Forgiveness

For the last few weeks, the sermons at my church have been focused on each line of the Lord’s Prayer. We have been going through 40 Days of Prayer, and several members have been offered opportunities to write devotions, me included. I wrote my devotion on the line “Give us this day our daily bread,” which was our emphasis last week. I’m starting to think though after yesterday’s sermon, it would probably have been better if I had been able to write mine about forgiveness. Then, I remembered. I have a platform of my own so I decided to write about forgiveness today.

First, for clarity, I want to start off with the definition of forgiveness. Dictionary.com defines it as “act of forgiving; state of being forgiven.” This isn’t too clear about what forgiveness actually is so I decided to define the word “forgive”. Also, from Dictionary.com. Forgive means “to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve; to give up all claim or account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.); or to grant pardon to (a person).”

I quoted all of the definitions so it would be clear what Jesus wants us to do in the Lord’s Prayer. Here are the verses from Matthew 6 that specifically talk about this. Verses 12-15 say, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

So, there it is in black and white. God expects us to forgive others like He forgives us. It should be easy then, right? God said it, and we do it. No questions asked. No, that isn’t quite the case. At least, it’s not for me, and I’m guessing some of you find it hard too. I find it hard to forgive others because the things they do to hurt me are usually silly things. Things that would be considered childish in the adult world. So, I stuff them deep down inside. I’ve been told all my life that any hurts I have are not worth acknowledging or forgiving. In other words, making myself vulnerable was something to be avoided at all costs.

I find it’s the same way on the other end of the scale. Because I find it hard to be vulnerable in front of others, it’s hard for me to ask for forgiveness from others. Now, I’m not talking about everyday things like bumping into someone. I can ask forgiveness for those things easily. No, it’s the relationship damaging conflicts where I’m unable to stand up for what I believe in. There have been some people in my life who have given me heck for what I believe in, and we’ve said hurtful things to one another. (One of the reasons I never took debate in school.) Because I have such a hard time managing conflict, I have let the relationship dissolve. It hurts, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way where I can agree to disagree with someone and maintain the relationship. (Remember, I have been told all my life that my words didn’t and don’t matter.)

The nearest I’ve been able to come to asking for or receiving forgiveness is by writing it down, handing it to the person involved, and walking away. I know it’s the coward’s way out, but, in a small way, it’s a victory for me because I’ve been able to do what God asks for in this prayer. Does it change the relationship? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Everything I’ve heard about forgiveness say that it’s supposed to change you more than the other person. And it has changed me for good sometimes and for bad at others because I tend to withdraw. I tell myself that no one could possibly want to spend time with me because I’m such a terrible person. Like I said last week, “I know I’m hard to get along with. I know I’m prickly, and I find it hard to talk to people.” I’ve dropped out of groups because I haven’t wanted to face people. I’ve guess I’ve internalized every non-lesson I was ever taught about conflict.

Hopefully, in my words, you have found something to help you with your own forgiveness journey. Forgiveness is hard, and it’s even harder to ask for in person. When you’ve been told all your life that your feelings don’t matter and that vulnerability is a no-no, you’re not inclined to even try. I know I matter to Jesus, and you do too. He is the one who gives us the power to forgive. I just wish I knew I mattered to other people so asking in person for forgiveness wouldn’t be so hard. God’s blessings on you all today!

 

 

Forgiveness

Trying another one of the prompts from bibleconnectionnews.com today as part of my challenge. This one promises to be difficult because it involves something that’s hard for me and, more than likely, hard for the rest of us too.

First, here’s the prompt. “Forgiveness. Is it easy or hard? That likely depends on whether you are the one doing the forgiving or receiving it. Why do you think forgiving someone can be so difficult? Who do you need to forgive? When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?”

I think forgiveness is hard, but I believe what it really depends on is what side of the forgiveness table you are on. Last week, I wrote about justice and grace, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/justice-and-grace/, and how we like it when some of the definitions of grace are extended our way, but not when we need to extend them to others. I believe the same thing applies with forgiveness. It’s easy to be the gracious one when extending forgiveness (most of the time). It puts us in a “higher” position than the one doing the asking and gives us a level of “control” over the process. We can say yes. We can say no. But, we have “control”, sometimes more “control” than what God wants us to have.

The hard thing, for me, is having to ask for forgiveness. It means admitting I’ve done something wrong. It means I have to let loose of some of the “control” I supposedly have over my life. It means letting someone in past the shields I have put up and letting them see the bad person I have been. It means being true and authentic when I have no reason to be true and authentic or when I don’t want to be. It’s easier to just avoid the situation and pretend like nothing’s wrong.

But, God doesn’t want us to do that. He wants us to exhibit the same grace and forgiveness that Jesus did. He wants us to ask for it and to extend it. He wants us to be our true and authentic selves as we live in community together. He wants us to live like we actually have Him in our hearts and let go of our “control.

There is also a misconception of what happens after forgiveness. Some people believe you have to let someone back in your life after you forgive them and since that might  not be a good idea, it brings up another reason to hesitate on the forgiveness front. No, God doesn’t want us to put ourselves in situations that are dangerous to us whether it be physical or something else. Forgiveness is more for us than for the other person in these situations. Actually, I believe it’s more for us in any situation. It’s bringing the peace of Jesus back into your life and releasing the hold Satan has on your heart and mind. It takes away anger and resentment and brings back the love that Jesus wants us to have for others.

