I have told you about my fabulous hearing aids, but I didn’t share the best part of having them: I have rejoined the prayer team at one of the churches I attend. The reason I quit the team is because whenever someone asked for prayer, they talk so quietly, I couldn’t hear them. But, come to think of it, even if they spoke in a normal voice, I couldn’t hear them.
But, (thank you, Lord) I can now hear the prayer requests! I am so excited. You see, I will be honest here, the only reason I still visit this particular church is because it is the only church my kids have known and continue to attend. So, for their sake, I go. But I sure do enjoy praying for people! In fact, since I am no longer a pastor, I no longer have the ability to teach every Sunday, so the greatest opportunity to minister to someone is to pray for them! I love it!
Anyway, I brought all that up because last Sunday, one of the persons I prayed with explained that for the last several years, she has had many bad experiences with a co-worker. To the point, as she said, “I hate that evil woman!” (Kind of strong language for a believer, but to be honest, it may have been justified. Although, as a believer, wasn’t the person I was praying for being just as evil? I don’t know the answer, I just threw it out there for you to think about).
Well, she began to tell me all of the “evil” things this co-worker had done. Rattling off each “horrendous” offense she had committed. But I didn’t need to hear all of the explanations and explanation why she hated the woman. So, just as she was about to share a new story, I finally said, “Please stop! My ears are not garbage cans. You are giving me more information than I need. It is best that I not choose sides here, I just want to pray that your heart can be softened enough for you to forgive her.” “Oh no, there is no way I could ever forgive that woman.” You see, many many believers just love hearing someone’s old grievances They feel they need all the facts so they can “pray more effectively.”
Well, you heard what my response was to her. I wanted her to experience the freedom and peace that would come once she forgave the co-worker. But by listening to all of her grievances I would not only be siding with her that injustices had been done to her, but I was also inadvertently becoming a garbage can for her to deposit all of her trash in.
My friends, don’t allow yourself to become contaminated with other people’s leftovers. If someone comes to unload a problem on you, see if you can provide some wise counsel. If you sense that the person doesn’t want help, tell them so. Simply say, “Let’s go and tell this to the person involved, and then we can settle it for good.” I say that because as Solomon wisely pointed out:
Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight (Proverbs 18:18)
Yes, garbage is real. And, you can’t ignore it for long. This is why you must find the best way to dispose of it, as quickly as you can, for good. Empty yourself of it and never pick it up again! There is absolutely no reason to pass it around or continually regurgitate it.
Yes, it is rare, but there are times when a resolution to a conflict follows the textbook rules. The person who offended you comes and apologizes, ask forgiveness, and truly shows a willingness to make restitution. You ask them to correct previous statements they had made about you to others, and they do it. Well, that would be in a perfect situation. It is rare, but it does happen. I mean, at least that is what we wish would happen.
But, as I said, this is rare. Too often, the people who hurt us refuses to admit it. As the weeks following the offense turns into months, and then years, and even continues to get worse. Now, you can choose to forgive or not to forgive. Seems simple enough. But if you make forgiveness conditional on their repentance, you are not actually forgiving them.
Conditional forgiveness is saying, “I will forgive you, but only if you say this and repay that.” Well, that is forgiveness with a mortgage! What I mean is that if the person fails to do any of that, you repossess what you had given to them — your forgiveness.
However, the one who suffers is you! The other person isn’t hampered in any way. You are the one who remains in bondage, waiting for the completion of conditions. Yet, if the offender does truly repent, they are free of guilt, but you may say that you forgive them, but your really don’t, and you are still as bound as you were before. You can be just as free if you forgive
You can be free if you forgive regardless of what the other person says or does. I am sure you have heard the expression, “Get a life.” That’s what forgiveness does. It forces our lives out of neutral and puts them back in gear.
Sometimes the issue is cloudy. You may need to forgive someone because they think they were in the right, and you were wrong. Well, the only way to clarify the issue is to forgive regardless of the verdict. What I am saying is that it doesn’t matter who was right or wrong, but if someone feels they were offended, give them the benefit of any doubts and humbly ask them to forgive you.
The other problem you find in these tangled problems is to confuse forgiveness with clarification. In the past, I had asked two guys to try to clarify a problem we were having. It only made things worse! That’s why unilateral and unqualified forgiveness — no clarification, no excuses, no conditions — is the highest path to travel. Unilateral means, from one side. The other person may not even know they have done anything that needs to be forgiven. That’s okay. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the other person, not yours. You do your part and simply forgive.
Sure, it is hard, but it is the Bible’s way. Remember the lame man who had his friends make a hole on someone’s roof and then lower him down to Jesus? When Jesus saw him, He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” The funny thing is, he never asked to be forgiven. But, he got it and was healed! Then you have the adulterous woman who the Pharisees brought before Jesus. She certainly didn’t know what to expect, except that the Old Testament called for her to be stoned. Yet, Jesus said, “I forgive you. Go and sin no more.” That was unilateral forgiveness.
The greatest example of this is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross! None of the soldiers or Jewish priests came begging Jesus to forgive them. They did not beg Him to intercede on their behalf. Yet Jesus, after suffered excruciating pain and close to death, was able to utter, “Father, forgive them.”
His ability to issue unilateral, unconditional forgiveness is proof that Jesus was more than just a nice guy. He had power. Because He lives in us, we have that same power, too! Begin to utilize that power and forgive that person who has become your greatest irritation.
(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.