Okay, well not all forgiveness sucks. It's cool when God and others forgive me, but I hate it when I have to forgive others. I hate when I have to forgive others even when they don't feel they have done anything wrong and I know will never change or seek reconciliation. My flesh takes over on these parts, and I also hate that about myself. I feel like Paul when he states,
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want."
I am dealing with forgiveness issues, along with some anger, and really trying and desiring to forgive, move on, and press into Christ. But, the problem is that the longer I allow this attitude of non-forgiveness to abide in my heart, the more the devil has the opportunity to use it against me and my growth and pursuit of Christ will be hindered.
The issue isn't coming from me not knowing that I should forgive. I know all the verses. Let's call that "Point A." And I know that if, and when, I forgive the closer and freer I will be in Christ. Let's call that "Point B". The problem comes within the movement along that line that moves me from a head knowledge to a real heart of forgiveness that then pursues Jesus and his love and grace.
I thought I would share the ways in which I am currently dealing with this real life fact, and sin, in my life and some of the great perspectives I received from my missional community leaders last night, that have dealt with the same issues that I have.
1. I am the One Who Needs the Most Forgiveness
Through this process, God has showed me that I am the one who needs to be forgiven the most, not the others that I am struggling with. God has exposed me like a dirty diaper in a crowded room. I didn't truly understand how sinful I have been, until taking my unforgiveness to Christ through prayer. He said, like Nathan did to King David, "You are the Man!". At first, I was thinking God was getting me mixed up with someone else. Then, I realized as he worked on my heart, that I needed to deal with some of my own issues, before I would be allowed to forgive others. I needed to know how much I had been forgiven, how much patience God has had with me, how much pride has filled my heart and how much grace God has showed me. I knew the story in the Bible. I knew the story of the unmerciful servant and used to laugh at how stupid that guy looked for strangling the servant for a couple of cents compared to the millions that had been forgiven him. (Matthew 18:21-35)
But, God really opened my heart to show me that I was him. I was that man. I have been forgiven much and the small crimes done to me was nothing compared to the cross and the crimes done to my Saviour.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
So, step one. I am the unmerciful servant. I must truly believe this in both the mind and the heart. I must know this and pursue the understanding of the depth of the cross. Knowing myself and knowing Christ is the first step.
2. Prayer. Not Just for Me. But Not Fake.
Recently I had been praying for those that I have had a hard time forgiving. Praying for God's grace to be abundant in their lives. Let's just say that I then had to pray for God to forgive me for lying right afterwards. I didn't want them to get grace, I wanted God to reign down fire from heaven against them. They were prayers from the head, not from the heart. I knew I should pray for them, but my heart wanted to punch them in the face. Honestly, if I wasn't a Christian, I would have done just that.
Last night, wisdom was spoken into my life. One of our missional leaders told me how she dealt with it. She said that she, knowing that she didn't want to lie but knowing that she needed to pray for those that had hurt her, decided to open the Bible and pray Scripture for them. She would pray for them by looking at prayers in the Bible and praying that for them. She said that she prayed that God would change her heart to the point where she could honestly pray for grace in their life, but until then, she didn't want to lie to God, so she prayed the very words of God for them.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
3. Patience. God is Working.
The next thing that our leaders told me is to be patient. They said to be honest with God, pray the Scriptures and then also know that the heart doesn't always follow right away. I currently have an open wound that needs to be covered by God's grace and much prayer. But, that open wound needs time to heal. I can say that I am healed all I want to, but I must be honest when I see it flaring up and bleeding.
During this time, continually seek out God and his lovingkindness. Continue to search the Scriptures, but give myself time and understand that I am not going to be cured like I went to a Benny Hinn crusade and gave a $1000. This is key for me, because I am one that desires for things to be done instantly. But sometimes, you have to realize that we are on a journey and not in a race.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
4. God Has Justice. I Am Just a Witness. But a Guilty Witness.
The last thing that I learned from my missional community leaders is that I must allow God to work on their hearts, that is not my job. They said that anger will abide in my heart as long as I want them to be "paid for what they did" instead of trusting myself to my God. I have to realize that God is the one who convicts and puts forth judgment, that isn't my job. These people might never repent, they might never seek reconciliation and to me, it might seem as though they "got away with it." But, if continue to dwell on their actions and their non-repentance, I will never be able to fully entrust or press into my Saviour.
I must remember that they didn't only sin against me, but they sinned most fully against God. He is the one that is most offended in this transaction, not myself. I must deal with my sin, I cannot make them repent, but if I withhold forgiveness, I am now again in sin and won't be able to move on to have full joy in Christ.
……Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting forgiveness.
Tim Keller, The Prodigal God (pg. 82-83)
I must understand that I am a witness of this crime, but I am a guilty witness. I am not sinless, but I held the nail as they were being hammered into my Saviour. So, if I expect myself to be forgiven, I must forgive and love that my oppressors are also forgiven. We are both on the same floor of grace, and if their floor gives way, so does mine.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So, this is what I am working on in regards to forgiveness. I desire to forgive in my mind, but my heart is holding out. I must entrust myself to my God.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:21-25
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