Tag: Forgiveness (page 1 of 2)

The Heart-wrenching Process of Forgiving

Forgiving

The topic of forgiveness is common within the church. We discuss giving it, desiring it, accepting it, rejoicing in it, and enjoying the ultimate – forgiveness in Christ. However, we are less likely to talk about the process of forgiveness. Extending forgiveness will require prayer and can cost significant time. And for some, a substantial amount of time. There’s a huge difference between forgiving someone who spoke badly about you, and forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you – emotionally, physically or both.

This discussion is not intended to hurry you to the point of forgiveness, but rather my desire is to lend some clarity to what you might expect as God moves you closer to what may seem impossible. Even more so, I would like to share what I believe to be a more complete view of forgiveness – one that is more for the forgiven. It is also important for me to say that if there has been any history of violence, fear of it occurring, danger for the victim or those involved – a discussion with a pastor or a qualified therapist is mandatory before any contact should even be considered. As a victim of violence by a complete stranger myself, I would not pursue that relationship.

In recent history, the church has fallen short in revealing the depth and greatness of offering forgiveness. For many reasons, we have focused on teaching Christians that the greatest benefit to forgiving is to be enjoyed by the forgiver. Freedom and closure are promised. But as difficult as it may be to accept, this type of forgiveness falls short of what we are offered through Christ. I wrote more on that HERE.

Forgiveness and the results of forgiveness can look quite different. Are both Christians? Is the offender an unbeliever? Are they related? Is the offender a friend, or a stranger? The truth is that regardless of the offense and who is involved, God’s heart and all of scripture indicate forgiveness is always for reconciliation and restoration. In some circumstances, this may mean parties are reconciled. In other circumstances, parties are not reconciled. However, forgiveness should always create a way for the offender to be reconciled to God. This post is intended to walk through part of this process for arriving at forgiveness. In no way is it intended to be an all-inclusive discussion, or meant to be overly simplistic.

THEIR RESPONSE, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

As it sometimes happens, the offender does not recognize, whether by intention or not, that they even committed an offense. In some cases, they will adamantly reject that they are responsible, or that any offense ever occurred. In those cases, our obedience to God is never contingent on another person’s response. If the Holy Spirit is leading you to extend forgiveness, your response is obedience.

The offender’s failure to recognize the offense, or outright rejection of it, while frustrating and difficult, is of little consequence with regard to your obedience. Once you present forgiveness and the path to reconciliation it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to draw that person to their own realization. If the person is not a bother or sister in Christ, their response is still not your responsibility. In every case, your obedience should communicate the grace of God, and everything beyond that is dependent on God.

IT BEGINS IN THE MIND

In Romans 12:2 the Apostle Paul instructs us to, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” then goes on to talk about what it looks like to be a true follower of Jesus. Paul speaks of love, grace, and dealing with those who persecute you while refraining from revenge (being forgiving.) He is indicating to us that as we spend time in God’s word, the Gospel will renew our minds, and change the way we approach and think about everything – including forgiveness. If this is true, once the Holy Spirit begins to move us toward forgiving, should it not begin as a decision of our mind, rather than our heart? In fact, I would contend that making a cognitive, or logically reasoned, decision to forgive is the easier part of the process. Often times, as the Holy Spirit leads us, we will easily know it is right and just to forgive. However, it is our heart, which is “deceitful above all things” that typically complicates the issue.

THEY MUST KNOW

Once the decision is made to extend forgiveness, it is important that the offender knows forgiveness is available and, when appropriate, reconciliation is the intended outcome. This is not to say that it will be an easy task. However, the offering is necessary for reconciliation to occur. When we look at the forgiveness that God offers to us, the cross of Christ makes its availability known to us, even if we fail to acknowledge our need. Without knowing you are offering forgiveness, the offender’s ability to accept and pursue reconciliation does not exist. Telling the offender is necessary, even if they do not claim responsibility for the offense.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDLY

After you tell the offender, your actions have to reflect that you have forgiven them. Christ did not simply tell His followers that they were forgiven; He showed them. Christ on the cross was the evidence of what He said. What we say must be followed up by evidence. For some, this may be time offered to spend with the offender. Whatever it looks like for you, it has to communicate forgiveness to the offender.

