Learning to Forgive

Forgiving isn’t always easy, but there are steps and resources to help us turn our offenders and hurts over to Jesus.

A few years ago, I was having coffee with a friend. We were having a casual conversation about something from my past when I felt myself on the verge of tears. She gently prodded as to why I was still so upset when I claimed to have forgiven him.  The more I reflected on it; I realized that even though I thought I had forgiven this man, I hadn’t. The pain and anger were still there, just buried.

God forgave us, and we are commanded to forgive: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

When my friend left coffee, she handed me a booklet from an organization called Fresh Start for All Nations. Going through this booklet, I discovered some essential truths about forgiveness:

  • I need to release the hurt to God. (Psalm 55:22-23)
  • I need to seek peace and leave their punishment to God. This also means I don’t gossip about the person or put them down. (Romans 12:16-21)
  • I need to pray for the person who hurt me. (Matthew 5:44)

Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing. It is a continual process, especially for the big hurts, and involves lots of prayer and reflection. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said to forgive seventy-seven times. For some of the people who have hurt me deeply, it has taken many months of prayer, repentance, and thanksgiving until I have been able to release them to God.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25-27,31-32 ESV)

I am grateful to my friend, who pushed me a little bit and asked me the hard questions, so I’ll ask you the same: Who has rejected you? Have you been violated or abused? What family members, friends, or acquaintances have said or done things that still sting?

And just like she told me to do, I’ll suggest you do the same, make a list of those names and ask God to show you others. Then take them to Jesus and start your journey toward forgiving them and replacing the hurt with peace.

Am I Loving Jesus?

In John 14, Jesus repeatedly tells us that obeying him equates to loving him. If I claim to love Jesus but don’t obey him, I need to question my claim of loving him.

If you love me, keep my commands.

Jesus, John 14:15

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

Jesus, John 14:21

Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jesus, John 14:23-24

Taking a personal inventory of my behavior helps me see if my love for Jesus is genuine or just lip-service.

Am I obeying Jesus’ Commands?

  • How do I handle insults and rejections because of Jesus? (Matthew 5:11-12)
  • Am I letting my light shine so people may see my good deeds and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16)
  • Am I lashing out in anger, or making sure my words are kind and loving, even when I am upset? (Matthew 5:21-22)
  • How I deal with someone who is upset with me? Do I reconcile with them and settle matters quickly? Do I forgive others? (Matthew 5:23-25)
  • Am I lusting? (Matthew 5:27-28)
  • Do I condone divorce? (Matthew 5:31-32)
  • How do I treat people who hurt me? (Matthew 5:38-39)
  • Am I praying for my enemies and showing them love? (Matthew 5:43-47)

These are just the start of the commands. Matthew 5-7 has many more, in addition to Jesus’ other commands in the Gospels. I need to know what Jesus commands by reading the Bible, meditating on it, and memorizing it. And then I need to put my love for him into practice by obeying, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Living Through a Torn Curtain

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46

God had given Israel precise instructions in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25 – Exodus 27) and the temple (1 Chronicles 28). There was a room called the “Holy of Holies” or “The Most Holy Place” where God’s presence lived. This room was only entered once a year, by the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. There were very specific instructions on what the priest was to do (Leviticus 16), including cleansing, sacrificing animals, and sprinkling blood. If the High Priest entered any other time, or without following God’s specific instructions, the consequence was death. The purpose was “atonement” (reparation for a wrong committed) for the sins of Israel. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.

Leviticus 16:15-16,34

Then Jesus died the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. This symbolized a change in the way things were done – a new covenant on how sins would be atoned and a new operating system:

  • Jesus came as the new High Priest and the blood he brought was his own perfect blood. (Hebrews 9:11-14)
  • No longer does a High Priest need to enter the temple every year to atone for sins, Jesus did it once and for all, when he entered heaven after sacrificing himself. (Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10)
  • Atonement from our sins, and salvation, is through believing in Jesus. (John 3:16-21, John 14:6)

Under the new covenant, the punishment for sin is still death, but we have a High Priest who already died. His blood paid our price and atoned our sins. The temple is no longer a physical building, but it is the human bodies of those who believe in Jesus. God lives in us.

