Forgiveness is not easy, especially when someone has purposely tried to harm us. The sting of betrayal becomes even more painful when the betrayer simply cuts all communication, leaving matters unresolved and spirits bewildered.
When a person acts in this manner, it is usually due to a need that is rooted in a false sense of pride that seeks to psychologically dominate and punish the other party. In essence, it is as if the person were saying through his actions: “The offense you caused me was so great, and is so unforgivable…and I am so important, that you do not deserve for me to treat you as if you were a living person. You are dead to me.”
Not only is sepulchral silence a form of punishing dominance, it is also a form of psychological provocation, especially when such actions are perpetrated against a person that we verifiably know to have loved us greatly. The strategy of sepulchral silence is an attempt to take advantage of the emotional vulnerability of the other party, in the attempt to provoke him or her to breech the separation. The person who breeches the separation would fall into the trap of being accused of aggression. This would give the silent punisher a cheap, primal and irrational sense of justification… while possibly ruining the innocent party’s reputation.
Obviously, the person(s) who resorts to this type of domineering and provoking sepulchral silence, is either a Christian who is ignorant of the basic doctrines of the New Testament, or simply, is not a Christian.
Forgiveness is the epicenter of Christianity.
It was on the Cross that Jesus Christ prayed for his aggressors saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34) In fact, a spirit of forgiveness is so important for the Christian Faith, that a person’s ability to love and forgive is actually the main proof that he or she is a disciple of Christ.
1John 4:20-21 (NIV)
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves god must also love his brother.
The Lord Jesus Christ warns his disciples that if they do not forgive their brothers and sisters, that God will withhold forgiveness from them.
Matthew 6:15 (NIV)- But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Biblical forgiveness is not a matter of letting matters settle on their own or attempting to forget the unresolved issues, as if they never happened. That is not Forgiveness… That is simply whitewashing in order to harbor a spirit of resentment, that although temporarily satisfies the ego, it allows for roots of bitterness to deepen, oftentimes with devastating results. Unforgiveness not only has the potential of affecting a person’s mental and physical health, but also of spiritually affecting a person’s relationship with the divine that results in eternal damnation.
The Apostle Paul commands the following in Romans 12:17-19 (NIV)
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
There is a great warning from Jesus to all those who profess to be his disciples, and yet decide to walk in existential unforgiveness:
In anger his master turned him over to the “jailers” (βασανισταῖς=torturers) to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18:34-35
The “torturers” are most likely demons (disembodied, fallen consciences) or simply internal mechanisms that are intrinsically connected to the human conscience, that serve to torment the unforgiving party until either the matter is resolved, or the heart is permanently hardened.
Most Pastors know that many of the ailments that are found in professing Christians stem from deep roots of unresolved resentments and grudges. Any person who professes to be a mature disciple of Christ, and yet yields to the temptation of rending relationships without attempting to resolve the alleged offense, is simply not following Christ’s expectations. In fact, it is quite probable that that person is not a Christian.
Forgiveness begins with prayer. The Lord Jesus Christ commands that when we stand praying, that we should try to recall any offenses that we might hold against anyone and simply…forgive. In fact, it is only by means of active forgiveness that we actually receive forgiveness from God. (Mark 11:25)
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15 (NIV)
After forgiving through prayer, sitting down and having a civil conversation should be relatively easy, since the matter of forgiveness has already been decided before God through prayer. The rest is just a matter of listening, explaining why we felt the way we did, and work towards an agreed resolution.
Sometimes, even though a spirit of forgiveness is present, the two parties will not be able to come to an agreement. It is at this time that the two Christian parties can agree to disagree, and even mutually decide to formally rend the relationship without resentments or recriminations. (Acts 15:36-41)
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)- “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Only by living in forgiveness can a Christian claim to be a disciple of Christ and experience the spiritual benefits of the Gospel.