BOUNDARIES GUIDE THE PROCESS

Once forgiveness is expressed, and the potential for reconciliation is made known, you are not obligated to a free for all on the part of the offender. Instead, we see Christ offering forgiveness that establishes healthy and safe boundaries, guardrails if you will, that we should operate within. Even after we offer the gift of forgiveness, there are still expectations for how we are to behave with regard to God and the offender. While the learning curve is wide and the process of transformation is long, a lifetime even, the boundaries still exist. What those boundaries look like are up to you, but remember that they cannot be prohibitive to the offender being reconciled, potentially with you, and especially to God.

YOUR HEART WILL FOLLOW

At the end of the above process, you may still feel the hurt and anger in your heart. That should not be a surprise. The intention is that you make forgiveness known and visible. The implication of the renewal of your mind, as Romans 12:2 speaks of, is that you will be transformed. This can take time, can be messy and includes the complication of our deceitful heart. In being transformed, we are able to know the will of God, which we can see from 2 Corinthians 5:18 and 1 Timothy 2:4, is centered on people being reconciled to Him. As our mind is renewed, our heart is transformed and we interact with people in more Christ-like ways.

In the end, the extension of our forgiveness is an act of obedience to God so that we might fulfill our role of ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). May the desire of our heart be that of our Savior’s, to trust in and show the love of the Father.

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photo credit: www.psychologytoday.com

Maybe Forgiveness isn’t for You

forgiveness

A common teaching I hear, in my Christian circles, about forgiveness is that it is primarily intended to benefit the person extending it. The understanding is that when we forgive we free ourselves from anger and hurt. Or that forgiveness eliminates barriers between us and God. While I don’t disagree, I have found forgiveness to offer much more than we have come to expect.

The more I study the Bible and meditate on what Jesus said, and how He operated; the more I’m convinced we have an incomplete view of forgiving. In fact our common understanding may actually be a skewed view of the intention of forgiving.

70 times 7

When we see forgiveness in the bible, it always seems to benefit the one being forgiven more than it does the one doing the forgiving. And it is always extended beyond what we would deem acceptable. We see this when Jesus says to forgive 70×7 (Matt 18:21-22). It seems that in forgiving we are to extend God’s grace and mercy and pave the way for the person to come to God. The bible makes it seem as though forgiveness is always for the other person.

In every biblical reference I have read, it always benefits the one being forgiven. To be clear, I am not discounting the benefits we enjoy when we forgive. Forgiveness is an essential part of the internal healing process when someone was hurt. I also know that when you have been really hurt, and I mean devastated, forgiveness can be a far off thing. At some point, and even for an extended time, it may seem as if forgiveness will never come. This article is in no way intended to discount those truths. However, I would like to challenge us all to consider a more Christ-centered experience of forgiveness.

Why Does God Forgive

Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” When we see verses like this it can seem like God is saying that His forgiveness is intended for His benefit. But, when you take the concept of forgiveness across the entirety of the Bible, the desire of God’s heart is to be with His creation. Having his creation reconciled with Him is the motivation for His forgiveness. Because God lacks nothing, and we lack all that is good, His forgiveness still ultimately benefits us, the Forgiven.

The forgiveness we see God display, through Jesus, is not one that releases Him from us, but rather creates a path to Him. He beckons us to reconciliation with Him. Is it possible the type of forgiveness we are called to offer provides this same level of grace and mercy and the same path for the the one who we forgive?

Forgive Without limits

In Matthew 18:21, when Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive, he suggested seven times, offering what he presumed to be an amount that was full of grace. Jesus countered with “seven times seventy.” This was not Jesus placing an exact number or limit on us forgiving, but instead expressing that forgiving someone goes far beyond any limitations that we can or should imagine.

