Written by Jessica Tanoesoedibjo, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
Some time ago, there was a situation that made me extremely angry, to the point that I raised my voice and slammed my hands on the table. At that time, all sorts of emotions were raging in me: anger, disappointment, sadness, and disbelief at what this particular person had done.
All I can say is that this person had betrayed me and someone I love. We had given this person our utmost trust, but it turned out that behind that innocent face and a soft-spoken demeanor was a person who had lied to us and fooled us for years. The most appalling part was, this was someone who often quoted Scripture and brought God into our conversations. All that time, I had always regarded this person as a member of our household of faith.
I remember clearly what happened that night, when everything was uncovered. Initially, I had sat quietly on my seat, trying to listen to this person’s explanation. But when the person tried to put up a defense and pin the blame on others and circumstances, my heart started pounding in anger.
In Your Anger, Pray and Do Not Sin
A principle I’ve always held dear (and I pray that God would give me the strength to keep to it) is that I must never speak with the intent of hurting someone in my anger. Just as Scripture teaches us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19), I know it is better for me to remain silent for a moment, rather than say something I won’t be able to take back.
However, this doesn’t mean that we can never get angry. We know that even Jesus became angry when he saw the moneychangers at the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Those moneychangers were not merely thieves who exploited the poor, they were tainting and robbing the very House of God.
Even though God is described as “slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8), we must keep in mind that God never condones nor tolerates sin. We must therefore be angered at sin, recognising that every unjust act against a brother is a wicked act against the Creator Himself, whose image humanity bears.
Even so, at that moment, I had to pray that God would help me in my anger, so that my furiousness at someone else’s sin would not cause me to sin against God.
Forgiveness Does Not Mean Condoning Sin
What I regretted the most was that even after the intervention, the person I confronted did not show a hint of remorse, and instead sought to escape the consequences. We had hoped we could resolve the matter in a familial way, but the person continued to act in an untrustworthy manner. And so after much thought, prayer, and counsel from people we trusted, we decided to take the route of discipline.
It was a difficult decision that grieved me. I had hoped that this person would repent and sincerely return to the Lord. I really did not want to have this person go through the process of discipline.But I also realised that if I chose to do nothing, then it would mean that I was ignorant towards this person’s standing before a Most Holy God. If I truly cared for a fellow believer, I must not turn a blind eye. Rather, in love, we are called to be concerned about one another’s growth in repentance and holiness.
It is true that forgiveness should not be contingent on the perpetrator’s remorse nor repentance. As Christians, we have been taught to forgive unconditionally, and that we must “love [our] enemies, [and] do good to those who hate [us],” (Luke 6:27).
However, Scripture also clearly says that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Likewise, there are times when we are also called to discipline those we love for their good. Forgiveness does not mean that we must remain quiet and accepting of the injustice and harm done. Rather, forgiveness is reflected in the condition of our hearts before our Maker: Do we rejoice over the sufferings of others as they face the consequences of their unjust actions? Or do we instead, out of love, find our hearts burdened and heavy—even grieved—at the sight of the person having to go through discipline?
One particular passage that gives us a glimpse into God’s heart as He disciplines His children is seen in the book of Jonah. Jonah’s story is not merely about a reluctant prophet being swallowed by a big fish. Instead, the book shows the stark contrast between the heart of Jonah and the heart of God. While Jonah was angry at the thought of having to preach God’s truth to the ignorant and evil people of Nineveh, God’s heart was instead grieved at the thought of having to punish that whole city because they had their backs turned against Him. The part about Jonah being swallowed by the fish is merely a tiny portrayal of God’s loving act of discipline, so that His servant, who was (ironically) just as ignorant, would return to the path God had called him to.
Do our hearts reflect God’s own heart, even as we decide to act on discipline? Biblical discipline must be done with the purpose of reconciliation: to reconcile the person who had hurt us not only with ourselves, but also with the Lord, who is rich in love and abounding in mercy.
Wounded Love That Bestows Forgiveness
Forgiveness does not negate the gravity of the sin committed, neither does it brush off the depth of the pain inflicted. There is real hurt in experiencing betrayal, especially when it comes from those we hold dear to our hearts. It is no wonder that loving is considered an act of sacrifice—it exposes us to deeper heartache.
But I pray that our past (or current) experiences of pain will not make us grow calloused. Scripture warns us against hardening our hearts (Hebrews 3:15), but instead calls us to turn to God, who has promised to give us a heart of flesh rather than one of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).
For as we look to Jesus, we see the perfect picture of forgiveness. Scripture teaches us that sin leads to death (Romans 6:23), and surely we are all deserving of this grave consequence. But Jesus, the Son of God, had willingly taken on the sins of mankind and the wrath of God the Father. At the Cross, we see “righteousness and peace kiss” (Psalm 85:10); there, the wrath and love of God met, so that we may obtain forgiveness and salvation.
I believe everyone has their share of struggles and pain in life. But when we are asked to walk the difficult path of forgiveness, God is asking us to partake in His life, and to extend unto others what He has given freely to us. And so now, having been graced with His kind forgiveness, we are gently beckoned out of the ignorance of our own hearts to follow Him, and walk in love and in truth.