Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Not for Wimps

In the Lord's Prayer, recorded in Luke 11, Jesus includes the request "and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us." That's a very bold statement. In one sense, Jesus is stating on behalf of all of his followers, down through the ages, that we will indeed forgive. In another sense, as we pray, it's our individual statement to the Father that we have indeed forgiven and will continue to. Forgiveness is hard work, so it isn't for wimps, as I'll explain. It includes surrendering the right to get back at the other person and a lot more. Let's look at it together.

Forgiveness means facing the truth of how much something hurt and that the offender shouldn't have hurt me. It isn't excusing the person by saying "well, she was upset at the time about something else, so it's okay." No, it wasn't okay, she shouldn't have hurt me like that and it was a sin.

Forgiveness includes "writing off the debt" with no hope of recovery. If I'm in business and a customer goes bankrupt and can't pay me what they owe, I have to record a loss on the accounting ledger to explain it. If I'm hurt by someone, forgiveness means I make the same kind of entry in my thinking: 'this happened, and it can never un-happen.' I have to admit that I will never go back to what it was like before, as a fact of life. If I'm holding a grudge, instead of forgiving, I'm still holding on to that desire to have the clock run backwards (which clocks don't do). Writing it off means I let go of that unrealistic expectation.

Forgiveness doesn't mean everything has been made right. As I just explained, in fact, most of the time the original wound or loss has not been repaired, nor can it ever be made right. Forgiveness means I move on with life as life is now, trusting that God will provide for me even after a hard and bitter loss.

Forgiveness includes the courage to face my own part in the original exchange. Many years ago, I was made to write a list of everyone I was resenting, and the reason for it. Then I had to examine the part I had played in that event -- how I had invited, allowed, encouraged or put up with the other person's activity. Major ouch! But it opened my mind to see the ways in which I participate in exchanges, and it's helped me over the years to recognize my own issues before things get out of hand.

There is much more to this topic but this is a start, and I'll bring in another important point next time. Forgiveness is not 'wimping out.' It takes courage. Failing to forgive, on the other hand, contorts our emotions and ties us to the past with bonds that only we -- with the help of our loving God -- can break.

If you're having trouble forgiving, please consider these points. If you need help, please contact me and I'll pray through it with you. Jesus promises us freedom, when we're willing to take the step of forgiving!

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