Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seventy-Seven Times

So we've established that because we're human we both disappoint and are disappointed by others. So that brings up another area to consider, and that's forgiveness. I find it easy to forgive the minor mistakes and hurtful behavior of others. I don't think I'm a grudge keeper. But it's the big hurts, the hugely impactful disappointments and betrayals that I have had to grapple with. Let me preface by saying that I understand that I am called to forgive. I agree that God forgives so I must also forgive. In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (MATTHEW 18:21-22) Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" and Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Let's be honest, forgiveness is a pretty heavy concept. It's not hard for God, so why do you think it's so hard for us? I'm sure our own baggage has something to do with it (ya think?). How much hurt and disappointment do you have to experience before you become bitter and hardened? Before you start protecting yourself more and trusting other people less? This has to be why forgiveness is at the heart of God's message (Colossians 3:12-14). Before we take on a role as "victim" try to remember the convicting story in John 8:3-8 when a woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus and he said "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (or in Matthew 7:1-5 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"). This is what we should do, but do we? When we are wronged do we remember the times when we screwed up and needed someone's forgiveness?

I have had some things happen in my life that required me to work through the issue of forgiveness. It wasn't as easy for me as I would have liked. I read a book called, "Choosing Forgiveness" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, that helped. I think I got all caught up in the expression "forgive and forget". I thought that in order to forgive someone I had to forget that it ever happened. Unless someone has invented a mind eraser then I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. Who thought that expression up anyway? I think part of me didn't want to forget. Maybe I just didn't want him to ever forget...and that's my sin. I have learned that forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. Although I can forgive because I have been asked by the person to forgive, their desire for forgiveness, even their repentence (or lack there of) should not impact whether or not I choose to forgive them. How hard is that? Forgiveness is an act of faith and its a choice. It doesn't mean pretending that the offense never happened and erasing it from memory. "Forgiveness is a promise...a deliberate decision to deal with another's sin by doing away with it" (Nancy Leigh DeMoss).

Mark Gungor said in LAUGH YOUR WAY TO A BETTER MARRIAGE that "unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die." Funny AND true! You are the only one that suffers when you don't forgive someone else. It can eat you up inside until all you're left with is bitterness. Holding on to the pain & hurt that others have caused you only leaves you angry and lonely. "...Whatever sin has been committed against you, the choice NOT to forgive is itself a serious sin" (Nancy Leigh DeMoss).

Let me leave you with this parting thought...forgiveness can get easier with time. Time heals and we might even forget...a little. Letting go of things you cannot change is freeing. "God has not counted our sins against us" (2 Cor. 5:19). "When it comes to forgiveness, (He) would not command us to do something that He would not enable us to do" (Nancy Leigh DeMoss). If I let myself go there, the pain of things in the past still hurt. I can go right back to each offense and feel exactly what I was feeling that day. But how will that help or change anything? Instead, by letting go & forgiving, I can have hope for tomorrow, I can focus on what lies ahead, and I can trust God to see me through, even when the next disappointment comes (because it will come).

"Whatever's in the past, it's exactly the past God wants us to have. He doesn't want us to try to change it or forget it. He wants us to learn how to use it to serve him." --KEVIN HUGGINS

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