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Question 166

Q: I’ve listened to your messages about harboring pain, resentment, and past hurts. I’ve experienced much hurt, but why don’t those who’ve hurt me not have to say they’re sorry to my face?

Everyone always makes it sound like the person grieved is the one that must “forgive” and understand and act like everything is just normal again without any act of responsibility or accountability on the transgressor’s part.

Pastor Lutzer, I’m struggling in my heart.

Asked by: Karen

A: Karen, my heart goes out to you, because I understand your letter very, very well.

Of course the transgressor should be the one to ask forgiveness, and to do it face to face with the one they’ve hurt. But most perpetrators don’t or won’t. I read somewhere that 80% of child abusers deny it when they are confronted with it.

So what’s a victim going to do? The reason some of us stress the need to forgive is for your benefit. I believe that there’s a kind of forgiveness that doesn’t bring about reconciliation. I mean there are people who have hurt you, some of them may have already died, and you can’t be reconciled with them. As a matter of fact, you can’t be reconciled with some people who are alive, because reconciliation involves three things: forgiveness, respect, and trust. So if you don’t have those elements, you can’t really be fully reconciled to someone, and we need to accept that.

But I stress one-sided forgiveness where you lay down all of your bitterness, even though you’ve been wronged, and even though the person responsible refuses to own up to it or to ask for his side of forgiveness. Now let me give you a verse of Scripture, Karen, that I think will help you. It says in 1 Peter 2:21-23, regarding Jesus, that “He committed Himself to God, when He was reviled, He reviled not again, but kept committing Himself to Him who judges righteously.” The Bible says, “He did no sin, neither was any evil found in his mouth” and then it goes on to say what I just quoted. Karen, the injustice done against Jesus has not yet been answered. Justice has not yet been brought to Him. That’s still is going to happen at the time of the resurrection and the final judgment. But notice what Jesus did. Instead of lashing out, He kept committing Himself to God, believing that God was just and that eventually justice would be brought to His situation.

Now let’s speak about you Karen. You need to get rid of that bitterness, and you need to trust God in such a way that you believe that He is the righteous Judge and that someday He’ll set the matter straight. You give your need to the supreme court of the universe so that you can walk away without being bitter, because the bitterness will hurt you. It will not hurt the person who wronged you, but it will hurt you. I pray today that you will be free.

Scripture references

  • 1 Peter 2:21—23

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