When it comes to set rules, no place is likely to have more than the area of forgiveness. We talked about the “bounded set” earlier in this series, and used the unfinished statement, “You’re a good Christian if…” to make the point.
Here we see this mindset with a different application:
“I will forgive you when…”
When what? Go ahead and list what is demanded of the offender.
How likely is it that these things will ever take place?
Even if they were, would it be enough?
In the meantime, who’s the one being affected?
Does it chap the hide to realize that they’ve gone on their merry way, without giving a second thought to what was done?
Yes, and the idea of letting them off “scott-free” seems so unjust!
However, this is exactly what we must do if we are to live as the free children of God we were meant to be.
Otherwise, we continue to inflict injury long after they’ve moved on. We pay for it in physical and/or mental health issues.
This is a bad plan!
So, let’s see what it’s going to take to shake this thing, shall we?
First, we’ve named their sin. We’ve seen it for what it was.
We’ve ceased to accept that we “deserved” what they did. NO ONE ever deserves to be sinned against. We didn’t “have it coming” or any other such rubbish!
Then we look at the sin in light of who we are now:
We are not the product of our past experience…
We are a product of Jesus’ work on the cross…
A NEW CREATION!
We must believe what Scripture says is true of us, and NOT the labels we (or anyone else) gave us as a result of that/those experience(s).
Further, consider how God used their evil to create something wonderful in you…greater compassion, more patience, etc. Would you be the same person today if you’d never had that experience?
I certainly would not be working at the mission and reaching out to the broken, had I never been “broken” myself.
Moving on, we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. He lives in us and is constantly at work to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. We invite the Spirit to fill us with the power to forgive. The answer to this request is “YES!” – for this is certainly His will for us.
Having done this, we NAME the sin; COUNT the cost; FEEL the loss. We allow ourselves time to grieve what was lost.
NAME it = be specific. Specific will set you free.
“I forgive my dad for alcoholism”
“I forgive my dad for not being there when I needed him…for abandoning me. I forgive him for his anger and the violence that I received as a result. I forgive him for pushing me away and rejecting me. I forgive my dad for his irresponsibility in blaming everyone else for his addiction.”
COUNT the cost = if you weigh the cost, you can reclaim the loss in Jesus. God promises to give back the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25).
FEEL = this is a process of the heart. Take time to grieve. You’ve suffered loss. Something was taken from you that can’t be returned, in the same way that death removes a person from our life.
Note that the work is ours alone to do (with the help of the Spirit, of course). In other words, this is something that we must do. No one else can do this for us.
Dump the “Bounded Set” concerning forgiveness. I.e. “When A-Z has been done, then I’ll forgive.”
Hell will freeze over long before all these ducks are by the same pond…
much less “in a row”!
Talk this issue out with the Lord – do it out loud. I’m always amazed at what gets worked out in my head when I speak what’s in my heart…the good, bad, and ugly.
We will have to resolve to live in the consequences of another person’ sin…we will anyway, we might as well accept this truth.
It’s not fair…
…but this is not heaven!
We will never be more Christ-like than when we bear the marks and cost of another’s sin while choosing to forgive them.
“Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.”
Our acceptance of life as it is will bring peace, healing, and comfort.
To continue to demand that the person pay for what they did is to become a bitter, hateful, spiteful human.
Know anyone like that? I do. They’re downright ugly people!
(A note on self-forgiveness here:
To forgive ourselves removes the “should have” and “ought to” feelings that continually tell us that we can never measure up. No, we didn’t measure up then, but this is a new day…with no mistakes in it. Let’s get up and move on, shall we?)
In our conversation with the Lord, we can say, “Father, this hurts. Because of what they’ve said/done, I’ve believed (this) about You, and (this) about me. Please replace these lies with Your truth. Would You show me how You see me?” (“Sit” with this and give Him time to respond. He will. It might not be right then, but He will talk to you!)
(The last time I did this, He said, “chosen!”)
What God says to us about us carries the most weight.
We must learn to ask Him to speak to us!
(And then let Him get a word in edgewise!!)
Finally, we commit to pray for our offender(s). At first this will be hard, but if we stick with it, the Lord begins to show us that person through His eyes as well.
At that point, we can look for the “gold” in them (even if it’s a tiny speck!)…instead of payment from them.
When we get to this place, they are free to be who they are – and we are free to love without strings or expectations.
What a glorious day it is when we can say to those who have deeply wounded us:
“Even if you never change, you owe me nothing. You may never be the (father, mother, sibling, spouse) I want, and you may continue to say mean and hurtful things, but Jesus paid your debt, and I release you.”
Which, in reality, means that we’ve been removed from captivity to that person!
Forgiveness is not an easy process…sometimes we make progress inch-by-inch. At least we’re moving forward!
If you’re a visual person, you might want to try the balloon trick I use. I wrote about it in Two Balloons.
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