We all have people we need to forgive, me included. I need to tell them I am sorry for avoiding the conflict between us and forgive them for things that have happened in the past. This is the part that’s really hard for me especially since I have never handled conflict well. I was taught from an early age to bury bad feelings and told I was too sensitive when I had them. This has carried into adulthood, and I have had a hard time giving myself permission to have bad feelings. Conflict has always been something to be avoided at all costs.

I would like to say I’ve gotten better at this in recent years, but I can only say I’ve worked on it. It has taken every ounce of courage I’ve had to address instances of conflict in my life, and for the most part, it hasn’t gone well. I would venture to say that other people also have problems with addressing conflict and asking for forgiveness. 🙂

But, I’ll keep trying, and the reason I’ll keep trying is my answer to the final question of this prompt. “When have you received the incredible gift of forgiveness?” I received it when Jesus, my Lord and Savior died on the cross for me. I didn’t deserve it and never will deserve it, but Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a way for me to be with God eternally. As it says in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Because God gave me this gift of forgiveness, I need to turn around and give it to others like He has asked me to. May we all be willing to forgive!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Forgiveness

My church has started something new this year on Wednesday nights. We take a scriptural characteristic such as forgiveness and learn about it for three weeks and then we live it on the fourth Wednesday doing various things that will help cement the characteristic in our minds. It’s been pretty cool, and I’ve learned a lot. The characteristic for this month, if you haven’t guessed it already, is forgiveness. I’m writing about it here today because God has been convicting me for the past few weeks.

First, the definition of forgiveness. Wikipedia says that “forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”

It’s an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do especially if you are the one who has been wronged. Christ has called us to this though, to forgive each other. It was the main reason He died on the cross for us, for our sins, so we could come back to relationship with Him. If we truly believe in what He did for us, we should be able to forgive others when they wrong us.

But, why believe me, your basic blogger? 🙂 Here are some examples from Scripture. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Here’s one from I John. Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And finally, one of my favorites, though I might be being a bit sarcastic about that :-), since it tells the number of times Jesus says we should forgive. From Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

There are many, many more, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. Now, where am I going with this? Well, like I said God has been convicting me. It’s not that I’ve done anything heinous or anything that’s a crime or anything that people would put into a “needing to ask forgiveness” category. Isn’t that the point though? All of us have caused offense and hurt at some point. It’s part of the definition of living in a fallen world. But, we have a hard time admitting it. We have a problem asking for forgiveness, and we have a hard time accepting forgiveness. Both of those require that we go deep down into our souls, into places that we don’t want to admit to God exist. God knows they exist, and God wants us to let Him in so we can do the things He asks of us.

Right now, neither of those are academic to me. I have real-life examples of both. When I was at church yesterday, someone came up to me and asked for my forgiveness. I was astounded! I could think of nothing they had done to offend me. But, then the person explained. She didn’t think she had done a good job in encouraging me in my walk with God. That my words on this blog and on my Facebook page had encouraged her, and she had not done a good enough job in encouraging me. I hugged her, told her it was ok, and we walked in different directions. I thought about what she had said during the service and realized I needed to speak with her one more time before I left. I had been wondering if my words had been encouraging anyone. Writing can be a lonely trade, and sometimes, you can’t really know if you have made an impact or not. I went back and told her thank you. God had given me a gift that day even though I was unaware I had needed it.

I went home with God continuing to convict me. He told me there were several people I needed to ask for forgiveness. I resisted at first. It’s not pleasant; in fact, it’s embarrassing to admit when you’ve done something wrong. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness and to share your heart when you don’t know how it will be received. God then brought the most convicting thought of all to my mind. Did I truly believe in Him? Did I truly believe in what Jesus had done on the cross for me? Of course, I did. I told God He was my everything. Do this, He told me, and it will bless you in ways you don’t even know yet.

So, I will be sending notes to several local friends this week asking for forgiveness. I don’t know if any of those people will read this blog post, but, if you do, please know that this is something God has convicted me about which makes it important for me to do.

If you have someone in your life, you either need to ask for forgiveness or accept forgiveness from, I pray that God gives you the courage to do it so you can continue to grow in what He wants to give you.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Sting of a Guilty Conscience

Have you ever thought God might be telling you something you did was wrong? Yes, He can do this, and it’s usually through a guilty conscience. It might not even be through something you did. It might be through an attitude or a thought you had towards someone else and what they did to you. Jesus wants us to love each other and to forgive each other when bad things happen.

Forgiveness is hard though. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness, and it’s hard to forgive what has been done to us. But I will say it again. God wants us to forgive, and Jesus spoke of it often. Matthew 6:14 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  Another Scripture that speaks of this is from Romans 12:17-19. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge, I will repay,” says the Lord.”  Most notably, there is one very obvious reason why we should forgive. Jesus forgave all of us.

So, why don’t we forgive or ask for forgiveness? I believe there are two reasons. The first is pride. We don’t want people to know we have messed up. I still do this, even with all I have learned in the past two years about the imperfect person that I am. None of us are perfect–only Jesus is. As my pastor likes to say, “We are all dirtbags.” Pride then shouldn’t matter in asking for forgiveness, right? No, it still does.

The second reason we have a problem forgiving is because we are hurt over what has happened. While we are still in this world, we can experience pain as well as joy. Of course, pain hurts more than joy, and we, in our human frailty, have a harder time dealing with pain.

How does that change? How can we forgive and live in the community God wants us to as believers? We need to rely on Jesus for the strength to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. We cannot do it by ourselves no matter how much we might want to. And once we have, we will be back in fellowship with our amazing Lord and Savior!

God’s blessings on you today!