So what does this mean for us? If you haven’t already put your faith in Jesus, I encourage you to read the verses I have linked and spend time reading both the Old Testament and New Testament. God loves you and sent His Son to die for you, at no cost to you. For those of you who have put your faith in Jesus, thank him for his sacrifice. And then live for him, loving others, meeting together with other believers, and encouraging them to do the same.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Paul, Hebrews 10:19-25

The Kindness Challenge: I was Mean

#JoinKindness

I’m on Day 11 of the 30 Day Kindness Challenge. The recipient of my supposed “kindness” is my husband.

Days 1-5: went pretty well. I was excited, figuring out the challenge, seeking ways to be kind, etc.

Days 6-7: were OK. I was busy preparing for a trip with my daughter and was doing laundry, making to-do lists for my husband, packing, etc. I did give my husband a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers sunglasses, which he seems to like (and looks really sexy in).  I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into being kind, but I wasn’t mean either.

Days 8-9: I was out-of-town. Sent a few nice text messages about missing him. Easy!

Day 10: I was tired from my Passport2Purity Getaway with my daughter. My husband had been up late at a golf tournament the night before. He got a speeding ticket. The house was a mess. I was not nice. First thing in the morning I complained about him. Then I complained to him. I did a lot of grumbling with a side of yelling. For some reason housework makes my irritation level rise about 200 degrees. I definitely didn’t say anything nice. (Though I did begrudgingly give him a pocket knife he had been wanting) Last night we went to a birthday party and I had been planning to compliment him in front of his friends . . . but that didn’t happen.

My lack of kindness – and my abundance of frustration – brought the whole mood of my house down. My kids started complaining and bickering. My husband pulled back and didn’t really talk to me the rest of the day. It was not a good day. I was not a good wife. And I set a horrible example for my kids.

Day 11: 7:30 a.m. Only my dog and I are awake (side note, I love my dog because no matter how I act she never gets upset with me). It is just me, the dog and my coffee. And Jesus. And the reminder that God’s mercies are new every morning. Thank goodness for that. I need a lot of mercy.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:21-23 

Once the footsteps start I am going to need to apologize for my lack of kindness and losing my temper. And ask for grace.

And I am going to need to come up with some pretty off-the-charts kind words and actions for today.

Lamentations 3-22.jpg

 

6 Lessons on Repentance from King David

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He was chosen by God to be the king of Israel.  From his family tree came Jesus.  But David wasn’t perfect.  Far from it.

King David was a murder.  King David was an adulterer.

In today’s reading (if you want to join me in reading through the Bible comment below and I’ll be in touch!  Here is the plan I’m using this year.  It is never too late to start!), the plan including Psalm 51, which King David wrote after he was confronted by a prophet, Nathan, about his adultery.

Psalm 51-1.jpg

I think there is a lot to learn in this chapter, by David’s example, about what to do when confronted with sin:

  1. David admitted his sin.
  2. His heart was broken because of his sin.
  3. David asked God for mercy.
  4. He asked God to cleanse him from his sin.  
  5. David asked God to create in him a pure heart and to renew a steadfast spirit.
  6. He praised God.

Psalm 51-10.jpg

We have all sinned – whether its lying or cheating or gossiping.  King David’s sin was huge – murder and adultery.  But when confronted with his sin he admitted what he had done and his heart was broken.  His heart wasn’t broken because he had been caught.  His heart was broken because he had hurt God.   He asked for forgiveness.  He turned away from the sin.

God forgave him.

And God turned evil into good . . . as from David and Bathsheba’s family line came a baby  named Jesus who would save the world.

Psalm 51-17 NIV.jpg

 

Forgiving Part 2

October 3, 2106 Reading

SCRIPTURE

So watch yourselves.   “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3-4 NIV

 

OBSERVATION

Rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.

Wow.  In all the times I’ve read this, somehow I’ve never noticed what this verse says about forgiveness.

  1. If your brother or sister sins against you
  2. Rebuke them
  3. If they repent
  4. Forgive them
  5. Repeat

What are these verses not saying?