Biblical Forgiveness

What would happen if we fully embraced the Apostle’s call in Eph 4:32 and Col 3:13 to forgive others like God, through Jesus has forgiven us? What would happen if the forgiveness we offered others created a path to God and invited them to walk toward Him? Maybe we should stop treating forgiveness like it is intended to free ourselves and start treating it like it is intended to free others. Maybe then more people could see that we are offering them a taste of the much sweeter path to forgiveness that Jesus offers.

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The Insider’s Guide to That Plank in Your Eye

Plank

Lately, a lot of people are up in arms over what can and can’t be called sin.   Both Christians and non-Christians have drawn clear lines in the sand and drawn their proverbial swords from the sheaths, ready to do battle over our freedom to call specific actions sinful… or not.

So we log-on, click, share, and deliver our blow to the opposing side with a cleverly crafted meme. Our hope is that we can dig the speck out of their eye, before they notice the plank in ours. And, we know our viral logic can’t be refuted, sans a cleverer meme from the other side. Unfortunately, everyone is so media shocked, that no one is hearing what the other side is screaming.

The World’s Sin

Christians are in a unique position. We have the opportunity to communicate the simplest truths of the Gospel on a global scale. If not handled well, we open the door to some potentially devastating results; namely the possibility of driving people from Jesus, rather than to Him.

Consider John 16. Jesus is found telling the disciples about the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit’s job will be. Jesus explains:

8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.”

In verse 9 it appears that Jesus takes the time to intentionally point out and define, for the disciples (and us), what the world’s sin is. He could have said ANYTHING at that moment, but He chose to define it as unbelief in Him. Inarguably, throughout His ministry, He did address specific sins that did not fit with following him. However, I believe His defining of sin in this verse was intentionally focused on the sin that we, as His followers, should be focused on when addressing other’s sin.

The sins that he outright condemns (hate, lust, coveting, etc.) are all directed at His followers for the sake of their own righteousness; not for His followers to point out in others as sin. This becomes evident right after He teaches about anger, adultery and revenge. He says not to concern ourselves with the speck in someone else’s eye (their sin) when there is a plank in ours (our glaring sin) [Matthew 7:3-5.]

Christians and the World’s Sin

Fortunately, in defining the world’s sin, Jesus made that fit perfectly into the Great Commission He gave us before departing the earth. In Acts 1:8, just prior to His ascension, Jesus commissions the Apostles (and by proxy all His followers) to “be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This unbelief in Jesus is the sin we’re called to address and being His witness is how we’re expected to address it.

As we love and live life with others, they begin to wonder and ask where we find our hope (because they get to see the realness and rawness of our life and how Jesus moves within it and within us.) When that happens, we’re able to declare who He is, His goodness, and provide an explanation for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).

In response to the world’s unbelief, we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses (or testify, proclaim, declare) to who He is… the Son of the Living God. We do that by loving God and by loving those He has put in our life. Obeying these commands is evidence of our love for Jesus.

Now is the time to stop declaring what we’re against and start declaring Who we are for. This does not mean that we are not accountable for what Jesus taught, because we are. We are. Christians are accountable, not unbelievers.

The Best Way

When we love God, we’re drawn to a life of righteousness in Christ. Because we love God and Jesus, we also obey His command to love others. When we love others, they get to experience Jesus. Through our declaration of who Jesus is (through word and action), the Holy Spirit leads that person into all truth and convicts them of the sin of unbelief. They either answer or reject that conviction. If they accept it and seek Jesus; the Holy Spirit draws them to righteousness, in Jesus, and begins to deal with the sins that have kept them from that righteousness and holiness. Our part then becomes to disciple the new believer within a relationship (and community) of love and grace.

Make your plank the priority. Deal with the sins within you. Seek out other believers that will hold you accountable. But as for the world adhering to the standard of righteousness He calls US to, they don’t even believe in Him, why would they follow what He says?

Maybe it’s time that we actually do what Jesus said and love God, love others, and let the Holy Spirit lead us to Him, turning us to righteousness.

Photo credit/used from www.hendersonbaptist.org
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