FORGIVE - OF COURSE I DO!
I recently heard a sermon that offended me. The topic was on forgiveness and it asked as a Christian if forgiveness was something that 1 practice? My back went up, as a Christian, -of course I do. It spoke of forgiveness as God practices it not as man practices it. It went on to explain that man's forgiveness touches only the manward effects of sin. Christ’s, forgiveness bears on the individual's my relationship, to God. The whole subject is dealt with in many ways all saying the same thing in the Bible, but Jesus says it as plain as it can be expressed in Matt. 6: 14 & 15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins."
Through the thick, soupy fog of my annoyance suggesting that I might not practice this, a barbed hook snagged on my forgiveness nerve which next to the tithing nerve is one of the most sensitive in the human body. Why is this? Perhaps because we use phrases such as,
Let's go into God's word and see how He handles it.
Ps.103:2-4,"Praise the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion ... "
Ps.103:12 , "as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Isa. 43:24-25," ... But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offences. I, even I, am He who blots out our transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."
John 20:23,"If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
That is just a sampling but I did notice one very important phrase that God uttered that should imprint the seriousness of this whole exercise of forgiveness on our hearts and minds. God himself says in Isa.43 vs. 25. He blots out our transgressions " ... for my sake ... " God is all powerful, and He blots out, chooses not to remember, and removes as far as possible all our sins, why? For His sake. That says to me that sin that is not forgiven will taint, fester, and fatally wound me. If Almighty God forgives 'for His sake' why should I not extend forgiveness? What thought allows me to put myself above God by not forgiving?
"Now I can argue. I am not putting myself above God. I am just saying that I have "my God given" rights and I am only exercising them." The hook was working deeper and hurting more. I did a very thorough search, and the rights are just not there. The rights are not God given but man originated. Saying that I am a Christian is easy. It seems that the follow-up, becoming one, is the difficult part. I stated that I have rights, they are mine.
Let me cite some rights I must give up so those strongholds can be torn down in my life by practice and by prayer:
How can I give up any of those rights?
Let me ask again, how can I not give up any and all of those rights and be a Christian? Remember the meaning of Christian, it is being 'Christ like' or 'Christ ones.'
Have you ever really considered Jesus' character and attitude? Let us look at Phil. Chap.2, the first 11 verses tell me who
Christ is and what He was. These verses urge me to adopt and use His mind. These verses tell me to get out of myself and look to others. Then I get onto the attitude that Jesus had when He came to earth, I have never lowered myself to become a man I never had a higher station and I rarely humble myself. I most certainly haven't died much less sacrificed for my fellow man. I think that Paul summed it up very well when He called me 'mere man.'
By what right then, by what thought process, under what guise can I say that I won't or can't forgive anyone? Because if I stay stuck in my present frame of mind, in my unforgiving state of mind I am not a Christian no matter how much I protest, no matter what excuse I use.
My forgiveness nerve is twanging like a bowstring, I am thinking of all the times that I have been hurt, insulted, rejected, slandered, corrected, criticized, and rebuked. I have cases I won't forget that have been built up for years; I can't throw out all that material. If I don't then I shall die the most agonizing of all deaths, that of anger and bitterness and of separation from God.
There is a presumption that I must tell each person that I forgive him/her for everything that they have done to me. This is probably one of the most hurtful things that I can do. Let me give an example, several weeks after an event I am still carrying 'my wrong' for something that someone has said to me. I go and tell them "I forgive you." My pride and my feelings are mine to deal with in front of and with God not when I am harbouring my hurt because of my pride. Did this person come and tell me he/she is sorry? Then, I forgive them. Did God lay it on their heart that they had offended or hurt me and they came to apologize? In these two instances I have to forgive them. Otherwise in the 'Rights' list numbers one and four cover this. I am offended and I am wallowing in self-pity, 'my rights. '
I am the one who engineers my forgiveness. I am the one who states the terms and when it comes into effect. "Will you please forgive me for ... ?" Or "I beg you to please forgive me for ... " are not expressing regret, I am demanding or manipulating them to forgive me no matter how sincere my words sound. My forgiveness is mine to give I am not in charge of other's forgiveness. Can I demand that anyone forgive me? Can I demand that they accept my forgiveness? Can I demand they accept my apology? If any of the foregoing is in my mind I have just negated God's love and I have put 'my' demands above His. As a man, a human, I cannot forgive it is not' in me, only when the Holy Spirit lives in me can I forgive and remember no more. "Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing." The most loving forgiveness extended from man and God to man.
My twanging forgiveness nerve has a throbbing pain I can't relieve. The hook has worked to my very heart and to live I must have it removed.
Whatever is necessary for me to have the same attitude as Jesus, has to come from God and I must choose not to remember if I choose to forgive. To do less is to deny my being a Christian. I am not as good as I will be but the process of 'start' is in place.
Again these rights are brought to mind,
I couple this with the verses of Paul from Phil.2: 1-5, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
The simplicity of Jesus attitude comes to us in His words in John 20:23 "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
"Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing."
God, because of and with His love, removes the hook
The Sweetest gift with Norm Rennie and Rob Ireland
Songwriters: COATS, JAMES B.
One day a mother
Come to a prison
To see an 'erring
But precious son
She told the warden
How much she loved him
It did not matter
What he had done
She did not bring to him
(Bring to him)
Parole or pardon
She brought no silver
(Brought no gold)
No pomp nor style
(Him to see)
It was a halo
Sent down from heaven
The sweetest gift
(A mother's smile)
Her boy had wandered
Far from the far side
Though she had pleaded
With him each night
But not a word did
She ever utter
That told her heartaches
Her smile was bright
She left a smile
You can remember
She's gone to heaven
From heartache's free
Them bars around you
Will never change her
He was her baby
An error will be
It was a halo bright
Sent down from heaven's light
The sweetest gift
A mother's smile