12.17.2012

{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 30~There is a Difference Between Forgiveness and Trust

As you can see from that picture there at the top of the page (Like the new picture? Our friend, Brianne, did such a wonderful job with our family photos!), we have 5 children. This raising and growing and training children thing is the most wonderful and most difficult task I've ever been assigned. As our oldest children are nearing the teenage years, we are having to test the waters with privileges. We extend the line of trust and see how they respond. If they respond responsibly, we give a bit more freedom. If they prove we've given too much freedom by breaking that trust, we pull the line in a bit in order to protect and train them a bit more. Then gradually, over time, they regain our trust and we start the process over again.

In this process, we try to have an open dialogue so that they can see that our lack of trust in them doesn't equal a lack of forgiveness. When we correct our children and they respond by apologizing, we forgive. We forgive, but there are still consequences for the mistakes they've made. We love them and we don't hold a grudge against them, but there is always a process that we must go through in order for them to regain our trust. Once trust is broken, it takes time and a series of right decisions to regain that trust. Forgiveness is always given, while trust must be earned.

This is similar to our relationship with God. When we are new in our relationship with Him, He doesn't expect much. There is a lot of grace without a lot of responsibility. As we grow in our relationship with Him, His trust in us grows. Sometimes He'll test us. He'll give us more responsibility than we've had before and He watches how we respond. If we stay close to Him, reliant on Him and handle situations with wisdom, He gives us even more. More influence, more blessing, more responsibility. We read about this in the parable of the talents:

 "The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'"
Matthew 25:23 NLT

However, we also read about what happens when we respond immaturely or poorly.

"To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away."
Matthew 25:29 NLT

God tests us to see how He can trust us. So what does God say about forgiveness? His Word is very clear: He is a forgiving God.

"But if we confess our sins to him, 
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 
and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
1 John 1:9 NLT

If we read on about forgiveness, we see that He not only forgives us, but He also requires us to forgive others.

"Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, 
forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32

And I think this may be where many of us, as Christians, can become confused. We read clearly, over and over, that God requires us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. However, we are able to forgive freely without extending trust freely.

The meaning of the word "forgive" is:

"To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.  
To renounce anger or resentment against."
  
When we forgive someone, we are releasing them from our anger. We decide that we won't hold any resentment against them. I find an easy way to test this is to say their name and see how it rolls off of my tongue. Is it hard to talk about them without telling all their faults? Am I able to pray for them without asking God to shovel heaping coals on their head? Am I able to ask for God to bless them?

Conversely, when we look at "trust", it means:

"Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.

One in which confidence is placed.
Reliance on something in the future; hope."

When we trust someone, we are in a mutual understanding of roles and expectations. We have a reliance on them for an expected outcome. When we trust someone we can rely on their integrity, their character.

I think it is fully possible to forgive someone, to release them from my anger, even to pray for God to bless them, but not put my trust in them. When someone has broken trust, it takes a series of positive, wise decisions to gain that trust back. Forgiveness is an issue of my heart and an issue between me and God. Trust is an issue between me and another person. God requires me to forgive other people. On the contrary, God requires wisdom when I place my trust in someone. This is not to say that we should walk around in judgement or with a critical spirit. But, in every relationship: close friends, a significant other, with our leaders we are to test people according to God's Word to ensure credibility and safety in relationships. Love all and trust with wisdom.

Where are you on this? Do you think there is a difference between forgiveness and trust? Do you find it's hard to offer one without the other?

 

This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.

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