The Process of Forgiveness
Forgiveness means to carry, to take up, to pardon, and to be lenient. It also means to make amends, to be merciful, to put away a hurt. Finally, it means to show favor, to send away a grievance and to disregard the same.
What is the process of either receiving forgiveness from someone you have hurt or offended or extending it to someone who has hurt and offended you? Is there a process? I believe there is. Philemon 8-18 explains some principles involved in the process of receiving or extending forgiveness.
To begin with, forgives is required by Scripture. Forgiveness is not an option for the believer in Christ; either to receive it or to extend it. As Paul says, “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required,” vs. 8. Forgiveness is a requirement before God.
Second, forgiveness is to be compelled by love. “Yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— vs.9. Believers are not to forgive simply because God commands it. Rather, in light of God’s command, we should see to forgive and be forgiven because of our and love for God and for one another.
Thirdly, forgiveness is to be initiated by one’s own accord. The Apostle Paul says, “But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever. No longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. (Philemon 14-18, ESV)
Paul wanted Onesimus to serve alongside him, but only if Philemon consented. The apostle hinted that perhaps through Onesimus’ sin, God worked a greater good by saving the human slave and making him a slave for Christ. However, Paul does not resolve to just call Onesimus a slave but rather a brother in Christ.
The apostle encourages his friend to forgive and receive the one time rebel.
As God has chosen to forgive one time rebels like you and me, along with the Apostle Paul, does it not stand to reason that Philemon should extend the same grace to Onesimus that he has received from God himself? Shouldn’t we?
Soli deo Gloria!