I HAVE FORGIVEN-NOW WHAT?
When forgiveness is extended
to an offending party, does it mean that we have to continue to be in their company? This is a question that many who have
experienced abuse and domestic violence wrestle with once separated. You can’t forget the horrible beatings, the verbal
abuse and the many trips to the hospital. And in some cases, you may have to carry a permanent reminder of the battery in
the form of a physical scar. But in your heart, you have forgiven the trespasses, even verbally. Now what?
No one can tell you what to do
concerning your experiences with domestic violence and abuse. Going back to an abuser, or maintaining contact is a personal
decision. However, in too many cases, the repentance of the one who abuses is often lip service. Without a LOT of time, Divine
intervention, counseling, behavior change (repentance), and the like, most likely the abuse will take on another form, and
become worst over time. You will often hear, “If you leave me, you haven’t forgiven me.” Well this is not
Since God is the only One that
truly knows what is in our hearts, no one can accuse you of being unforgiving if you really forgave. Most of all, forgiveness
is not about the offender, it is about you and your relationship with God. In order for you to be forgiven by
God for all of the mistakes you will make in life, you must forgive others from the heart. Forgiveness is about letting go
of the animosities, anger, resentment, thoughts of revenge, and seeking God’s peace and direction for your life. It
is also about giving a person, or situation over to God for Him to make of it as He sees fit. While you are seeking a higher
plane of spirituality, the offender should be doing the same.
Unfortunately, this does not
always happen. There are many men now standing up like real men and acknowledging their abusive faults, and they are reaching
out for help. There is more help for abused women and children, so the likelihood of finding help for men who abuse is almost
non-existent. And this is where the church is failing, as well as other areas concerning domestic violence and abuse.
Some marriages are damaged to the point of no return. This is especially
true in the case where children may have experienced abuse and violence as well. It is very difficult to extend full forgiveness
while you are still suffering from pain and anguish. That will come with God’s help-in time. Repentance is a process,
and so is forgiveness. And most assuredly, forgiveness does not equal forgetting. There are lessons to be learned in what
we suffer in life, especially at the hands of others. Nor does forgiveness mean that we have to trust an abuser. We can forgive
someone without putting ourselves in the position to be victimized again. Love can be achieved and so can forgiveness, but
we still must protect ourselves.
When we forgive, we are letting go and allowing God’s vindication to
bring about justice. In His time and His way, He will vindicate those who were wronged, and will punish those who offend and
harmed. In too many cases, reconciliation is neither helpful nor appropriate. It is very difficult to stop loving someone
and walk away. But this may be your only hope in surviving. Please note that many women are in more danger when they decide
to leave an abusive situation. However, if you are already removed, it may be in your best interest to move on permanently.
Again, no one can make that decision but you.
THE CONCLUSION OF
If church disciplines were in full force according to scripture, an abused
spouse would be able to carry out the follow instructions:
“If your brother
sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to
you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES
EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen
even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
And who is your “brother?” They are your fellow believers in
Christ, male or female-even your spouse. The word brethren is also used to describe fellow believers in Christ; Matthew 28:10
and John 20:17. Also, those united by a common calling, Revelations 22:9; and persons united by common interest, Matthew 5:47.
So, in light of Matthew 18:15-17, the abused should be able to go to the
church to seek scriptural help. If it is safe to “show him” (or her) fault “between the two of you," and
he or she listens, “you have won your brother (or sister) over.” This means that they understood that they were
wrong, and is willing to correct their behavior. They have truly repented, and changed their ways. Unfortunately, abusers
don’t readily acknowledge their wrong doing, as they tend to blame the victims for their ungodly deeds. So the next
step would be to “take one or two others along…” This doesn’t usually happen either.
Many people view domestic violence as a “private matter,” and
are ashamed to let others know that they are suffering. Many Christians would rather pretend during fellowship that all is
well, and live fake lives before their congregation. And “tell it to the church”- this doesn’t happen for
many reasons. One of the main reasons is, more danger for the abused if the abusers won’t listen to reason. The church
has the authority from God Himself to handle these matters, but the abused will not take these steps out of fear and shame.
On the other hand, too many churches are ill-equipped to handle domestic violence issues. And others just don't want to get
Unfortunately, separation and divorce becomes the norm in most domestic violence
cases. In extreme situations, death does at times do them part; the abuser kills the abused and vise versa. Until the true
church of God stands up and denounce domestic violence and abuse, the abused will have to make decisions that will keep them
alive, and free from this atrocity.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every act to judgment,
everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Those who do wrong cannot hide from God. The following are
scriptures along with prayer, will help you to see God's best for your life:
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His
commandments, because this applies to every person.” Ecclesiastes 12:13
… “and if he refuses
to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17
“A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him,
you will only have to do it again.” Proverbs 19:19
“Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of
feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1
“A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred
blows into a fool.” Proverbs 17:10
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the
bones.” Proverbs 17:22
“Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served
with hatred.” Proverbs 15:17
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools
will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
"Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach
shall cease." Proverbs 22:10