Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Forgiveness Solution

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will forgive you. Matthew 6.14

If someone came up and hit you in the face, would you invite him or her back to do the same thing again and again several times a day? Well, when you hold onto resentment over past wrongs, you do just that. You let that person hurt you over and over again. The cure for the pain of being wronged is simple, but hard: Forgiveness. Some people say, I just can’t forgive so-and-so for what she did to me. Sadly, if you can’t let go of the pain it will outlast the harm. So, you those people incapable of forgiveness might as well make a daily appointment with their persecutors to come by and repeat the offense over and over
again. You will only be free of the pain of an offense when you let it go.

Forgiveness does you as much good as it does your persecutor. Maybe, even more good. Frequently, those who treat us poorly don’t even understand the harm they’ve done. They often derive neither satisfaction nor remorse from the actions, and probably don’t even remember what they’ve done. 

Now, forgiveness does not mean excusing the offender. When God forgave you of your sin he didn’t say the sin was all right. He said he would not require us to pay the penalty for the sin and that he would put it out of his mind and not hold us to account for it. In other words, He let go of the offense as if it never happened. Okay, we are human and we might not be able to choose to forget as God does, but we can still, with his help, let go of the pain of the offense and begin to see the offender through God’s eyes as someone who has strayed and needs to be brought home.

So, then, we’ve decided to forgive. The big question is How? Forgiveness, no matter how beneficial, is hard work.

1. Keep a sense of perspective. Many of the "wrongs" which we perceive as being against us just aren't that important. I remember one woman saying that she was having a hard time "forgiving" her roommate for folding the dishtowels the "wrong" way. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what way of folding the dishtowels resulted in this moral breach of conduct. Are dishtowels really worth hurting another person's feelings? I doubt it.

2. When you want to get even, don't. It's natural to want to get back at someone who has harmed you. It's natural, but it's wrong. Scripture makes it plain over and over again that the job of "payback" belongs to the Lord. I can hear you saying, "But you don't know what he/she did to me." No, I don't. I know what people have done to me. I know what it means to want revenge. But I also know what they did to Jesus, who with his last breath prayed forgiveness on those who were killing him.

3. Ask yourself, "Have I ever done something like this?". Ouch! Sometimes the things that bug us the most are the failings we see in ourselves. Are you unforgiving of people who lie against you, because you recognize dishonesty in yourself? Do you find arrogance irritating because you have problems with pride? When we accept that we are all sinners saved by grace and that we all struggle with sin daily, then it is easier to extend mercy to others.

4. Remember that you are also forgiven. You know we love to talk about the forgiveness that God has extended toward us, but did you ever consider the obligation that forgiveness places upon the people of God. Jesus told the story of a man who owed the equivalent of over a million dollars to his lord. He couldn’t pay the debt and the creditor being a generous man forgave the debt. But in the next scene we see this forgiven man choking the life out of a man who owed him just a few dollars and taking him to court. The message is very clear those who have been forgiven, must share that gift of forgiveness with others. It’s the healthy thing to do. It’s the practical thing to do. And it’s the God Thing to Do.

Lord, today help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Amen

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