Forgiveness


A few months ago when the truth of God’s character started to deeply impact my heart and my thinking I began growing and learning in ways I had never known. Although I recognized immediate changes each step of the way, it has taken time for God’s truth to sink in and start to make deep changes to the untruths and lack of faith that was so deeply ingrained into many areas of my life. I had still believed that my sin was keeping me from a righteous relationship with God instead of understanding that Christ has set me free and changed me forever.

Lately I feel like I have been drinking from a firehose. I have been growing and learning so much, so fast. The changes are things I can’t even put words to yet, but daily I am becoming more profoundly aware of the Lord’s presence in my life and the changes that are occurring.

I watched the Matrix the other night. I feel like Neo did in the movie as his mind was being opened to the truth of the real world versus the lies he had known and thought were real. Morpheus challenged Neo and pushed him. In explanation he said, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

That is very similar to what the Lord wants to do for us. He wants to free us from the things we have believed and the limited views we have known. He wants to open our minds to truth, possibilities, and opportunities. He wants us to become the people he has created us to be. It is up to us to believe and to walk in his truth. Faith is more than just asking and hoping, it is walking as if the prayer has been answered and we are changed. Morpheus later told him, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” I believe there are many like me who have made a commitment to Christ in the past, but who never learned how to move from knowing to walking the Christian faith out in a powerful way in their everyday life. Many of us have never been taught how to live as Christians who are radically altered by the Gospel.

The more I come to understand 1) Who he is 2) Who I am because of what Christ did and how that made me a new creation, it is radically altering my life. I have never known the freedom, joy, hope, love, power, and strength that I know live with. It is my prayer that others will also find this truth. Not only will it change their lives, but I truly believe that what I am learning about is the Gospel that Christ promised would change the world.

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I have been reflecting on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the Biblical support for both. My heart conviction is that because I have been forgiven by the Lord I understand forgiveness. I have been reconciled to him. As he has changed and altered my life and heart I am now able and called to give forgiveness to others, offer them grace, and work toward reconciliation. With the Lord at the center of the relationship I truly believe forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible but necessary between two believers. Many I talk to do not share this same conviction though. They feel it is okay to say “enough is enough” and walk away from a relationship. They feel it is okay to create boundaries that keep the others at bay. While I am a strong support of discipline, boundaries, and accountability I believe these are only successful when done in love and with a heart of teaching others rather than building walls.

Steve Cornell has posted a good Biblically based article on Forgiveness and Reconciliation at his blog. Check it out for the full article, but here are two lists he posts: Actions the offender needs to take, and Guidelines for the offended.

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

For those who are hesitant to reconcile: Ten Guidelines to consider

It is common for those who have been seriously hurt to feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it is important to open yourself to the possibility of restoration. Remember, Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through the ten guidelines on the next pages.

1.     Be honest about your motives
2.     Be humble in your attitude
3.     Be prayerful about the situation
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem
5.     Be honest with the offender
6.     Be objective about your hesitancy
7.     Be clear about the guidelines for restoration
8.     Be realistic about the process
9.     Be mindful of God’s control
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes


Have you ever been offended by someone? Of course you have! I have too. It is a natural part of life because each of us is a unique individual that has different views, experiences, and opinions. We also get distracted, stressed, impatient, moody, sick, etc. and can sometimes say things in less that the best ways or receive things from others in ways they were not meant. All of this leaves us with the ability to be offended.

So, person X has just offended you. It happened. You are stuck with what happened because we have not developed a means of time travel. The situation occurred and how you have to live with it.

You have just been handed the ball and have been forced into the game. What do you do with that offense?

Do you choose to shut people out?

John 20:23 – When we don’t forgive others, we are holding on to offense.

Often we take offense — even when it’s not ours to take. The opportunity to take offense will come our way. We don’t have to go looking for it. When we do, we find offense in places where there is little or no cause for it. This is not simply foolishness, it is dangerous. It can lead to an overblown sense of victimization. Those who constantly take offense begin to feel as if life is not fair or that the world is out to get them. This mindset is diametrically opposed to Jesus declaration that Christians should “rejoice and be glad” when persecuted by the world (Matthew 5:11-12).

We must proactively forgive those who offend us, whether that offense is real or merely perceived.

Otherwise, we play the part of the angry, bitter, reactionary victim. In that state of mind, we cannot respond with patience and love. Instead, we respond in a manner that genuinely gives offense. This is true in society, church and family. Taking offense leads to conflict, strife and separation. It is the tool of the enemy. We must live differently if we have been changed by the gospel and by Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.

The enemy is going after our heart. He wants us to hate, hurt, lie, cheat, steal, deceive, and walk in brokenness. He wants us to be offended. Holding offense in our heart weakens it and makes it sick. Offense is a toxic element that poisons us from deep within. It will weaken our perseverance, shorten our patience, and reduce our capacity to love and to forgive. It will stand as a barrier between you and God. Hearts that hold offense grow cold and dull. With offense we are unable to receive fully from the Lord and to accept his blessings and holiness.

People are often unaware of the offenses they carry. It may come from judgements, convictions, or agreements made a long time ago. It is the hardening of our heart against a person, people group, gender, ethnic group, or culture. Holding onto offense will also lead us into sin over and over again. We need to address our offenses fully and completely by admitting them, renouncing them, repenting (which not only means letting go, but turning to God), standing against future offense, and resisting any temptation or opportunity to pick up the offense again.

We can be healed, released, and restored, but only through the Cross.

This Week: Forgive those who have offended you, just as God forgives our offenses. Resist the temptation to give in to the offenses of the world. Refuse to allow offense to live in your heart and poison you and your relationships.

