Tell me of the hardest betrayal you forgave and overcame, please.
If you are going through something now, let me say upfront that I completely feel your hurt and I know that it sucks. I also know there’s no easy way through it, and I have no pat answers.
In my junior year of high school, this girl and I broke up and she immediately dated my stepbrother. The next thing I hear, she does something gross to him that pretty much nearly made me throw up in my mouth. Today, my stepbrother and I are friends and we still occasionally keep in touch. He’s married with kids and I have absolutely zero hard feelings. I love him to death.
In middle school after my parents divorced, my dad remarried and he and his new wife were both just terrible for each other. He also constantly took her side in arguments and pretty much backed her up if I had any complaints about anything. Today, my dad and I don’t really talk much. When we do, I can last about thirty minutes before I get the urge to jump out a window. He’s still the same sort of person he was about fifteen years ago. I still love him and I do forgive him, but we’re way beyond being friends.
There’s much more, and I’m sure many of us have been through even way more than that. The truth here is that forgiveness does not always mean friendship. There’s some Christian myth which demands that we must all get along and be buddy-buddy and pretend like traumatic betrayals never happened, but the major problem with that is the Bible. The Book of Proverbs constantly tells us to be wary of fools, thieves, and unrepentant scoundrels.
We can certainly love everyone including our enemies, like Jesus does, but it’s straight up harmful to try to be in close fellowship with everyone on an equal playing field. There’s no sense in re-drinking the poison of bitterness and anger just to “refine” yourself like that’s so spiritual.
It might sound like the “Christian thing” to just overlook every single thing that’s ever happened to you, but if that abusive ex-boyfriend or cheating ex-wife shows up in church while you’re bringing your kids and the church is your only safe refuge, there is nothing in the playbook that says you need to be near them.
The church should be aware of these things and have safety measures to protect you from physically or psychologically dangerous situations. You are always allowed to have healthy boundaries, and that does NOT mean you’re somehow an unloving person or less of a Christian.
On the other hand: some people can change. We all have moments we wish we could take back, and we can always consider giving that second chance to someone who is truly, consistently repentant. I’ve seen this happen in church and in my own life dozens of times — there’s always that huge unclenching exhalation of relief when two broken people are reconciled, and what a grand day of celebration to see two sinners move forward past the pain. Forgiveness, given and received, is one of the best gifts that Jesus ever gave his people: and what a joy it is to see in motion. We should always fight for that joy.
Again, it doesn’t mean they need to be best friends: but that at the very least, they can love Jesus together and serve in the same body, both as an example of what Jesus has done and how powerful He really is.
And even if the other person is never repentant or doesn’t see a need to be forgiven, that gift of forgiveness is for you. It’s to remove the knife from your wound so you can live freely without that thing sticking out everywhere, hurting you and everyone around you. It’s not simply a one-time thing: forgive everyday, multiple times per day, and don’t deny the pain. It happened, it’s part of your story, but it does not get the final word. Jesus does: and he says you are more than what has happened to you.