Around my house, we’re still back in the 20th century…well, at least I am. I have a ‘pay by the minute’ flip phone, no cable or satellite, and (aside from my laptop) little contact with the outside world. We don’t even have “Caller ID” on our house phone (which, by the way, is push-button…not a rotary dial. We’re not quite that backward!).
Many times a week, I must confess that I covet your ‘Caller ID;’ especially when I answer the phone only to discover that it’s a telemarketer. (Even these calls can be redeemed, I’ve discovered. They called me. I try to remember this might be a Divine Appointment, and do my best to introduce them to Jesus.)
Lately, everyone and their dog seems to be concerned about my debt load, though. I’ve never met so many people anxious to give credit to an unemployed person (which makes no sense), or consolidate my debt and reduce interest rates so I can become ‘debt free’…by going further into debt? Does anyone think logically anymore?
Today, however, we’re discussing a different sort of debt. This is what is owed to us, not by us.
We left off talking about what forgiveness is NOT. Today we’ll look at what forgiveness IS.
The most important thing to know about true forgiveness is that we can’t ‘get there’ if we don’t first own the offense…acknowledge that we were sinned against.
This seems elementary, but too often I’ve heard folks teach that when someone sins against us we should just brush it off, look to the cross as a reminder of all Jesus did for us, and get over it.
Advice like this looks good on the surface, but it’s only part truth. We will get to the cross in a bit, but first we’ve got to look closer at the ‘brush it off’ bit – which is, at its core a lie.
To pretend that an offense is ‘not that big a deal’ is to lie to ourselves.
This is what God has to say about that:
“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6
“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1-2
So long as we are in denial about sin committed against us,
big or small,
we cannot truly forgive.
I am frequently in contact with a fellow believer who loves ‘sitcom humor’ – you know the biting remarks delivered with a laugh (and secretly meant). “Hey, that was a good one!”
I don’t find the humor in their comments, and I’ve spoken to this person concerning this matter. They don’t see it as a problem, and expect me to ‘lighten up.’
The problem is that I struggle with others who have ‘weighed me and found me wanting,’ and this person knows my battle. Instead of ‘giving grace to this hearer’ (Ephesians 4:29), this ‘spiritual sibling’ says things that cut and slash at my heart…and doesn’t want me to spoil their fun.
To make matters worse, this same person will at other times make wonderful, encouraging comments to and about me.
Mixed messages really slap a person’s brain around, don’t they? This has the ‘curtain’ effect. I’ve closed my heart on the one side to block the unkind comments, which caused the curtain on the other side to close as well – which blocks out kind comments.
(Thanks, that’s a heap of insight for me!)
For a long time I worked at getting thicker skin, tried to brush off comments, and pretend everything was fine.
I never really called it for what it is: SIN.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a little deal…and this is what we’re prone to do: Discount or excuse the other person’s behavior.
We can’t forgive what we haven’t acknowledged.
So forgiveness IS owning the truth that we have been sinned against.
Next, forgiveness IS allowing Jesus to pay the price for all sin…sin committed against us – and sins we ourselves have done.
We must forgive ourselves as well.
We cannot repay our debt to others for the wrong things we have done…and they cannot repay us either. No amount of forgiveness can undo what has been done. Jesus alone can pay these debts – and He did! From the cross He cried out, “It is finished” – which is literally translated, “PAID IN FULL!” We must move forward, with confidence that He will make everything right in His perfect timing – or risk slipping into the slough of bitterness.
Finally, forgiveness IS allowing Jesus to be the judge. We must trust Him to decide when and how the debt will be repaid. Others’ sin against us left a hole in our heart.
Perfection is the only Sacrifice that will fill this void.
Only Jesus can do this.
Why should we forgive?
Because we are commanded to forgive by Jesus (Matthew 18:34-38).
Because only then can Jesus pay for the sin. So long as the offender is being held accountable by us for their sin, they are bound to us. Consequently, even if they are a continent away – or even dead – they continue to hurt us. We do this to ourselves every time we relive their painful actions.
This is true when WE were the offender, too. If we fail to take our sin to Jesus and allow Him to cleanse us, and then forgive ourselves, we have blocked His mercy and grace from doing their work in us!
The ability to say, “you owe me nothing” (and mean it) liberates us to love, laugh,
and live debt-free.
In the next post, we’ll wrap up with the process of forgiving.
Our current study is on the Discipline of Forgiveness. It begins here.
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