The Discipline of Forgiveness

12 12 2013

Forgiveness as a discipline that affects intimacy with God is something I’d never considered.

If we think about forgiveness, though, it is a discipline…and not listed among the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.).

Let’s step back just a bit and look at the next series of posts. They will all concern some disciplines we need to acquire to keep the way open for an intimate relationship with God. With that in mind, we should probably begin with a discussion about discipline.

The word “discipline” has taken on a negative connotation – probably because we use it to describe the spanking or a “time out” given to a child who’s been disobedient.

Interestingly enough, the Latin word from which we get discipline is the same as for the word disciple. The root is disco, and it means to learn. In other words, a disciple is a student. This explains the Scripture which reads,

Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a worker who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

The mark of a true disciple is their desire to learn all they can from their teacher, a willingness to apply themselves to study and then to live out what they learn.

If Jesus is our Master, this isn’t going to happen very quickly if Sunday morning is our only “lesson time.” We will need to spend time with Him as often as we can. This means digging into the Word with Him for ourselves.

Now, back to forgiveness as a discipline. Webster’s 1828 dictionary states a discipline as: “Education; instruction; cultivation and improvement; comprehending instruction in arts, sciences, correct sentiments, morals and manners, and due subordination to authority.”

In other words, forgiveness isn’t going to just “show up” one day. It must be learned.

Forgiveness:

needs constant attention in our lives if we are to live pure before God

needs intention. It doesn’t “just happen.” We must live it out with passionate dedication. It can be hard work to forgive…and to receive forgiveness, too.

must be taught to our hearts. This doesn’t come naturally to us. If left to our own devices we will choose bitterness and grudges.

And forgiveness is commanded time and again in Scripture…by One who knows what it means to forgive! Check this out:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

At its core, unforgiveness is a veiled attempts to control. So long as they “owe” (remember saying, “You’ll pay for that!” ??), I can believe that I am in control of the situation. They’re in my “debt” – which gives me the upper hand. I call the shots – including when they’ve “paid” enough for their sin against me.

While forgiveness isn’t a fruit of the Spirit, it does bear fruit! Guess who gets to eat from this tree…we do!

We get the release from captivity of another’s sin and the ability to move beyond it. (Whereas in the past we were stuck – couldn’t move beyond the pain nor get away from those who hurt us.)

Emotions that wear into a groove and cycle over and over again are gone. (The events kept replaying like a horrible movie in our minds.)

Triggers (which cause a knee-jerk reaction to minor infractions that tap into old wounds) are gone. The situation can be talked about without “winding us up.”

The “sting” is gone…pain, anger, grief, fear, etc. We stop feeling re-wounded. The past experience becomes a memory without the power to inflict additional pain. (This sometimes requires forgiving again and again…it’s a daily choice.)

We are no longer defined by our past experience. We don’t surrender to the reality of sin; we surrender to the reality of who we are in Christ. We have options:

“I’ll carry these scars for the rest of my life because I’m a child of abuse/neglect/violence”

OR

“I am a child of God. No event or person can rob me of that.”

Our past has lost its control over our life – and we are free to become all that God has for us!

Next time we’ll discuss what forgiveness isn’t. We’ll need to study this topic if we’re to acquire the Discipline of Forgiveness.

*****

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything

Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit

Are loss and grief obstacles to intimacy? Our discussion on the matter begins with Plastic Hearts

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8 responses

12 12 2013
Pure Glory

We have to give up being right and keeping score. Instead releasing our debtors in the total obedience gives us much needed freedom from our offenses. It also causes the poison to drain and gives us good health! Praise God!

13 12 2013
lessonsbyheart

This I know. Unfortunately, I want to have my “list” so well rehearsed that I can reach God and rattle them off before the other person has a chance to get a word in edge-wise!

One thing I’ve noticed is that my health *has* improved considerably as I am able to walk more fully in forgiveness. Most health issues these days are long-term consequences of years and years of unforgiveness and all the emotions that go with it. God meant it when He said that He would put “none of these diseases” on those who walk in obedience!

Merry Christmas!

\o/

13 12 2013
Pure Glory

So true!

Merry Christmas!

12 12 2013
StephenWhoElse

A great lesson on a seldom taught topic. I needed that. I find myself reliving past grudges when the triggers go off…so this is a good reminder.

Thank you!

13 12 2013
lessonsbyheart

Yeah, I struggle with this as well. Many “triggers” have been removed by God’s healing touch – but there are still a few that set me off!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

\o/

13 12 2013
StephenWhoElse

And a blessed Christmas to you too!

12 12 2013
Heather Mertens @ 40YearWanderer

I love that you use the OLD dictionary, Tami, since the new ones are clearly shrouded in progressiveness and double-speak.
Blessings this CHRISTmas season, my friend!!
Live Blessed!
~ Heather

12 12 2013
lessonsbyheart

Did you know that “prehistoric” isn’t even in that old dictionary? Neither is “dinosaur.” I like that Webster quotes from the Bible to show usage of the words, as well!

Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours as well!

\o/

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