unpacking forgiveness: (1) To understand biblical truth about forgiveness and the application of that truth to complex problems in life. (2) To unload the burdens we carry because of wounds that we have received from others, and have given to others.

So there are two goals of unpacking forgiveness. The first is to understand biblical teaching. The second is to implement that understanding and to be freed from the burdens that weigh us down.

Neither of these goals is accomplished in a moment. Unpacking forgiveness is like relocating a family. While you may move on a particular day, unpacking takes a lot longer. It’s a process. Boxes remain packed for months, years even. My family moved almost two years ago, and we are still unpacking.

But don’t be discouraged by that. While it is true that unpacking forgiveness is a process, with God’s help it is one that you can work through. The key is to get started. If you have been deeply wounded in life, then you cannot afford to leave the boxes stacked somewhere in the basement. With God’s help you need to understand what his Word teaches and how you can find rest and healing by his grace.

Statement #2: Personal happiness and joy can legitimately motivate people to live out what the Bible teaches about forgiveness. TRUE.

Too many people dread learning about forgiveness. They fear they will learn what they ought to do and that what they ought to do will make them miserable. Such a fearful approach is destined to fizzle. We cannot approach a biblical study of forgiveness like we are on our way to get a root canal. If that is where you are at, if you are struggling with a lack of motivation to understand and live what God’s Word teaches about forgiveness, then my prayer is that Chapters 1–2 will be a great encouragement to you.

Statement #3: Most Christian pastors and counselors agree about what forgiveness is and how it should take place. FALSE.

In reality, pastors and counselors disagree profoundly about forgiveness. This is just a fact. Go to a website that sells books, type the words “forgiveness” and “Christian” in the search box, and hit enter. You will get hundreds of titles. If you had the inclination to order ten to fifteen of these books, you would find that views range from East to West, and not only among secular or Christian authors. Even among Christian authors, opinions about forgiveness range from Maine to California.

You might respond, “I have no interest in surveying everyone’s opinion and listening to a technical argument about forgiveness.” I understand. Most of the people I pastor are trying to get their grass cut and their children to baseball practice on time. But you must and actually do believe something about forgiveness. And whether you think about it or not, every day you implement those beliefs about forgiveness.

Your convictions about forgiveness will shape how you respond when your spouse complains about how you seasoned the chicken. Your views about forgiveness may determine how you handle a teenager who rolls her eyes, or how you relate to an abusive parent, or whether or not you go ahead and marry your fiancé, or if you should counsel your friend to leave her husband. You do not have to read every book on forgiveness, but you may have to decide whether or not to change churches because of what the pastor or one of the elders did. The forgiveness choices you make will shape much of your life. For that reason, you must consciously work out what you believe about forgiveness and then intentionally put those beliefs into action.

Of course, that begs the question, how can anyone decide who is right when there are so many conflicting opinions? The answer is that you must consistently evaluate everything against the gold standard of Scripture. Be like the Bereans Luke wrote about in Acts 17:11: