Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Forgiveness

March 8, 2016

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him.”  Romans 12:14

“Dear friends, never avenge yourselves, leave that to God”  Romans 12:19

Whenever someone publicly shares their Christian faith, eventually they will encounter hostility.  It may take many forms including scorn, ridicule, ostracism, shaming and the like.  This hurts deeply because it hits the core of who we really are.  Our reaction is to fight back, to want to tell them how wrong they are, to defend who we are, and to perhaps mentally judge them.  But none of this is God’s way.  God says to bring it all to him and ask him to bless the person.

That is a tall order, because we don’t feel like asking God to bless them.  We want God to punish them in some way.  But we forget that when God really, really blesses a person, it changes them.  They are healed and whole, filled with God’s spirit and no longer do they resemble the person who hurt us.

Repentance and Why it Matters

February 4, 2016

“…you refused to repent, and so you couldn’t believe.”   Matt 21:32

I have often wondered why some people remain stubborn unbelievers, despite a logically, very persuasive presentation of the good news of Jesus.  There are good reasons to believe.  Yes, its true there is not enough evidence to be convinced beyond all doubt, but there is certainly enough evidence to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt.  Anyone who has ever sat on a jury knows there is never enough evidence to convince one of guilt or innocence beyond all doubt.  There is always the extremely unlikely “what if” scenario, but the evidence heavily supports one conclusion or the other.  Since a court can’t allow a trial to go on forever, jurors must decide what the evidence best supports.

Even when the evidence overwhelmingly supports the case that the story of Jesus is true, why do people reject it, ignore it, or actually come out actively hostile to it?   I would suggest that repentance is a stumbling block for some.  After all, the gospel message is the story of God’s forgiveness for every sinner who repents, because of what Jesus did, paying the price for the sins of all.  Forgiveness is available to all, but not all will claim it.  Why?

In one case, famously told by Jesus in his parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee just can’t accept the truth that he, too, is a sinner.  He compares himself with another and convinces himself that he follows all the rules better than others, and therefore God must accept him.  Jesus taught that all of us are sinners who fall short of the perfection which is God’s standard.  All are in need of forgiveness.  All need a savior.

Others aren’t so concerned about how they look, but they have a sin, past or present, they aren’t willing to admit or give up.  Some are still justifying something they did in the past, continually refusing to confess it, but putting out reasons why the thing they did wasn’t wrong.  Others have a present sin they don’t want to give up.  If coming to Jesus means giving up this person or relationship, they aren’t willing to do it.  And so, they invent reasons not to believe.  Someone with abortions in their past passionately declares there is no God, and if there were, He/She leaves moral decisions to us.  Someone with a mistress declares all Christians are hypocrites anyway, and faith is just a way of making the hypocrites feel good about themselves.

Being Merciful

January 31, 2016

“I want you to be merciful more than I want your offerings”   Matthew 12:7

These are the words of Jesus.  They are striking, because they put His priorities in an order most of us have never thought about.  We tend to think of God wanting us to attend to doing things.  We are supposed to use our talents for good, we are supposed to do good works, we are supposed to achieve, we are supposed to give of what we have–but aren’t these things mostly in the category of offerings?  It would seem Jesus cares more about our quality of being merciful than He cares about these other things.  So what is being merciful all about?

It appears that mercy is more about our attitude.  There are works of mercy, to be sure, such as feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing those who need it etc.  But the mercy itself is more of an attitude of the heart.  Being merciful means a number of things.  First, it is having a compassionate outlook, recognizing we all fight our inner battles, and seeing someone at their worst doesn’t define the totality of who that person is.  Second, it is being willing to forgive–not wishing for revenge on the person who has hurt us.  Third, it is giving a person the benefit of the doubt, even if it looks to us as if they have caused their own misery.  Fourth, it is not demanding justice, or our own rights, even if we could, when that would cost the other person.  Fifth, it is choosing not to condemn, recognizing only God knows all the facts of a situation and all the truths about a person.  Sixth, it is humility, knowing we have all required the mercy of God.

God cares about our thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts.  Being humble people before Him, recognizing our own need of His grace, realizing we are not our own, but owe God for everything including our own life, sets us up for a closer and deeper relationship with Him.  Intimacy with God is our purpose.

A Prayer for Help to Forgive

March 12, 2011

Lord, I know unforgiveness blocks Your living water in my own soul.  It cuts off the flow in my spiritual arteries.  What am I to do?  I see things and hear things that stab my heart.  Immediately I must bring them to You.  You saw what I saw.  You know I feel what I feel.  I am to leave this in Your capable hands.  You know what I cannot know.  You see into the heart of the other person, and You will deal with them in love, as is necessary.  I am to let go and just love.  I can “just love” by praying for their good, and by saying and doing good to them if and where I am able.  I am to think their good by remembering that You love them and You are bringing about good in their life.  Help me have Your thoughts and an attitude that pleases You.

A Way to Look at Forgiveness

February 14, 2010

Forgiveness means I don’t allow a few snapshots to color my opinion of the whole film.  I may see a person during one or more bad times, but I haven’t seen their whole life.  Especially important is to remember I haven’t seen the end of the story–theirs or mine.  God still has lots of work to do with all His children, me included.

Dredging Up the Past

August 11, 2009

Some Mental Health professionals have made a business out of digging up the past, re-opening old conflicts and tryng to help their clients achieve some sort of resolution of old hurts.  I have asked myself if this is helpful to Christian believers and determined in my own heart that it is not. 

If one’s past conflicts centered on a particular person, would it be helpful to re-open a dialog with that person?  Assuming the person were available and willing, what would likely happen?  First, old memories would be dredged up, some of which might have already been forgotten by one or other of the parties.  Second, its unlikely both parties remember the incidents or conflicts in the same way.  Each will color the memories with their own meaning, creating another difference of opinion and even possible further conflict.  Third, one or both parties may bring in new information which may cause more hurt.  Fourth, old negative thoughts and patterns of communication resurface and more are produced as self-justification ensues.  Fifth, old negative thoughts produce old negative emotions, until things are as bad as or worse than before.

As an alternative, for the Christian, why not just forgive?  Forgiveness, by its very nature means reconciliation without resolution.  If resolution occurs, what is left to forgive?  Forgiveness hands the situation to God, putting the justice and mercy into His hands, and taking it out of our own.  We so want to see an offender pay–yet God didn’t make us pay.  When we truly understand grace, and when great grace has been shown us, we find it easier to accept it when grace is shown to others.

The Prodigal Son

August 10, 2009

The story of the prodigal son is so famous in our culture, even people who don’t know the origin of the story know the word “prodigal” to mean someone who is rebellious and estranged from family.  The original story told by Jesus has many different lessons contained in it,and to fully understand, it has to be looked at through the prism of ancient Hebrew culture.

The son who asked for his inheritance committed a sin, which in that culture deserved the death sentence.  He not only denied his father any respect, he as much as said “I wish you were dead because I only care about the wealth I will get.”  His father, unbelievably, gave him his inheritance, and further disrespect followed.  The prodigal son sold his portion of the land.  In Hebrew culture, the land was a gift from God, never to be sold.  With the money he got from the sale, he left his father, his country, his culture and in all that as well as spending his money in “wild living” he trashed every one of his father’s values.

When the money ran out, he found himself friendless and starving.  He hired himself out to a pig farmer.  The pig was considered filthy in his native culture, yet he was so hungry he wanted to eat with the pigs and was denied even that.  The story says “he came to his senses”.  There’s hope in that little phrase.  God often brings people to a place where they see the light.  God gave this young man such a longing for home, he was willing to risk throwing himself on his father’s mercy.  He recognized being a slave in his father’s house was better than his present situation.

When he comes home, the story shows the father seeing him “from afar”, meaning the father has been watching the horizon.  When he recognizes his son, he runs to him.  This was unheard of in this culture.  This son had wronged the father, and the father’s running to the son was the height of indignity.  Then he threw himself on the son, hugging the young man who probably reeked of pigs.  The father bestows all the symbols of sonship on his son once again, the ring, the robe and the sandals.  There was no earning of this favor.  It was sheer mercy.  Then the father throws a party.

This is a picture of God.  God is a father who so loves his errant children, there should be no fear, ever, in returning home to him.

Another interesting part of the story is the reaction of the older son, who is jealous of all the attention being paid to his treasonous brother.  He had, after all, been the perfect son, staying behind, caring for the father’s interests, and doing a double share of the work.  However, it is clear he also wants something from his father.  He wants recognition and reward.  He wants to be considered better than his brother.  He is a model of the religious person who hopes to earn reward from God by “being good enough”.  He hopes to earn through works what the father gives through grace.  He has no understanding of his father’s heart, nor does he truly love his father.

The summary of the whole story is this father has two sons who neither love him nor appreciate him for who he is.  None of their actions show a care for the father or a putting of the Father’s interests first.  In that way, neither of the sons is truly the better son.  Both are in the relationship for what they can get out of it.  One is just more socially acceptable.

Again, we see the father who loves both his sons when neither has earned the father’s love.  How like God and his human children.  Who of us can say we truly put God first.  Who of us can say we truly love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength.  Thank God, through his grace and revelation of himself, some of us are beginning to come to our senses.  He has a long way to take us yet, before we understand His heart, appreciate Him and begin to become like Him.

Grace and the Lamp

July 16, 2009

This story was told to me by an old man when I was a young mother. 

 When he was a young boy, his mother had a treasured antique lamp that had been in her family for several generations.  It was always a house rule there was to be no rowdy playing in the house.  While alone in the house, the boy entertained himself by playing “fetch” with his dog by throwing a slipper.  One throw went astray, the lamp tipped, and ended up in pieces on the floor.  His heart sank, and he waited in dread for his mother’s return.

His mother came in, assessed the situation, and looked at the boy.  ” I did it”, he admitted, and cringed as he awaited her anger and his punishment.  “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget” she said.  He cringed again.  “I could tell you about God’s grace” she said, “or I could show you how it works.  I forgive you.”  And she explained that grace costs the giver, and love doesn’t count the cost.  She hugged him then.  It was a lesson he would never forget.

Those Who Haven’t Heard

September 2, 2008

Christians have always believed that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  That has always raised the troublesome question “What about those who haven’t heard of Jesus”.   I have no trouble with the doctrine that says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Rom 6:23.  Yes, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus merited life for all of us.  Only God himself in the form of a sinless man could atone for the sins of men.  But how do we “get in on” this blessing?  The bible says its through faith, but again, what of those who haven’t heard?

One day, while reading the gospel of Luke, I came across the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)  “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’.  But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home JUSTIFIED (my capitols) before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

This story showed me: its asking forgiveness for our sins that gives us forgiveness.  Its humility before God, realizing our sinfulness and asking for His grace  which gets that grace.  The tax collector in the story had never heard of Jesus, and Jesus had not yet died for the sins of mankind, yet he was justified before God when he confessed his sin and asked for mercy.  The Pharisee, on the other hand, who had every opportunity to know about God, didn’t, in his pride, recognize his own sin, therefore didn’t repent and ask forgiveness.  Jesus himself said the tax collector was justified before God.

As R.C. Sproul has written, its the failure to repent, the failure to acknowledge God the Father and one’s debt to Him, the failure to acknowledge one’s sinfulness and one’s need of God’s mercy which condemns.  The Pharisee in Jesus parable wouldn’t have recognized his need for Jesus because of his prideful frame of mind.

This is both good news and bad news.  The good news is one can respond to God’s grace even in a country where the name of Jesus can’t be spoken.  The bad news is there is a little of the Pharisees pride in all of us, and that is truly the dangerous thing.

Prodigal Children

July 31, 2008

What is a prodigal child?  Its that one who just marches to his or her own drummer, who insists on always doing things their own way, even when they pay a painful price for it.  Its the one who marches up fools hill with much bravado because they just have to see for themselves whats up there.  To quote Will Rogers:  Some people can learn from the experiences of others and some just have to touch the electric fence for themselves.

The older I get the more it seems to me the majority of parents have a prodigal child…at least for awhile.  Is there any way to prevent it?  I think not.  It seems the more strict the parents are, the more the prodigal will rebel against their rules.  The more the parents let go of the child, the more the child acts out to get attention.  The more emotionally close the family, the more the prodigal rebels to establish independence and “cut the cord.”  Now I think I have included all kinds of parents, so I’m not sure there’s anything you can do to prevent the rebellion.  You just have to do the best you can to prevent a crackup while they’re still under your roof and you’re still legally responsible for the consequences.

The big break with the prodigal will probably catch you off guard.  If they have been defying your rules for some time they may suddenly announce they are moving in with somebody else.  It will probably be a living situation that concerns you.  Or they may pick a fight, storm off and come back later to pack up their stuff.  This more often occurs if you had once been very close.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them much.  They are trying to establish their independence and reminders of their recent dependence on you make them uncomfortable.  They may even, for a time, break all contact.  While that will surely break your heart, give it time and don’t give up hope.

Don’t be surprised if they do things that seem to you to be foolish, irresponsible, utterly selfish, or even downright immoral or illegal.  Let them go–if they experience consequences, those are the best teacher of all.  You probably won’t see or hear much from them while they’re doing all their unwise things.  They know how you feel…you taught them well.  Your disapproval, though unspoken, makes them uncomfortable.

In the story Jesus told, the prodigal son was wasting his inheritance on alcohol and prostitutes.  It was foolish, selfish, immoral and illegal.  His rebellion covered all the defiant bases.  The father waited a long time, and there was no communication.  Some of us can identify with that.  That young man had to hit rock bottom.  Then he realized what he’d lost and he repented.  The father, who never gave up hope, welcomed him, and the relationship was restored.

The story Jesus told was ultimately a story about God.  Because all God’s children have been prodigals for a season, He knows how you feel.  Tell Him all about it, and ask Him to protect and care for your child.  You may not know where your child is, but He does.  You may not know whats going on, but He sees it all.  Ask Him to change your child’s heart.  He’s the only one who can do that, and ask him to keep your heart hopeful and loving and free from bitterness.  Only He can do that.  Then follow the example of the father in the story.  Keep watch faithfully, and lovingly until your older and wiser prodigal returns home.  If you have let the Father work in your heart, you’ll be able to extend a heartfelt welcome without bitterness or any desire to say “I told you so.”