..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Forgiving Like God Forgives

Forgive, forgive, forgive is the continuing word given.

As Christians we are commanded to forgive, but we can fall into the trap of glibly saying "I have forgiven" or feeling like we ought to, yet still have a heart full of misery and bitterness.

From Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, comes this unnerving quote: "I forgive you, Sir Knight, " said Rowena, 'as a Christian.' That means, "said Wamba, "that she does not forgive him at all." I would love for you to say that this "rings no bells" with you but, alas, it very well might. Brothers and sisters, we must do business with God. I am not saying that forgiveness is easy nor that it comes immediately or without cost. Nor am I saying that Christians are any worse at forgiving than non-Christians. I am saying we must set our hearts to forgive wholeheartedly, no matter what. Was it easy, or quick or without cost for Jesus to forgive?

God tells us that we MUST forgive but we should also WANT to. I don't think we totally, passionately value what Christ did to win our forgiveness. Even as He won our forgiveness He was in the act of forgiving (Luke 23:34). What if His forgiveness was given and then He took it back? What if when He was safely back with the Father He started to rethink, and said, "On second thought, They've treated me poorly, Let them reap what they've sown. I'm taking back the sacrifice. That will show them! " God forbid!

We do not want to imagine such a horror! So likewise, may we also find it unimaginable to not forgive. What are we trying to prove? What do we need to set straight? Who am I to judge "another man's servant"? We live or die unto God, He will be the judge. Allow Him to be. We see forgiveness as something we must give in order to benefit someone else. Forgiveness is to benefit US! Our forgiveness not only releases God's forgiveness to us, it is an unequalled opportunity to become like our Heavenly Father! How will Christ bring "many sons to glory" if not through this process of our entering into the good nature of God? Shall we act like God or like a child of darkness? Heaven is watching, and Hell, too.

We do not know the ways of God as we should. At best we know them in part. We often wonder why He allows waywardness to go on. Perhaps we wonder what He is waiting for. As much as you think He is waiting for others, He is waiting for you and I to follow Him into his mission of mercy and forgiveness. For whatever we may not know about God, we do know how He feels about forgiveness. Let us press on to forgive as God forgives.

The goodness of God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He waits, not counting this as weakness, but as mercy, as a second chance for us to turn our shriveled and broken lives around. Unforgiveness is like a rusted lock, it prevents the storehouse of mercy from being opened. It dwarfs our growth, shrivels our spirit, troubles our already troubled minds. May we ask the Lord to pour a balm on our hearts so that they might be soft toward Him and toward each other.

Do you have a good memory for grievance? Please, let it go. It frightens me to death when I hear people recalling, in great detail, grievances that happened in 1974 or 1947! You don't need that kind of memory! Ask God for a dose of godly forgetfulness, a divine case of amnesia, so that you will not remember alleged or even actual wrongs done to you. May it all slide off our backs like water off the well-oiled feathers of a duck. May the oil of the Holy Spirit drench us so that unforgiveness cannot stick and our feathers do not get so easily ruffled. What freedom not to be in the bondage of unforgiveness to any man or woman! What freedom to be the bondslaves of God alone: to have lost our rights to be right and to not need to exact our pound of recompense.

Brothers and sisters, God has freely forgiven us. He has given us so so many second chances that we ought to have worn out His grace by now. Yet He keeps beckoning, calling, leaving the door open. So may we also leave the door open for others. If doing that bothers you, throw yourself at God's feet and sit there a good long while. Sit there until nothing bothers you and until all you see is Jesus! Do not doubt that this can happen or that it will make you a Caspar Milktoast. A Lamb rules in heaven. The meek inherit the earth. These are glorious things.

The prodigal son returned to His Father's house because he knew the door was always open, even after he had "mucked up" royally. But, we say, how can we live in the house after the wayward son has returned home? It is the temptation of the "good" son to resent the return of the prodigal. Yet, the Father's heart makes room. The household of God, rightly administered, should keep slackers on their toes. We are not to condone sin, but to cover the sinner with such grace that there is a clear path for him to repent. And are we not all forgiven sinners in our Father's House?

Leaders, lead into forgiveness. Lead by forgiving. Lead with forgiveness. Lead as one forgiven. Lead with the courage to forgive and you will reap more authority to lead into greater depths of forgiveness. Leaders, lead down into the depths of forgiveness and of letting go, so that people might be set free to soar on the heights of mercy and grace. One day God will judge all men. Will we be judged a "way maker", a son or daughter of forgiveness, or will we judged as a stumbling block?

There are two other things to consider. Jesus said, "He who is forgiven much, loves much" (Luke 7:47). If we are unable to forgive, perhaps we have a bigger problem, perhaps we are unwilling to be changed by God's forgiveness to us! Perhaps we have spurned God's fiery love toward us and blocked it from invading our heart. Perhaps we are loveless. For when God says, "Go and sin no more," do we ignore His advice? Unforgiveness has fast growing roots. Its tentacles latch on and spread, like crabgrass, soon choking the life out of the healthy plant of love. The Lord wants to set us free like a bird from a cage. The cage is bitterness and the snare that leads us there is unforgiveness. Watch out!

Guess what? Unforgiveness itself is sin and a serious one, at that! It is the Lord's Prayer that implores God to "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us" (Matthew 6:12). I forgive you, God forgives me. The need for forgiveness does not take God by surprise. He incorporated the "drill" for forgiveness into something that needs to be done daily or even more often! God leads us by forgiveness, with forgiveness, and to forgiveness. It is something that He practices not once in awhile, but continually and with a long history. For the need for forgiveness first arose quite a long time ago, no? He has been at it longer then we. He payed a bigger price with regard to it. Don't ever forget that. So go start forgiving as God forgives so that He can forgive us all of something we can't forgive ourselves: our sins! Let's have at it!

P.S. And if it doesn't seem like a big thing, forgive it anyway before it becomes one! Forgive as a God forgives. Let's honor the Lord and His Name in a way that He deserves, not in a way that the world can question.


DebbieM said...

I do not think we can hear enough about forgiveness. Just look around and see those who still do not get it. You are right we do need a God's dose of forgetfulness. We need to burn the list of grievances. Thanks for sharing.

Kim said...

I like the part about if we can't forgive to sit at God's feet until we can. Afterall, Jesus is the one who gives us the strength and ability to forgive. If we sit at His feet and seriously turn our heart towards Him, I think that we'd be able to forgive unless we were so closed off to God.