I think we can all agree that forgiveness is a learned behavior. Think about when you were in pre-school or kindergarten and someone broke, or worse, took your favorite crayon.
We all had to be talked down from the meltdown. We screamed, folded our arms, kicked our legs in the best tantrum we could muster. We rolled our eyes at the person to the point of burning a hole into their coloring book lol. Our parents or the pre-school teacher had to gently guide us to understand that a) it wasn’t the end of the world, b) maybe little Sue didn’t know you were using the crayon, or c) it became a lesson in learning how to share.
Share? And let someone else use my Razzmatazz and Carnation Pink crayons?
Yep. We had to be taught these nuggets; forgiveness is not a natural, involuntary response to offense, heartache, or raw anger. True forgiveness takes repeated, committed practice. Now, I say “true” forgiveness, because some of us still believe that we have forgiven when we haven’t. We’re still in forgiveness class, and that’s ok. It’s only with practice, like anything else, that we get better at forgiveness – and faster at it, too.
What Does PhD-Forgiveness Look Like?
We are all at different levels in our ability and practice of forgiveness. Some of us still have grade-school meltdowns at slight offense where there’s no physical, mental, or emotional harm. Some of us have undergraduate level forgiveness where we’ve learned the basics and have a firm understanding of the call to forgive (Colossians 3:13). Others have “mastered” forgiveness after repeat experience of letting things and people go, choosing peace over the offense, or mastering how to appropriately process offense, disappointment, and pain.
Today, I want to introduce you to what I call PhD-level forgiveness. This level is not for the faint of heart. Like a doctor who skips her last year of medical school and goes right into the operating room – someone could get seriously hurt.
If you try this mastery of forgiveness in your own might or power without the undergirding of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6), it will not be done in the Spirit of Truth and God will not be glorified.
Becoming a Forgiveness Advocate
In PhD-level forgiveness, you become an advocate. An advocate, like Christ, is one who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause. In 1 John 2:1, we find that if we sin or offend God by breaking His law, Jesus Christ is our righteous advocate. He died publicly for the sins of the world and now serves as our High Priest who we can boldly call on in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).
So right off, we see that PhD-level forgiveness, or advocacy, is not a strategy one can use in private. For instance, in a court of law, your attorney cannot advocate for you from his or her living room. He or she must enter the courtroom and publicly defend your rights before others.
Where am I going with this?
In PhD-level forgiveness, plainly put, you openly champion or advocate for the forgiveness of others – but not just anyone or everyone – the one who specifically and directly offended you.
Wait! So, I have to advocate for the forgiveness of the one who hurt me – in front of them?
Yep. You’re their advocate. Here’s what that looks like.
PhD-level Forgiveness in Action
Nope, it’s not going to be easy to your “flesh” to advocate for the one who hurt you. It will feel strangely similar to an attorney representing the person who killed their loved one. Doesn’t get any stranger than that, right?!
But, it is possible – with PhD:
In order to advocate for your offender’s forgiveness, you must enter the arena with the profession in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that what He’s called us to do is right and just. This profession will go against every painful memory in your mind – but this is where you LET the mind of Christ reign in you. Give Jesus’ thoughts and His mindset permission to rule over and above what you think or feel.
See that little “h”? That’s to signify how much you’ll have to decrease to allow God to increase in your advocacy. As you champion the right of your offender, your will to retaliate, punish, or hold in guilt becomes unimportantly small. Where once all that used to matter was what they did to you and how it made you feel, those feelings are now smothered as you clothe yourself in humility:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5
As God gives us grace, we are able to gift grace to the recipient of our advocacy.
Here’s the thing – this level of forgiveness is not about defending the actions of the person. Neither are you letting the person off the hook for all subsequent consequences to said actions or behavior.
What you are doing is defending your offender’s right and access to the promises of God!
Does your offender have a soul that Jesus Christ died to save? Yes. Is your offender part of the “world” that God so loved (John 3:16)? Yes.
As you advocate for the person who offended you, you’re actually disrupting and uprooting the lies of the enemy – that they can never be forgiven, that they will remain in the bondage of their sin, that they’re unworthy or too filthy for God’s love.
You see, at the PhD-level of forgiveness, you’re given the opportunity to surgically contend for the faith – to directly wrestle with principalities and rulers of darkness. Pluck your offender out of the grips of depression. Fight for their freedom and all charges to be dropped and buried in the Sea of Forgetfulness! Should your offender’s rights to the promises of God be snatched away from them – on your watch?
In defense of their rights, openly and audibly advocate – tell them:
“In spite of what you’ve done to me, God still loves you. He’s a faithful God who sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and mine. You have access to grace and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. I will not participate with the enemy to strip you of your rightful access to forgiveness. Nor will I actively participate in keeping you in bondage to guilt and shame – not when Christ paid the price to make us free.”
You have no idea the crushing blow this deals to the enemy – and you may save a life in the process as you glorify God.
So, What’s the Play Call?
Ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you to this level of forgiveness, where you operate in divine love, truth, and compassion on a level that transcends your feelings and emotions.
Have I experienced PhD-forgiveness before? Yep, only once. Another teammate was being crushed before my eyes by how they hurt me; the enemy was pounding them into broken, depressed pieces. Only by the grace of God was I able to set my feelings aside and fight for them to hold on to God’s promises for their life. God’s love hadn’t changed about them – only my love had been severely bruised. But, what did my ought have to do with their soul? Nothing.
I pray that you will experience PhD-level forgiveness, too – on the giving or receiving end. It’s all about snatching a soul from the grips of the enemy – and you never know if or when you might need someone to do the same thing for you.