Friday, September 2, 2011

What's forgiveness all about?

We live in such a way that we don't find ourselves accountable for our own actions, but we instead are quick to pin point anothers faults, mistakes and past. It's easy to hold onto a grudge. It starts out as anger, maybe a misunderstanding, a wrong choice of words and soon before you know it, it's eating you alive. What's wrong with a grudge? The other person is not affected. They don't even know your angry. Your holding this all in and walking with it, or I should say stumbling over it. There is no love in anger.

"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

I am one of those girls who pretty well speaks her mind. But I am learning to be slow to speak, slow to anger and give myself room to breathe before I make a decision. It's hard isn't it? It's hard when we feel wronged in any situation to keep our cool. We react before we think and then we find ourselves in a situation we didn't see happening.

"Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 25:24

It's like we keep tabs on the wrongs against us. We add them up and weigh and measure them to see where that person fits on the scale. If they have more good than bad, we might just find forgiveness. If we see there are more wrongs, well, there is no forgiveness on our part. We don't feel justified to forgive. After all, we are the one who feels wronged, but in fact, most of the time we are the one who did the injustice. The very things we are accusing another of we ourselves are carrying in our hearts.
"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one; For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:9-15

Forgiveness isn't about keeping score. It isn't about bringing up every wrong act and measuring it against our right. It's not about weights and measures at all, but in fact, grace. I am so glad Jesus doesn't measure my life on a scale of good and bad, but covers me in His grace. The good that comes from my life is ALL HIM. The bad is ALL ME. Today is a new day, praise the Lord. Whether we have forgiveness and acceptance from others has nothing to do with our forgiveness. We are called to reach out in love.We are called to forgive. Whether it is accepted or not, we still love.

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:25

In humbleness we reach out to another. We may say, "I am sorry for the past", or "Please forgive me for my wrongs in the situation." That other person isn't always going to forgive us. But you know what? That is on them. Once we have emptied our heart and surrendered our wrong to the Lord and went to the other person in love it is up to them if they accept. We can't change others, but we can change our reaction to those around us. We can forgive a wrong even if that person never comes to us and accepts the wrong they did to us. They may never find themselves accountable for their side of the actions. They might find themselves morally correct on all counts and find you way off base.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

Have you ever found yourself smiling at one and saying, "Hello", as you pass, but in your heart as they walk by all you feel is anger? What was that smile all about? Why give the hello if you don't mean it? There is no reason for us to be fake. I don't want someone smiling and saying hello to me if they in turn walk by with a hardened heart. That isn't love. Before the hello comes there must be forgiveness in the heart. Before the smile we must be transparent and forgive the wrongs we feel that were brought to us. We are to be real. When we feel wronged we are to go to that person in love. That person. Not every girlfriend under the sun and speak badly of them, but that one person who has broken our trust or hurt us in some way. We are to clear the air. No one wants to walk in pollution. It stinks and it leaves a nasty residue on you.

“But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other; and from him who takes away your cloak, don’t withhold your coat also. Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.  “As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.  Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free." Luke 6:27-37

In forgiveness we don't go back and bring up every wrong. What's wrong with just letting go and letting God? What's wrong with starting fresh and making a clean break from the past and introducing yourself to a new day? Instead of carrying stones in our pocket of anger and resentment, why not fill out pockets with gems of love? Do we really want to throw a stone? Stones hurt. They not only hurt the person who is hit by it, but the one doing the throwing. See, where they sit, they are right and you are wrong. In most cases, there are three sides to every story. Your side, their side and the truth, which lies somewhere in the midst of both stories. The only way for the truth to come out is to invite Christ into the situation and humble ourselves enough to take a really deep look into our heart. Once we can find ourselves accountable, it's much easier to find grace for the other. After all, aren't we looking for that same grace from our Savior? How can we expect Him to forgive us and accept us if we are not willing to lay down the bitterness bag?

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15

"He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west." Psalm 103:12

We must give ourselves permission to make mistakes. I taught my children long ago that a mistake is only a mistake if you cannot walk away from it and learn something. Now, you have just taken that wrong choice and found wisdom in your humbleness to look beyond yourself. When we can't find forgiveness we really are selfish. We ask for forgiveness from God, but yet we are unable to give it. Does that even make sense? Who do we think we are? Isn't that kind of self righteous of us? Down right arrogant, isn't it? We go to God and ask forgiveness, but yet we put limits on others. We try again to make it all about us.

In forgiveness there is love. There is peace. There too is freedom and in that we find grace. God's grace covers each and every wrong. His blood was shed for us. As His blood flowed from our sins, we were washed white as snow when we found ourselves accepting Him. See, the thing is, when we accept Christ, that means we love and accept others. By no means does that mean we accept sin, but we, in love, accept those words of, "I'm sorry", and we move forward. We don't stay stagnant in the past. The past can keep us from all God has for us. When we step out of our anger and embrace forgiveness we are allowing Christ's love to flow through us. We get comfortable in anger, don't we? We hold on to it like a comfy blanket. We gotta throw that blanket off and move out of our comfort zone into the zone of forgiveness. We must try to see the other side. That person that is so angry. Might there be reason for their anger? Maybe there is and they just went all wrong about how they acted in a situation. But now, they wish they could go back and remove that deposit in history. We can't go back, my friends, but in forgiveness we can find a way to move forward and reach for something valuable. Grace.

"Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it." 1 Peter 3:8-9


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