I love this post from Sarah Cunningham, Oh Yeah, Well, I’m Going To Scream About How Great You Are.

I am thinking about how this would impact the American Church if we treat others this way instead of with the Elder Brother Disease. I think I want to move to Africa!

http://www.sarahcunningham.org/change-is-cheap/oh-yeah-well-im-going-to-scream-about-how-great-you-are

Back in November I posted about the trap of silence that can occur in situations of abuse. Will a child be believed if they share that their parent is abusing them? Will the victim of verbal or emotional abuse be believed if they speak out, especially if there is no evidence to support their claim?

Another related feeling or experience that victims can go through is feeling emotionally blackmailed. If they speak out, they may be labeled as being rebellious, distorting things, telling lies, seeking to destroy reputations, and causing damage/disunity to families, organizations, friends, etc. Often they are told by abusers that they cannot or should not share because it could hurt the abuser. The abuser has injured the victim in the first place, and then locks them into a situation of silence. This is an especially strong tool because often abuse is perpetrated by those who are close to the victim, so the victim does not want to cause pain or dishonor to the abuser.

The situation where the abuser is in a position of authority (adult over adult) and uses that authority to coerce the other person into silence or to walk out certain behaviors is similar to blackmail. Words are very powerful things. The book of James tells Christians to guard their tongues because they can be used to both praise God, and to hurt man. The responsibility of what we speak is something that should weigh heavy on our hearts. We need to be very cautious of what we say and why we share it, knowing that we have the ability to choose what we say. Things should be shared only with a heart of love, grace, and redemption but often there is so much pain, anger, frustration, and such deeply charged emotions that this is not possible.

Silence is not always the answer though. In fact, sometimes it is the wrong answer because it just covers up the issue rather than bringing it to light so it can be dealt with and so lives can be changed, healed, and brought to emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes the harder, most loving, and most important decision is to speak out, to share the story, and to walk through even more difficult things to have the truth be known. Sometimes it is the only way things change. Sometimes it is the way to forgive. The change may not be for the abuser, it might be for the victim. It might be that the victim has done some things that they need to be held accountable for or has some areas where they need to learn and grow. Whether the truth opens doors for the victim, the abuser, or both to receive help and for healing to occur it can be a good thing. Speaking out often though will bring the opposite result. It will often end any hope of reconciliation and restoration. It can scar the reputations of those involved for years to come.

The more I learn about dealing with relational conflict the more I see how important it is to deal with any issues very early in a relationship. God made us to be in relationship with each other and to walk in unity and peace. Distorted, broken, and hurt-filled relationships do not please him and make our lives very difficult. We need to walk in humility and love. This can only happen as our hearts are changed.

In my counseling experience I have seen that there is no greater impediment to change than the unwillingness to seek and grant forgiveness. The lack of forgiveness causes us to fight God rather than submit to him and causes us to stand against rather than with one another. (War of Words by Paul David Tripp)

Forgiveness is a key to relationship issues, and it needs to happen on both sides no matter who has been the offender and who has been offended, no matter if sin has been involved or if there is just misunderstanding. When forgiveness is not free offered it stops the relationship and as Paul David Tripp states is impedes further change and can keep reconciliation from happening.

Tripp defines the difference between two different types of forgiveness: judical and relational. He states that forgiveness starts vertically by going to God and letting go.

  • Judical forgiveness is the willingness to let go of offenses before God
  • Relational forgiveness is the willingness to forgive anyone who comes seeking it

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is clear in Scripture that not only are we called to forgive, but there is a connection between our forgiveness toward others and God’s ability to forgive us.

Don’t fight God, but submit to him, stand with one another, and choose to forgive!

Today is such a mixture and it is only 10:45 AM.

  1. Today is the anniversary of my abuse five years ago. It has been a day of dread for the last three years, but I approached it with joy, hope, and promise today knowing that God has changed my heart and life. I have been so excited for this anniversary because I knew that if it passed without dread that it was proof of Christ’s changes in my life. I was greeted by an amazing full arch rainbow that brought me such joy of God’s promises to us.
  2. I started with a quiet time today where I found a level of understanding and surrender of my heart, soul, mind, and strength unlike anything I have known before. It was an amazing time with the Lord and I came away feeling completely different.
  3. I went to coffee shop to work and my old pastor came in and approached me. Through a very tense conversation he told me it is clear I have not changed, that I have a divisive heart that is causing disunity in his church because I have refused to stop trying to resolve issues after he has told me to have no further contact with anyone at his church. I have tried to resolve things for seven months and he claims I keep twisting things and cutting off communication. We finally ended up with a counselor on the phone speaking to each of us separately (although the pastor overheard my entire part of the conversation).
  4. Now I stand before God again asking him to show me how my heart is not submitted, how I am divisive and disunifying. If there is sin in my life I want it out now! I am done walking this path and I want to change, no matter the cost. If these are things in my life I am blind to them and desperately need help to see them. I have already contacted my new pastor for accountability and support because I do not want to repeat any of these actions. I know I am a sinner and need the Lord’s transformation in my life.

I don’t know what the rest of the day will hold, but even through the difficulty this morning I am still able to stand with confidence that I have changed, that the Lord has transformed my life, and I know I still have work to do in my life but I know that I am on the right path to making that happen. My immediate reaction was to turn to Him in repentance and to ask for him to change me. I desire His truth, His perspective of my life, and obedience to His standards above all else. I wouldn’t have done that in the past and I am so joyful to know that I am making new choices, choices of  hope, redemption, and love.

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