WHY SHOULD I FORGIVE MY MOLESTER?
By Mark Sandford
We would not want our call to forgive to add to the shame that some have carried. Having been molested as a child myself, I know from experience that molesters blame their victims. So it's understandable that some would ask this question. Even if a molester doesn't blame verbally, the fact that he doesn't admit that he is responsible (or even just the fact that he does not restrain himself) places blame on the child. It can feel like a heavy burden to have to offer an abuser the blessing of forgiveness when he gives nothing in return.
To help lift that burden, I assure you that the need to forgive in no way implies that you are responsible for what your molester did to you! Forgiving him (or her) confirms the opposite — that he alone is responsible. Why would you need to forgive him in the first place unless he has done wrong?
Forgiveness can seem like such a burden on the victim. It would, in fact, be a burden if it was something you must accomplish, but it isn't. When you forgive, you are only consenting to allow Jesus’ work on the cross to flow through you to the molester. If you can't immediately let go of harsh feelings, that doesn't cancel Jesus' work. Forgiveness is God's gift through you, not a work you do by suppressing what you feel. We can't always make ourselves stop feeling resentment. But we can choose to consent to Christ's gift. Sometimes forgiving enables you to eventually let go of resentful feelings, rather than the other way around.
One thing that can make it very hard to forgive a molester is the notion that forgiveness is excusing his wrongs. This is not forgiveness! Forgiving doesn't mean the molester is off the hook, or that you approve of what he did. Rather, by letting go of your wrath, you “Make room for the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). When Jesus enables you to do this, the molester is faced with two choices. He will either have to repent or experience the crushing force of God's wrath. But even repentance may not make things all that easy for him. God will lovingly but firmly press him to face the heart-wrenching magnitude of what he has done, and make difficult restitution to the persons he has hurt so badly.
But what is most blessed about forgiveness is what it does for you. Rather than place a burden on you, it lifts one off. Until you allow Jesus to reap your bitterness on His cross, its repercussions will come back upon you: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7, NAS). When this happens, God isn't punishing you; sowing and reaping is just a natural law. It works on its own, just like gravity. Jesus wants to take your bitterness into Himself on His cross, so you don't have to reap the following consequences.
One consequence is that bitter root expectancies may cause you to expect others to mistreat or use you (sexually or otherwise), long after the molester is gone. You may send out signals that tempt them to do so.
And expectancies may make you too blind to see non-abusive love when it comes your way, and too hardened to receive it. Do you stumble from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, believing that this is all there is or all that you deserve? Do you hide your heart so no one can hurt you? Do you live in loneliness, disappointing those who want to love you? Forgive. Let Jesus reap your bitterness and protect you from reaping these consequences.
Worse, yet, you may reap bitterness by becoming like the molester you have judged. James 2:10, NIV says,“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” This means that you are no less guilty of sin than any other sinner, no matter how terrible his sins are. Jesus said,“If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15, NIV). Thus, when you do not forgive, you remain in your sin. And the law of increase will ensure that your sin grows until you become just as bitter as the monster who abused you, or even more so (“For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” — Hosea 8:7, NAS). Do you find yourself mistreating or using (sexually or otherwise) those who love you, in spite of your best efforts not to? Do you struggle with lust? Do you struggle with anger? Do you take anger out on yourself? Forgive, and let Jesus make you a better person than the one you least desire to resemble.
In a speech, a holocaust survivor shared why these truths are so important. When he said he had forgiven Hitler, his incredulous audience asked, “Why would you do such a thing?!” His answer: "Because I did not want to bring Hitler to America with me." You may think that forgiveness hands your molester a ticket for the boat to freedom, but it is actually your bitterness that does so. When you “Do not take revenge . . . but leave room for God's wrath” (Romans 12:9, NIV), only then will he have to face his day of reckoning — in one way or another. . . . And only then will you reap the blessings you thought the molester had stolen from you.
© Mark Sandford 2019