a word then, prophetic forgiveness is the release of all men from the animus of personal judgment and revenge over their wounding of us for our prophetic words and obedience. Forgiveness is the inner practice of separating out our subjective judgment of men from our objective stance before them as a plumb line of truth. It is the transference of judgment from our hearts to the Father's heart such that judgment is entirely removed from our own hearts.
Again, prophetic forgiveness is the continual stripping of judgment from our own hearts over the mistreatment we receive from others for our obedience. It is a process of constant transferal of revenge from our hearts into the hands of the Father. We cannot absolve others of their sins nor restore our own relationship with them. Men remain responsible for their prophetic rejections before the Father. But we can release them from our own judgment.
Levels of Forgiveness
Forgiveness must be learned on the same two levels that our wounding occurs. We must learn how to forgive the Lord Himself being the primary Mover behind our wounding; as well as to forgive those of the mainstream and wilderness who have secondarily hurt us.
We know we must forgive others. But forgiving the Lord is not something we readily think of. Yet it is a very critical forgiveness we must make. Many of us unconsciously struggle with suppressed anger, judgment and bitterness against the Lord because of what He has allowed us to suffer for Him. We "stuff" this anger because we know it is wrong to judge God. But we must absolutely release to the Lord our own judgment against Him. Suppression only buries our wounds. Forgiving God heals them. We must learn how to forgive the Lord.
Prophetic forgiveness of the Lord and our prophetic enemies is the chief lesson of the Book of Job. Job had to learn how to forgive the Lord who issued the "destruction permit" to the devil against Job. And He had to learn to forgive his judgmental "friends" who did not understand that Job's sufferings were actually on account of his obedience, not his disobedience.
Blessing Our Prophetic Enemies
One of the most effective means the Lord has given us for entering into the release of prophetic forgiveness is the practice of blessing our prophetic enemies. Like mis-defined forgiveness, this too is something we inwardly recoil at every time we read the Sermon on the Mount. We wince because the command to bless enemies sounds like an absolution of enemies for all responsibility for their sins. It sounds unjust.
That is not the case, however. Absolution is not what blessing enemies is about. The command to bless enemies is rather a quick-start way to engage the healing process of forgiveness. It is a "flint" we may use to "spark" forgiveness--to ignite the separation of personal judgment from our hearts, bringing us to an objectively just desire for our enemies' salvation from the judgment otherwise surely to befall them; and for the kind of goodness in their lives that will lead to their repentance.
Yes, it hurts in the moment to bless those who are the agents of our prophetic suffering. But it hurts even longer to delay the healing process of giving up ("for-giving") our personal judgment with its festering bitterness.
The Processal Nature of Prophetic Forgiveness
Again, as is the healing it fosters, prophetic forgiveness is a process. It is not a matter of making a simple declaration "I forgive you." It is a matter of outworked deliverance from personal judgment over prophetic rejection, replaced by a sincere objective desire for the welfare of prophetic enemies through their repentance, including an objective appreciation of what truth and good they may otherwise possess in the Lord.
This outworking takes time. The more intense the prophetic conflict--the longer it takes to work through prophetic forgiveness. As the forgiveness becomes seated, inner healing and personal restoration takes place within us, even though it may not be possible with those from whom we must remain separated pending their own turn of heart.
Part of the process of prophetic forgiveness is learning to discern between mere personal offences that can be unilaterally forborne without confrontation, personal offences that require a greater restoration, and prophetic offences which can only be forgiven by a release and transfer of all judgment and for which personal restoration can only occur through repentance. This growing discernment too is part of growth into sonship.
Measuring the Progress of Our Healing
How do we know when prophetic forgiveness has become seated in us? There are a few ways. One is when all the "tapes" are finally "turned off." You know what I mean by "the tapes?" It's all those inner imaginary "after conversations" you hold in the court of your heart over what happened--over what was said in the "grilling chamber" when you were put on trial, and what you wished you had said had you thought of it--something really effective that could have "skewered them"--.over and over again.
For days, weeks, months and even years after major prophetic conflicts, we may be faced with these inner mental rehearsings. All this rehearsing is from the power of personal vengeance and must be defeated. It requires constant counter-action of heart through confessing forgiveness (personal release) and blessing of our opponents before the Father, committing all judgment of them into His hands.
A second evidence of forgiveness healing is when we can look at our opponents from within our heart and be moved to genuine objective pity for them in place of the desire to see divine retribution finally come to them. This is true love. Love desires the best for all men, including one's spiritual enemies. It desires them to come to repentance so that they may not be judged of the Lord for their transgressions and so that they might be restored to Him and to us.
A third evidence healing is occurring is when we can objectively appreciate the good and worthy points of our prophetic enemies despite their treatment of us. Rarely are our prophetic enemies so vile as to be void of anything praiseworthy in their lives.
Again, none of these evidences is to suggest that relationship with prophetic enemies can become restored apart from their repentance for their actions against us. Forgiveness and relational restoration are not the same. We are not called to create relational restoration in violation of prophetic truth. And failure to create relational restoration where prophetic truth is at stake is not unforgiveness.
On occasion I have had wilderness people write me looking for fellowship. In due course, they bring up the lousy treatment they received from "the church" because of their stand for prophetic truth. Unspoken behind their testimony are these words:
"I'm telling you about how badly I was treated because I bet you were treated badly too, and so I think you will understand me; and so I'm looking to you to help nurse my wounds and empathize with me against the church. And I believe that our mutual suffering at the hands of the backslidden Laodicean church gives us a wonderful basis for a new fellowship."
I cannot fellowship with anyone based on our like woundedness. My job is to steer such readers to whatever makes for "healing of that which is lame" and the removing of bitterness. I've actually had to turn away some earnest seekers and encourage them first to find the forgiveness they must make toward the church before coming to me for fellowship. This is so hard to hear, I know. But we must do this before we can have true poison-free fellowship in Christ.
I have had to personally forgive the Lord over much in my own life. I have also had to forgive many prophetic enemies. No. I'm not able to create relational restoration with them through "unconditional forgiveness." Such restoration is not mine to create, but the Father's. I have had to learn to forgive while remaining true to that for which the Father necessitated my fellowship with others to be broken.
But I have learned, and I mean learned over substantial periods of time, how to release prophetic enemies from my own judgment--from any sense of accountability to me for their words and actions. I have gained a sincere desire for their repentance, not toward me so much, but toward the Lord for their violations of His truth. And I have learned to retain and develop appreciation for what strengths in the Lord my enemies yet retain, only sorry that we can't walk together in a productive spiritual relationship over those shared strengths.
So then, what comes to your heart here in the wilderness? Is there anyone you need to release into the hands of the Father's righteous judgment in hope of their repentance and your restoration with them? How about forgiving the Lord* for all you've been through for Him?
[*For added encouragement toward forgiving the Lord, please see my article "The Shadow Is My Friend.]
New Meadow Neck, RI
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created October 5, 2008