  • It doesn’t say that this applies to non-Christians who have sinned against me.
  • It says “sins” against me. Not accidentally hurt me.  Not unintentionally hurt my feelings.  It says this is how to deal with a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned against me.
  • This is about a sin against me. Not me forgiving a sin someone did against someone else.  For example, someone says something mean to my child, it is between my child and that person.  Not me.
  • “Rebuke them.” Whoa, hold on.  It doesn’t say to gossip about them.  It doesn’t say to be passive aggressive.  It doesn’t say to return evil for evil.  It doesn’t say to be a martyr and let people walk over me.  Jesus says, if a brother or sister sins against me, I am to have a conversation with them about it.  I am to call them on it.
  • If they repent.” Forgiveness is conditional, based on the action of the offending party.  Based on their willingness to repent.  Which isn’t just saying “sorry” to placate me.  Or just admitting to doing something wrong, but not having any remorse.  But to repent.  To have deep sorrow for an action and to turn away from that sin.  I like Merriam-Webster’s full definition – Repent:  to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.  To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.
    • a:  to feel regret or contrition
    • b:  to change one’s mind
  • At that point, I am to Forgive

I’ve read these verses many times before, but somehow I never noticed these steps leading up to forgiveness.  I’ve always thought I need to “forgive” everyone, regardless of them repenting.  Regardless of whether they even sinned against me personally.  And the whole instruction about me rebuking them . . . that somehow went right over my head.

Yes, I need to forgive, and the process of forgiving is something I sometimes struggle with, as I mentioned in Forgiving.  But this puts the process into a different perspective.

And really, isn’t this the process that God uses with us?  He convicts us of our sins, but it is up to us to confess and repent of our sins, and then he forgives them.

P.S. Regardless of the forgiveness status, God commands us to love.  To be patient, kind and keep no record of wrong.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

ACTION

Study more on forgiveness and pray about any sins I need to repent of or people I need to rebuke.

PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for giving us this straight-forward, simple explanation on the importance of forgiveness and the process.  Please show me if there are sins I’ve committed that I need to repent.  Please show me if there are people who have repented sins to me, but I still need to forgive.  Please show me if there are people I need to rebuke, and give me the strength and words to confront them about a sin they committed against me.  Thank you for dying for me and help me to forgive others in the way God has forgiven me.

Hard Hearted

September 28 Reading

SCRIPTURE

  • Zechariah 7-9
  • Luke 13

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ Zechariah 7:8-10 NIV

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. Zechariah 7:11-12 NIV

“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 7:13 NIV

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. Zechariah 8:16-17 NIV

OBSERVATION

I’ve read parts of the Old Testament previously, but this year is the first time I’ve been reading through the entire Old Testament.  Over and over I’ve learned about the character of God.  He is merciful.  He is good.  He is patient.  He wants me to do the same.

God’s character doesn’t change – from the Old Testament to the New.  He wants me to listen to him; soften my heart toward him.  Obey him by loving others.

Right now I am still struggling to soften my heart.  I am struggling with a grudge against someone, and I know that by holding that grudge against that person I am hardening my heart toward God.

I can remember a shift in my childhood when I no longer guarded my heart and mind, and at that point I started turning away from God.  I gave myself opportunity to think unkind thoughts, which soon led to gossiping.  And I liked it because it met some need inside me to feel superior.

I came to a crossroads – to start pursuing God again I had to quit pursuing thoughts that didn’t line up with what God wanted. I had to close the door of my mind to impure thoughts, which I didn’t want to do.  When I came to that crossroads – sometime in my early teen years  – I closed my mind and heart to God, just like Israel did in the Old Testament.

And I walked farther and farther away from God.

Around 2012, I started an active walk back toward following God, which meant guarding my heart and mind and spending time with God.  It meant actively trying to shut down thoughts that don’t align with what God wants.  And the main thing he wants is for me to love him and love others.  To be patient, kind, unselfish, forgiving, humble, not envious, not easily angered, not holding grudges or bitterness.

These are all things I struggle with and as I mentioned in Forgiving, right now I am struggling with Unforgiveness.

  • Does holding a grudge against this person and thinking about how they hurt me fill some need in me: Yes
  • Do I feel like holding this grudge is equaling the playing field of the hurt they caused me: Yes, but it isn’t
  • Is holding this grudge really helping anyone: No
  • Is holding this grudge hurting my walk with God: Yes. Not because God won’t forgive me, but because I can’t give myself fully to praising God, praying to him and reading the Bible when I am holding onto this sin

ACTION

I need to repent of this grudge and give this person to God.  Mentally take them off of my hook and put them on God’s.  I need to forgive and show mercy.  I need to show love.  This weekend I will purposely do something kind for this person and, with God’s help, guard my mind against unkind thoughts, selfishness and unforgiveness.

PRAYER

Lord, please fill me with your love.  Help me to see “______” through your eyes, Jesus.  Show me how I can love them and show them mercy.  Please take away this grudge and my anger.  Please help me to forgive.