Way # 8 We forgive one another, covering an offense with love when wronged or hurt.
Memory Verse: Colossians 1:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
While visiting overseas, I cherished time with a friend from my missionary years. Tears streaming down her face, my friend said, "I can't seem to let go of all the things my "supposed" friend did to hurt me. She told lies about me, manipulated me."
"I was so gullible because she quoted Bible verses and acted like she was a strong Christian. I have tried to forgive her, but my bitterness against her takes up so much brain space. I just can't seem to get over all the ways she hurt me. I rehearse it over and over again in my mind."
Christians disappointing Christians common in this day and time. So often, I find more and more people in my life who have been emotionally injured by those who call themselves "Christians" but do not live by biblical principles. A woman whose husband is addicted to pornography; or has had an affair; a parent or relative who has been abusive; a friend who has rejected; kids who have rejected or harmed our children, a pastor or leader who has fallen to immorality and the list goes on and on. This a picture of our broken world and the fallenness of people.
All of us will be offended by many people in our life-time. And, all of us" make mistakes and act in immature ways. We lose our temper. We are selfish and want the "best or biggest piece of cake. We become angry over petty issues. We break someone else's toy, so to speak.
No matter how hard any of us try, we will always always be flawed and eventually fall short of someone's expectations and disappoint those who love us. Or we will be sorely disappointed by many people.
Unless we learn to give these wounds into the file drawer of heaven, to allow Christ to take these burdens of heart for us, we will be overwhelmed by a shadow of bitterness, anger or disappointment.
That is why forgiveness is so very essential to the message of Christ.
We should learn to be those who love the best, because we are those who give the most grace, and have been given the most grace. As we love Christ, He leads us to give grace and forgiveness.
In a world where culture gives us every kind of excuse to divorce, to abandon, to hold a grudge, to become a victim of a difficult life, to gossip, to criticize, the practice of forgiveness stands out like a beacon of light for a defense of Christianity.
It is not logical to forgive someone who has offended us, but it is supernatural--it can only come from walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, forgiveness and humility was a topic constantly on the heart of Jesus.
Peter wanted to quantify forgiveness, like we all desire to do! He was willing to be noble and forgive someone, but after all, he thought there surely must be a limit! Perhaps 7 is the number we should forgive, Lord? He asked with a self-justifying heart.
No, Jesus said. 70 times 7--in other words, you must forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive, .........
Forgiving another person who has hurt us, damaged our reputation, acted in a vindictive way, who has continually been mean spirited or abused us in some way, is one of the most difficult practices to exercise. All of us have been deeply hurt. It is natural to want to take revenge, or even to justify our own position and way of looking at an offense to justify lack of forgiveness.
Yet, it is the way of Jesus--the supernatural way of the Spirit in our lives to extend forgiveness and unconditional love.
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," we read in Romans 8.
Truth is, Christ died for hostile people--while they were rebelling and acting out in utter selfishness, He gave his life to save them. Radical faith asks us to do the same.
He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf. II Cor. 5:21
To truly understand Jesus, to worship Him from a grateful heart, requires that we learn to forgive as He has forgiven us. Sometimes we feel "just" anger. Anger is an emotion that God gave to us to feel the pain of wrong relationships. However, healing comes when we bow our knee and our will to actually forgive someone. To learn to expect nothing in return is not natural but supernatural--divine Holy Spirit power working through our weak selves.
Jesus said that if someone hit us, we should offer him the other cheek. He told stories about forgiveness--the judge who forgave a very large debt of a man, who was not willing to forgive another man a small debt owed him.
In II Timothy 2:24, Paul admonished us:
"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged."
If we want our children, our friends, to consider marriage sacred then we must behave as though it is sacred and forgive one another when wronged. Same with family members, neighbors, fellow believers in church, parents, everyone.
Forgiveness is the essence of God's heart. It compelled Him to die for us.
So, if we want to give our children a secret to living a life of love, we must teach them this Family Way. If we want our children to be godly leaders in this world, they must see self-sacrificing, humble forgiveness in and through our words, our lives and our actions.
One of the most important values I have come to understand from being a mama, is that when I take responsibility for the shaping of my children's hearts, to teach them truth, I have had to become more godly in order to teach them these life-changing truths.
1. When your children offend someone, lead them to write a note or verbally admit their offense and ask for forgiveness of the one they offended. Teach them to pray with their siblings and to ask God to restore their relationship and forgive. This one habit will prepare them to be better parents and spouses.
2. When you are unjust to your children, spouse, friend, humble yourself, admit what you have done and ask for forgiveness. Pray with them. God's grace brings healing.
3. When bitterness or deep wounding swirls in your heart, get help. Ask a trusted friend to be accountable to you and to love you and help you heal. Get counseling. We all need others who help us feel understood and who can help us move forward in healing. (I have a friend who is older and more mature and sympathizes with my wounds, but always leads me back to Him. I couldn't do without love and friendship in managing the deep wounds our family has received over the years in ministry.)
4. Help your children understand that wounding others and being surrounded with broken people is a part of the battle raging in this world from being separated from God. Help them to learn relational skills so that they will not be overcome when they experience others whom they will confront who are not healthy or safe people. But teach them to forgive, to extend love as a part of learning to be filled with God's spirit and to always move relationships towards health when it is possible.
5. Teach them to go to God when people do not respond in a healthy way. To understand His kind, merciful heart and to know that Jesus who, "endured the cross" and "despised the shame" is a God who is acquainted with grief and will show them His compassion. And help them to understand that healing takes time.
6. Model healthy, strong, loving relationships to others. Help your children be healthy and loving so that they will not wound people, or be consumed by self-centeredness but instead work out of a heart that has practiced love.
Forgiveness is not always easy. As I mentioned, I have had to learn to intentionally put my heart-breaks into the file drawer of heaven and ask God to take my burdens that are too much for me. I mentally leave my burdens there and by faith seek to let Him work in my heart over a period of time.
Forgiveness is a testimony to the world that believers are a different sort--our love goes beyond bounds of our flesh. His grace through us speaks of His reality.
And so, as we approach this week's way, let us understand that helping our children practice forgiveness over and over again, will establish a pattern in their hearts to remember when they must make this choice as adults. Train up a child in the way he should go--in forgiving 70 X 70 X70 and so on, and forgiveness will become a part of his paradigm for life. If we all loved this way and forgave, the world would indeed become a place open to the heart and message of Christ.
Memory Verse: Colossians 3: 13 (and I included 12--as it was so very instructive to all of us! (and to me!)
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
And so today, as you take this into your own heart, remember, that without forgiveness as a way of life in your home, your words about the death of Jesus and His sacrifice may become hollow, if forgiveness is not the rule of your own heart and home.
May God give each of us grace to become stronger and stronger at forgiving and extending love more every day. I think I will perfect this when I am 75! But at least I am working on it!