The last few messages, I have been discussing the standard of forgiveness we are expected to live. These are the rules, the requirements placed in our laps the moment we became followers of Yeshua Jesus the Christ.
I had stated previously that forgiveness involves power. This is true because forgiveness draws on the compassion, the love, and the strength of Jesus. Well, in the same way, that forgiveness is a positive source of power and healing, when there is a lack of forgiveness, we can experience a negative one that can bring with it sickness and other problems. Is that being too extreme? Well, I can assure you that you can’t put a situation that needs forgiveness on the back burner and expect it to just fade away.
Our failure to forgive results in anger, resentment, a spirit of complaining, depression, and all sorts of emotional disturbances. It even affects things much bigger than your one troublesome relationship. All you have to do is look at the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs seemed to be incapable of forgiving each other. They each have a laundry list hundreds of years old of unprovoked attacks, maiming and killing of innocent people, taking of property, etc., etc.
There is no question that the things are hard to forgive. But can peace ever come to this region without forgiveness? Of course not. There may be moments of peace, but no major step forward will ever come without that attitude of unilateral forgiveness from both sides.
But that is also true for our churches. That’s right, forgiveness, or more correctly, unforgiveness is a major stumbling block. As Paul admonished us:
Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Yep, the gates of hell can never overcome the church, but I’ll tell you what, the lack of forgiveness can sure throw up some roadblocks. Plus, the fact that Paul had to address this problem in one of his letters proves that this is not unique to our modern churches.
For instance, a friend of mine told me about something that happened in his church. You see,a woman came to their elders to seek some counseling about her husband. Now, I understand her husband really was a piece of work, but there seemed to be a problem with the woman’s heart.
As my friend explained, she wanted to divorce her husband, but, as she stated, “I do forgive him for all the things he has done, but I still want to divorce him. The only thing I am asking is that he never see me or the children again. I don’t want him to ever set foot in our house.”
My friend said that he was scratching his head and said, “If this is what you demand when you forgive him, what would you demand if you do not forgive him?”
He wasn’t been mean or saying that she was wrong to feel that way. Nor was he saying that the husband didn’t deserve it. And, I’ll tell you what, anytime a man (or woman, for that matter) is inflicting serious physical, mental, or emotional abuse on their family, the family should be far away from it! I mean, if you are going to hit me with a stick, you better believe you will do it from a long distance!
The point is, my friend (nor I) could never agree with her version of forgiveness. She wanted him to pay for his sins by isolating him from his family. Try to imagine going to the Lord and asking for forgiveness. But He responds, “Oh, no problem. Got you covered there, friend . . . Oh, wait! Do you remember that last sin you asked me to forgive? Well, that last one put you over your lifetime limit. I’m am sorry, but I cannot forgive this one. You’re going to hell when you die and there is nothing I can do about it. I’m sorry . . .”
Fortunately, my friends, that is not the kind of forgiveness our Father offers us. Nope, there is no limit and no reason for denial. Oh, oh. That reminds me. So many times someone will tell me that they “forgave” someone for the offense they caused, but every time that person’s name is mentioned, the hair on their neck bristles and they get angry and start remembering everything that person said or did. Can I politely tell you . . . um . . . you are fooling yourself. You never forgave that person. If you had forgiven them, there would absolutely no reaction whatsoever when someone mentions that person’s name or the incident[s]. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Back to my story, when my friend challenged that woman, she began to weep vociferously, I mean, she began to shake and shudder. Which really startled my friend. He quickly said, “Don’t cry . . .” (tell me, have you ever said that to someone? Tell me, did it help? I doubt it) No, but my friend ask her, “I think I understand. And certainly, our God understands. Just be honest and tell Him that you really can’t forgive your husband right now. He will understand.”
Look, I am sure that all of us know that forgiving another person is not easy, so there is no sense in denying it or pretending that it is. This requires commitment, maturity in the faith, long walks with the Spirit of God and an unswerving desire to serve and obey our Lord. He certainly understands because He was the one commanding us to forgive.
But, those are my thoughts on the matter . . .
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add youm—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.