faith

will we live to forgive

Years later, she observed Paul’s leadership in an inner-city church plant and was struck with shame that she had often treated a man possessing such “marvelous gifts” with prideful disregard.

… Forgiveness is another ongoing challenge. Seven years ago, a presentation on biblical forgiveness at a counseling conference changed their thinking.

“Previously we knew that we had to forgive, but we had no idea how to get there,” Paul said. Though they admit it is still hard for two sometimes prideful go-getters to ask each other’s forgiveness, they find it “utterly cleansing” when they do.

– Taken from http://www.worldmag.com/2012/12/learning_how_to_love

Two things really struck me in this post above – the first that with time we tend to take people we love deeply for granted. It’s easy enough right now to think, good Lord, I cannot love Rob any more than I do every time I think about him, look at him, walk into the same room as him, etc. etc. I mean we’ve been married for a whopping 4 months now. But there will come a day when I won’t feel exactly the same way I feel about him as I do now, and that day will be a sad one. That day will be when I give in to my own prideful disregard for all he is and will be and will mean to me. And it is my constant prayer that I will always see him the way I do now and that nothing will whittle away the profound respect and admiration I have for him. or he for me, for that matter.

And this goes hand in hand with the 2nd thing. Forgiveness. How hard it is to truly forgive someone, the old adage of forgive and forget. People tend to quote the verse in the Bible that says “as far as the east from the west” God has removed our sins from us. It is a beautiful thought when we truly repent – not just meaning feeling guilt or regret, but also changing your mind about what you did, recognizing the reach and influence of what you did or didn’t do as the case may be, and accepting responsibility for both the action and the consequence and now making the effort to correct and redeem the fallout. Freely and quickly admitting your own part, not blameshifting (it was the woman you gave me! it was the serpent!), not rationalizing, not overlooking all the small ways we transgress against each other because they add up to and lead us into the big ways we transgress. Belittling someone jokingly, no matter how funny it may be at first, pointing out someone’s flaws and behaviors here and there inevitably turns into constant attacks on their character. You start poking fun at things that annoy you a little bit but that quickly turns into all out attacks on the very meaning of their existence in your life.

Because at the root of a lack of forgiveness and forbearance with each other is the sense of pride and entitlement. You exist for me. For my pleasure, for my ease in all areas of my life, financially, materially, for my contentment in my home life, sex, recreation… the list goes on and on. When we fail to forbear each other’s shortcomings and dismiss the beauty of grace freely given, poured out over us in ample supply, we have defeated the very purpose of marriage and all that God has intended for us in it. If you have a hard time forgiving someone, you have lost the concept of how much has been forgiven you. We shouldn’t want justice and equality. We should want Grace abounding.

And to see every person as fully and always forgiven – that is the goal. “My sin not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross” and it is true for us all. It never stops being true. He came once to die and it is finished. Done. Finito.

So why are we still holding grudges? Why do we let sin – sins we commit and those committed against us – fester and reside in our lives, permeating our thoughts and our actions or inactions? It’s like paying on a debt that was already paid in full. You’re done. I’m done. Because God is done. And to view another person as anything less than redeemed and bought with a price and precious and whole and good is a slap in the face of the very God who made that person His.

I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, forgiving sometimes is the single most difficult thing to do. Someone deeply wronged you. There are no excuses. There never are. Excuses are for the weak. It doesn’t matter what happened to him. It doesn’t matter what his past was like. He made a choice – only he has that choice – and he needs to own that.

But here we are, dealing with the fall out. Making the best of it all. Hoping that it won’t rain all the time. And it becomes so easy to fall into bitterness and anger, blameshifting and despair. It’s easy to wish he will “get what’s coming to him” whatever that may be in your mind – whatever that thing or series of events in your mind that will even the score. But he seems to be doing fine. His life is moving along and you just let the sin become a permanent fixture in your heart every time you think of it.

Will you forgive? Truly forgive – to give up a claim to requital, to see the score as even, to let it go. I have learned so much through consciously acting on forgiveness, to take my emotional upheaval in hand, controlling the bitterness and wiping it out of my soul. I won’t let it have any room in my house.

There’s this great song by Steve Taylor back in the day. It’s a pretty simple song. He said once that the song started in his head when he saw a picture of the former Pope John Paul shaking hands with his attempted assassin while visiting him in jail. That’s what I’m talking about. And it so doesn’t matter if the assassin received his pardon or if he became a crazy lunatic proclaiming the end of the world … back in 1990… doesn’t matter. Pope JP was on it. He knew that he was alive to forgive this man. To remind us all how much we are forgiven. Go. Make your peace. It’s the only way to truly live.

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