Forgiveness is straightforward, but the issues related to forgiveness certainly have layers. We are to forgive 70 x 7 times, but that does not mean the relationship will look the same at forgiveness #1 as it does at forgiveness # 499. Sin is the destroyer of relationships. And forgiveness can be extended, yes, but there will still be consequences. Sometimes the consequences include divorce, broken friendships, or just a distance where there was once closeness. The Bible says that we are to be at peace with all men, as far as is possible with us. Sometimes, no matter what we may try to do, or what we actually do in forgiveness, it is simply impossible.
For example, if you keep getting shellacked, then you should move out of range. This is just common sense. It is our God-given sense of self-preservation. If someone is repeatedly unkind and cruel, then you have to consider your options, and different relationships have different thresholds for moving on. If your roommate at college is a continual pain, then fulfill your obligations for the year and move on. If it’s a neighbor or a boss who is continually sinning against you, you can always move across town or look for another job. Why not?
But if it’s a family member, there is a different threshold for what is intolerable. Your family is your family. If your parents are the offenders, and you are still living at home, you need to hunker down and pray for grace to make it to adulthood. Then you can move out and on. Meanwhile, you should do all you can to make it better. The same goes with a sibling. Extend forgiveness, do your best to improve the relationship, but if you continue to be persecuted or ignored, you can get out of range once you are grown. This is not being fatalistic, but simply acknowledging that relationships can get so tangled that the sometimes the only way out is to cut the rope.
If it is your husband who is perpetually sinning against you, then you need to get help. This can be the most difficult to endure and has the most severe consequences. But the thing that I find (over and over) is that women with unkind husbands rarely have the courage to get help. They want sympathy, but not a real solution.
But back to friends. If a friend has betrayed you, Jesus knows how you feel. He fed Peter breakfast on the beach before Peter even asked for forgiveness. But He also addressed the sin; He didn’t ignore it. He gave Peter three opportunities to state his love, paralleling his three failures. Peter put it right. Judas also betrayed the Lord, but he did not put things right.
Sometimes your friends will wrong you (or your kids’ friends will wrong them), and this will result in a chilly distance. If you are the wronged party, you are obligated to extend forgiveness, but you are not obligated to continue to be best friends. If someone steals from you while fixing your sink, you may forgive him, but you may decide to call someone else next time the drain is plugged.
Forgiveness is one thing; friendship and trust are other things. If your friend has broken your trust, forgive him, and don’t entrust that friend in the future. This is wisdom. But beware of bitterness. Don’t mistake one for the other.