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Do I have to forgive the boy who abused me for years?

Question: Hello pastor,
Do I have to forgive the boy who abused me for years? Does God require that of me? When I cannot forgive him now, is that a sign that I am not saved by God? I really struggle with this question as I always read in the Bible about forgiveness, but I cannot do it. Everything in me screams no when I think about forgiveness.
Regards, Julia

Hello Julia,

Your heart is wounded and pained through the terrible things that you have experienced.
Hopefully you have made an effort to find some help to deal with these matters.
If not, please e-mail me to my private e-mail at [email protected] so that I can link
you up with a woman who can help you in this matter as she herself has gone through abuse also.
If that doesn’t prove enough, you really have to find help to deal with you pained and wounded heart.  Let me encourage you, Julia, healing is possible through the power and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I know various persons who have experienced trauma through abuse or other ways and have not lived the rest of their life tormented or caged by their shame, pain, anger, bitterness, insecurity, distrust and difficulty to make relationships.  There is hope, my friend, for with God there are all the resources to heal you from this.

That you struggle with the call to forgive him may not be a sign that you aren’t saved.  But it is sign that more saving is necessary if you have experienced God’s saving grace.  God doesn’t transform His people in one day.

Let me try to explain my convictions on this subject. There is confusing teaching about the issue of forgiveness, mostly through ignorance or through inaccurate language.  We hear sometimes when people have experienced traumatic loss through violence or abuse, ‘But I have forgiven the person(s) who have done this.”  They say these things even without ever having met or confronted the person who abused.  Maybe you compare yourself to these persons and you feel how far you are from forgiving them.

But let’s get some things straight.  Does God ‘forgive’ a sinner without repentance and acknowledgement of sin?
Does He simply say to everyone who sinned against Him, “I forgive you?”
No, He doesn’t.  He confronts the sinners with their sins and exhorts them to repent. If there is no confession of sin, there is no forgiveness of those sins.

Would God require us to do differently?  No.
Read for yourself the first verses of Luke 17.  Notice that God commands that forgiveness is to be given when the sinner repents (acknowledges, confesses and seeks your forgiveness).

What does God require before the person who sinned against us repents?  He requires that we have a willingness to forgive him or her.  We are not to harbour a spirit of bitterness, hatred or refusal to extent forgiveness to him or her.  In other words, even when we confront the person who has done this evil to us, we are to have in our heart the resolution and willingness to forgive when they do repent and confess.

Why is that?  Ultimately it is because God Himself is like this.  In Ps. 86 is reads that He is ready to forgive.  In other words, He stands ready to forgive any sinner to returns to Him.

The best explanation of that is given by the Lord Jesus in Luke 15.  The father of the prodigal son stood ‘waiting and then he ran towards his returning and repentant son.

You say, “How can I be like to the boy that abused me for years.”
Julia, you cannot muster that strength or even that willingness in yourself.  That is so unreachable especially as you daily cope with the dire results of this abuse.  Your natural feelings are revulsion, hatred, anger, wishing him a ‘cookie of his own dough.’  You know that those feelings are not to guide you but they do from time to time stick up their ugly heads and make a lot of noise within our minds.  The Lord requires that we even ‘love our enemy and those who have embittered our lives.’  Love is not a feeling; forgiveness is also not based on feelings. It is an act in obedience to God’s command.
But how can I do this?  How can I ever forgive him?

Read Luke 17 again. After the Lord in verses 3-4 set out the requirement of His law on forgiveness, the disciples responded with a prayer, “Lord, increase our faith?”  Strange.  You would say that they needed loads of love to be like that.  But they asked for faith.  Why?

Did they realize that how God requires them to be is also how He is Himself?  In other words, even when I sin seven times a day and repent and seek His forgiveness, He will forgive me!   That is hard to believe.
But only when you and I may believe that is how God will deal with my sins, then only can I truly forgive those who repent from their sins done towards me.

My dear friend, may God give and increase your faith in Him.  For true saving faith also saves you from the harbouring bitterness, anger and even hatred that may from time to time surface in your heart.  In that way many abused are continuing to feel the results of the abuse.

One more matter, Julia.  As hard as it may sound, you need to ‘go home’ and confront the abuser, if you have not done so.  For without that ‘going home to face him’ you will never be able to be freed entirely from what has happened.

Again if you would like more personal counselling on this issue, I prefer that it will be done on a private basis.
You are free to e-mail me on my personal e-mail.

You are in my prayers.
Pastor Vergunst