Christians talk a lot about the importance of forgiveness and how the act of forgiveness sets the forgiver free, but how do you forgive someone who hurts you continuously? It is not an easy question.
As an abuse survivor, I forgave my abuser many years ago. I understand that he probably didn’t have a great life and probably struggled with demons that I, thankfully, will never know. I now know that whatever horror the abuser was before can be washed clean by the blood of Jesus and so I can honestly wish him nothing but the best God has to offer.
But that abuse was decades ago, which makes it completely different from forgiving someone who causes recent pain or forgiving someone who hurts you time and time again. Forgiving frequent transgressions is much more difficult.
Examples of Biblical Forgiveness:
Anyone asking how to forgive someone who hurts you continuously needs only to look to Jesus for answers.
Jesus tells the woman convicted of adultery to, “go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). We must forgive those who have sinned against us, but how do we forgive when that sin occurs on a daily basis? How do you forgive someone who hurts you over and over again? How do you forgive those who do not follow the, “go and sin no more,” part of the forgiveness Jesus offers the woman?
Jesus knows it is not easy to forgive repeatedly, and yet, He still tells us this is what we need to do. In fact, Jesus does more than tell us to forgive those who hurt us. Jesus lives forgiveness. In His own life, through His own example, we witness Jesus forgiving those who hurt Him over and over again.
Think of Jesus’ power of forgiveness. Start with what we celebrate this Christmas season – the arrival of that innocent Baby lying in a manger. Is there any greater picture of innocence than a sleeping newborn? That is how Jesus chose to enter our cruel world, and yet immediately His persecution began.
King Herod ordered His execution even before Jesus had spoken an earthly word. As a child, Mary and Joseph questioned Jesus for teaching in the temple. Later, His beloved disciples doubted him during storms at sea, during the feeding of 5000, and during so many other events.
Hurt is worst when it is inflicted by those we love, and time and time again those close to Jesus chose to doubt and question Him. Often, emotional blows hurt as badly or worse than physical ones.
Jesus’ hurt would not end with questions and doubts however. His pain would escalate to physical blows right up through Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter’s denial. How could Jesus forgive those who hurt him continuously?
Sadder still, the hurt did not end in Jesus’ death.
How often do we do things that betray our lack of confidence in Jesus? How often do we act in ways contrary to the Commandments? How often do we interpret those Commandments to their least watered down version so that we can fool ourselves into believing we are “good enough?” How often do we need God to forgive us?
How You Forgive Someone Who Hurts You Continuously:
Today, we, who are so loved by our Father, continuously sin in ways that would cause Him great pain IF He did not possess His incredible power to forgive time and time again. We must strive to receive that power and, just as the Lord forgives us, so too must we forgive others, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matt 18:22)
Forgiveness is not a sweeping act. The Bible does not show Jesus sweep His arm across the masses and proclaim them all forgiven.
The Bible does show Jesus approach individuals and consider individual events and offer each forgiveness. Sometimes the person himself comes seeking forgiveness. Other times, one comes seeking a cure and Jesus forgives sins so that the cure may be applied.
But in each case, Jesus forgives an individual. We must do the same. We must remember that the individual is greater than the pain he causes. Remember that that pain is not a reflection of who the individual is called to be.
Forgiveness is also shown through Jesus’ individual actions to show us that we must sometimes forgive bit by bit: every day, every hour, and every minute. Just as in preparing for any great life event, we must practice small frequent acts of forgiveness continuously to build up our ability to forgive even the continuous hurts of our loved ones.
When we learn to forgive those who hurt us, there is a certain peace that envelopes our hearts and minds. Although on some level they may succeed in hurting us again and again, although that peace may be shaken a bit, forgiveness cushions the blows and peace will refuse to be dislodged.
Please note: If you are being hurt (continuously or otherwise) by someone through physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, be aware that forgiveness never means putting yourself at risk. Forgiveness is part of moving on, but sometimes moving on means moving out – at least temporarily. While the Bible demands our forgiveness, it also demands our appreciation of our own self-worth. Why do some hear this part of the Lord’s message as a whisper when He shouts His love for you from the Heavens? Forgive yourself if necessary and trust in the plans God has for you when you value and care for yourself, His wonderful creation. Be safe. Be strong in the Lord’s power.
CHALLENGE: This new year, resolve to follow the example seen through the Baby Jesus – practice forgiveness continuously. How will you forgive someone in your life? Begin now. Tell us about it without tearing the sinner down.