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The Tyranny of Unforgiveness

3 Jun

But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 Amplified

I don’t really want to get into the last part of this verse, but lets take a long look at the “If” portion. If I understand the tense it is written in (Second Aorist, Active, Subjunctive) it means that we are to forgive when and if we have occasion to forgive–in other words when there is an offense against us.

Forgiveness means to cut off, to send away, to set free, to cancel a debt. Forgiveness does not mean that you are disregarding sin and doing nothing about it, but you are liberating a person from them, their guilt, and their power (Zodhiates). Normally we think about forgiveness like this in terms of God forgiving us. But it seems we have two choices here: 1) We can nurture our hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with our relationship with God, or 2) We can forgive and let it go.

Nurturing implies paying attention to something, caring for it, and feeding it. This means that you are often pulling your list(s) of offenses off the shelf and meditating on them instead of meditating on God’s will or God’s Word. I would much rather cut the gum-like offense off of me and free myself from its tyranny over me and my spiritual and emotional well-being. We are never more like God than when we forgive.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  But it is God’s way. When I was a new Christian I soon learned about forgiveness, but did not understand HOW to forgive. I read books and looked for ways to forgive a certain individual in my life. I remember reading about someone who wrote down all the offenses that someone had made against her and then burned them.  I thought, “If it worked for her, it can work for me.” I grabbed a notebook and began writing page after page of offenses.  (Doesn’t this sound more like nurturing than cutting off?) After I burned it, I kept thinking of other offenses to add to the list. I would have had to maintain a perpetual fire to deal with it. *chuckle* It interfered with my relationship with a forgiving God.

I honestly believed in forgive and forget, but I couldn’t forget, and that’s because I didn’t understand my enemy.

I learned that forgiveness is a decision of our will. We simply make a decision to forgive.  Now the enemy–or all three enemies, the flesh, the world, and the devil–will try to convince us to nurture the offense and that we are right to do so. The battle that follows the decision to forgive is in our minds. We need to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-6)

If nothing else helps us to forgive, this will: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

A New Year’s Thought

31 Dec

IMG_6868I’ve spent a lot of needed time in 2012 realizing how much I NEED God–I have such a ridiculous tendency to depend on myself.  My son, Doug, has been realizing the same.  Here’s a stanza from a poem he recently wrote:

I start by asking for help of heavenly realms

so my voice can carry my story, my psalm

about a slave knelt down at the foot of a throne

then stretched out and laid out prone

down on the raw, bare balls of my palms

thoughts born of a storm far from calm.

Drawn off experience and painted in red

these words are not written–but bled.

~ Doug Handwork

My New Year’s resolution??  To know Him, embrace Him intimately, and trust Him more.

Enter a Sinner, Leave Without Condemnation

10 Jul

I just want to share with you this amazing painting by the Russian artist, Vasily Polenov.  It’s called “Christ and the Sinner” from the story about the Pharisees bringing the woman caught in adultery before Christ in John 8:3-11.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Felix Culpa

5 Jul

I just want to share this quote from Eugene Peterson’s book, Leap Over a Wall–Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians.

The Latin phrase felix culpa, usually attributed to Augustine, puts the hope in a slogan:  “O happy sin!”  Only when I recognize and confess my sin am I in  position to recognize and respond to the God who saves me from my sin.  If I’m ignorant of or indifferent to my sin, I’m ignorant of or indifferent to the great and central good news:  “Jesus saves!”

We don’t want to face sin because we don’t want to lose our god-illusions, we’re afraid that if we’re not the gods of our lives and actions we’re nothing.  But stories like this [David and Bathsheba] sets us free from such sin-fears.  When sin is discovered in us, our guilty fears often produce a sense of condemnation.  But if we stay with the story–the God story, the David story, the Jesus story–before long the condemnation gives way, whether slowly or suddenly, to the surprised realization of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

[I read the other day that Poet James Dickey was a member of the “Make Yourself Do Right Club” when he was in 2nd grade.  My human nature leans toward joining that club, even though I know righteousness is a work of God.]

Pomegranates

19 Mar

“. . . His urges are always toward life and more life and forgiveness and more forgiveness.  And what comes from Him are like these juicy pomengranates I saw in Israel; they are plain on the outside, but inside they are loaded with light-giving rubies that are sweet and precious, and quench and fill.  Like those outwardly simple but incredibly rich words of Micah:  ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?'” ~ from A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant

Joy of Forgiveness

14 Mar

This is a passage from a YA book that I’ve been reading called One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia about the summer of racial strife in 1968.  The passage is about the Grandma’s feelings about her daughter-in-law, Cecile, abandoning her children:

“Even though Big Ma read her Scripture daily, she hadn’t considered forgiveness where Cecile was concerned.  Cecile wasn’t what the Bible meant when it spoke of love and forgiveness.  Only judgment, and believe me, Big Ma had plenty of judgment for Cecile.  So even if Cecil showed up on Papa’s welcome mat, Big Ma wouldn’t swing the front door open.”

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! Psalm 32:1

Do you think we sometimes withhold forgiveness because we don’t want the “Cecile” in our life to feel that joy?  Do we focus on the imprecatory psalms?  I think the longer we are in communion with Christ, the more we are conscious of how much sin is in our lives and how much God is forgiving us–daily.  I don’t mean in the sense of living in condemnation, but in the sense of living in that joy of being forgiven.  We must crawl out of the dark cave of condemnation–toward ourselves and others–and reach out to the joyful living water of forgiveness.

The “F” Word

2 Mar

In our church the “F” word is forgiveness.  You can be teaching along and you’ve got an attentive group, but just mention forgiving others and as a group they almost unconciously lean back with their arms crossed across their chests–figuratively if not literally.

I suspect that forgiveness is the “F” word for many people.

I think that people equate God’s forgiveness with human forgiveness and thus do not experience the freedom of living in God’s forgiveness nor the freedom of living in a state of forgiveness toward others.  Unforgiveness ties us tightly to the person who has hurt us and makes us bitter.

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. Romans 5:20-21

Isn’t that a great term?  Agressive forgiveness!  Father, help me aggressively forgive others today!