Dr. John B. MacDonald
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Recently, I was in a foreign country for the first time. I usually knew where I was and where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how to get from 'here' to 'there'. Once I consulted a map, I was able to trace the best route to get to my destination. 

In the previous post we identified the desired destination of the journey of forgiveness. In this post I’ll give you a map for that journey.  

 

Some limitations of maps

Maps are useful, but they have limitations. Here are four:

1.         A map is only a representation of the real terrain.

For example, a globe of the earth may be the size of a soccer ball. As such, the globe is a representation or model of the earth – not the earth itself. In the same way, a map is only a representation of the ground to be covered on a journey.

A good map may have different colors to signify what is forest or desert or river. It may also have lines to indicate different roads or elevations. But those colors and lines aren't actual forests, deserts, rivers, or roads. 

It's obvious, but needs to be stated: a map is simply a representation of the real terrain. 

2.         A map does not dictate the route you take. Depending on where you begin, your journey may have any number of paths to reach your destination. For instance, one route may be a wide flat freeway; another a steep rocky trail. 

Our ‘map’ for the journey of forgiveness should not be read as if there is only one road that can be travelled. For instance, the pathway to reconciliation for Joseph’s brothers included the experiences of their father’s pain, a regional famine, and an enigmatic Egyptian (Genesis 42-45). 

David’s passage included confrontation by the prophet Nathan and the death of a child (2 Samuel 12). The prodigal son’s return involved hardships that flowed from his own lifestyle (Luke 15).

The ‘map’ of forgiveness should not be read as a mechanical or invariable formula. This ‘map’ portrays the terrain between the reality of broken relationships and the destination of reconciliation. It does not dictate a specific route.  

3.         Using a map requires some basic skills. In addition to cartographic symbols and scales, reading a map properly demands the skills of orienting yourself, charting a route, and staying on course. 

You'll see that our ‘map’ on forgiveness has two columns – one plots the general course for the offending person; the other for the offended person. Brief comments and supporting biblical texts are also provided. It is basic, but enough to give you the general ‘lay of the land’ for your journey of forgiveness. 

4.         The map is not the journey

Studying a map and choosing a wise route is not the same as walking that route. The journey itself entails cost and effort, encouragements and disappointments, delight and pain, discovery and dreariness. These are experiences you don’t find written on a map.

Hopefully, your actual journey will also include the joy and peace of reaching the destination.

Let's take a look at the 'map'.

 

The ‘map’ of forgiveness

Offending Person                 Offended Person

Unconditional love (required despite broken-ness of the relationship; 1 Cor. 13:4-8a)

Confront lovingly (Matt. 18:15-17, which may, or may not, result in a change of attitude by the offending person)

Repentance (change of attitude towards God in the sin which breached His righteousness; 1 John 1:9)

Confession (the expressing and communicating of one’s change of attitude; Luke 17:3-4)

Forgive (upon repentance and confession of the offending person, the offended person is to forgive; Luke 17:3-4; Matt. 18:21-35)

Restitution (which may or may not be possible. This is an expression of genuine repentance; for example Lev. 6:1-7)

Fruit” of one’s sin (as a general principle the “fruit” continues - Galatians 6:7-8).

 

Some first steps

This 'map' may leave you with a number of questions or concerns. Be patient – we'll explore each of these features in future posts.

For now, here are a couple of initial steps you can take – especially if you're experiencing a broken or damaged relationship with someone.

1.         Where are you?

Until you know where you are on the map, you don't know what direction you should take to reach your destination.

As you consider your situation, ask yourself whether you are the offended person, or the offending person. Perhaps you conclude it is some of both. In that case, begin with the offences for which you are responsible.

2.         What is your next step?

Once you know where you are on this 'map', take the next step toward the destination of reconciliation.

If you're not sure what that step is, keep reading this series as we explore step-by-step. You are also free to write me if your questions aren't answered, or your course isn't clear to you. Use the 'Contact' tab on the top bar of this page.

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