Christians and Forgiveness

If we’re honest with one another, …and I certainly hope we are (otherwise it’s just a waste of time for both of us)…… Forgiveness is a tough nut to crack for many Christians.  In fact, it just so happens that God is working overtime with me right now on this very subject.  I suppose we could say that I’m speaking about some struggles that are close to my own heart at this very moment.

We all know that we are supposed to forgive.  We know that Jesus, when asked by Peter how many times we are to forgive a brother who has sinned against us, responded with a number that seems to indicate “without limit.”  He was trying to get across the idea of forgiveness as an act that’s necessary repeatedly and consistently with/for each other.  The issue with many of us, however, is that when left on our own to complete the act of forgiveness – we confuse that with issuing the offender a pardon – and then true forgiveness doesn’t happen at all.  We mask it and move on, still harboring our grudge, and feeling that we are slighting ourselves if we somehow manage to “let go” and show mercy to the other party.  The truth of our situation couldn’t be more opposing to our actions.

So what does the Bible say on forgiveness?  According to the Bible, forgiveness should be offered, but not in a way that denies that a sin or a transgression has happened. The Bible also tells us that because we are flawed and sinful human beings, we don’t have the moral right to hold grudges or bitterness toward others who have trespassed against us. In fact, we’re supposed to pray not just for us in our efforts to forgive, but for the other person – the one that trespassed against us!!  Think about the Lord’s Prayer…

If we desire peace and emotional balance, forgiveness is a necessary first step for us to take.   If it helps, remember the scene when a group of Pharisees and scribes accuse a woman whom they’ve brought to Jesus of the sin of adultery.  They are pushing that she be stoned to death and they want Jesus to sanction that course of temporal justice.  Jesus responds by suggesting that the “person who is without sin” step up and cast the first stone. Amazingly…………the crowd seems to disperse, one by one by one by one…….until finally, there is none left.  Jesus asks the woman, “Woman, where are those accusers of you? Has no one condemned you?” The woman then responds “no one.”  Jesus replies to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”    In that story, Jesus issued forgiveness while still acknowledging that the sin was real.

So far, we’ve talked about forgiving others,……..but what about forgiving ourselves?  How do we even begin to do that when we know that our sin or transgression has wounded the people around us.  In many cases, we’ve so deeply wounded the people we claim to love the most that we aren’t sure HOW or even IF we will ever overcome the situation.

Let me share with you some common lies I believe that we tell ourselves, when we as individuals stumble.  These lies are dangerous and can keep us from ever allowing God into our unique situation to begin the healing process that involves forgiveness of all parties involved:

The lies

I am not worthy of love from Christ nor man.

I am not worthy to be forgiven by Christ nor man.

I cannot do anything that has value in this life.

I have no value as a person, husband, wife, sister, brother, mother, etc…

I have nothing to contribute in this life or to the kingdom.

I will never be happy – I don’t deserve it and I’m not worthy enough to have it.

I will never know true contentment – there will always be this emptiness and unfillable void.

I sinned, therefore there is no hope – I am destined for a life of nothing but sin.

My sin is who I am and I will never be better than that or different.

My sin is what defines me and worse, it’s what is expected of me by those around me.

Christ can’t use me for His glory because of my sin.

Now let me take a moment to flip those lies inside out,  and rephrase  them with what I believe are some spiritual truths that can help us overcome a “spirit of unforgiveness” towards ourselves, as well as others.

The Truth

Christ loves me no matter what – it’s not about being worthy of His love – I can never achieve that through works….I’ll fail and come up short every time if I try that  – Besides, ….He doesn’t use a performance scale to decide whether to love me or not.

I am forgiven by Christ, even though man may choose not to forgive me.  We are called, according to the forgiveness shown us by Christ, to forgive others. I am capable only through His grace to forgive myself and others who have sinned against me.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who gives me strength and provides for my every need.  Because I am created by God, I have value.  I am able to actively contribute to His kingdom through his ordained use of my talents, my spiritual gifts and my efforts to be Christ-like in my behaviors.  I can be salt and light with His direction and through the Spirit.

I acknowledge that my happiness does not come from outside sources: not other people or things.  My happiness/fulfillment  is through my relationship with my savior, Jesus Christ.  Only He and He alone can fill the void within me caused by past hurts and unhealed wounds.  He won’t heal me, however, unless I give Him reign to do so.  I need to turn everything over to Him.  He knows about every single thing that I think and everything that has caused me pain and all that I am harboring in my heart.  His love for me never changes and it endures forever.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Although I have sinned, I am forgiven upon repentance.  God’s mercy is fresh every morning.  Though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  Isaiah 1:18   I am redeemed by the blood of the lamb.  My sins are forgiven.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed my transgressions from me.  Psalm 103:12

I am not defined by my sin. God gave me life.  I am defined according to His holy purpose for my life.  He made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex….  The Lord will work out His plans for my life… Psalm 139:13-14, Psalm 138:8  Even the very hairs on my head are numbered.  No detail of my life is too small for Him.

I believe that the only way we can offer forgiveness to others, as well as to ourselves, is to bring God into the situation…whatever it happens to be and whomever it happens to involve….and however much pain we are in at that moment….

“O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!”  Jeremiah 17:14

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