Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Forgiveness...Must I?

                Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Most of us have said that as a child, and we all know it is not true. Words hurt. People hurt people, people say and do things that hurt us, and offend us. I have found myself before the Lord these past few weeks in regards to something that happened to me that hurt me. The Lord has been asking me to forgive, to lay it aside and to let it go. But I keep going back to the hurt and examining the wound that is still open. Some hurts are small scratches, and are easy to forgive. Other hurts are deep wounds that take time to heal, and require a great deal of forgiveness. But what about when the offender does not even realize that they have hurt you, do we forgive then?

                “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
                Jesus is setting forth the model prayer for the disciples. He is telling them that we are to forgive just as God forgives us. He goes on to say in Matthew 6:14 that if we “forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Forgiveness is hard, and all of us have experienced the need for it at some point in our walks. But it is easier said than done. Forgiveness, however, must be obeyed if we are to keep moving along the path God has set before us.
                To forgive means to “send away” (Vines Expository Dictionary). It means that we do not suspend the punishment for the offenses put upon us, but we send them away, completely and unreservedly. Forgiveness is more than just saying, “I forgive” and then bring it up again in a few weeks. Forgiveness must take place in our hearts, whether the one giving the offense even realizes that what they have done has caused us hurt.

                When I think about forgiveness, I think about Christ and what He did for me upon His cross. He took all my offenses, all the hurt and shame I brought to my heavenly Father through my life of sin, and He said, “Forgiven”. He did not give me forgiveness because I deserved it, but because He did not want us to be estranged from one another. He wanted peace between us, He wanted a relationship with me, and to do that He had to forgive my sins. I caused great hurt to my God when I sinned against Him, and even now, as I sin, I cause Him great hurt. Yet He is willing to forgive me, He is willing to send away my sins as far as the east is from the west.
                Paul tells us that we should be “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:13) Forgiveness is not a suggestion; it is a commandment we must obey. Unforgiveness is like saying that the blood of Jesus Christ is good enough for you, but not your brother or sister who caused you hurt. It is like saying to God that His blood was enough to cover your sins, but not the person who offended you. The choice to hold onto hurts and offenses is like standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, holding His blood in your hands and throwing it back at Him. He has forgiven us the deep hurts and scars of our sins, should we not forgive also?
                But how do we forgive? This is something I have been struggling with. I have been hurt, and I know that if I continue to hold onto the hurt that the wound will become infected with bitterness and cause me to become sick and unhealthy in my walk. But what took place hurt me, so how do I let it go? How do I send it away and move past it?

                “Often the one wounded must forgive with an act of the will, giving time for working through feelings and experiencing healing. Forgiveness comes with the removal of past offenses from the mind (Phil. 3:13), followed by meditation upon Scripture (Psalm 119:157-160) giving over to God our hurts (1 Peter 2:21-23) praying for the offender (Matthew 5:44) and serving as a willing channel for God’s grace.” (Women’s Study Bible, NKJV)
                I must first choose to forgive the person who caused the hurt, even if the person does not believe they hurt me, or even if they do not admit their offense against me. I must allow the Holy Spirit of God to work in me and through me to heal the hurt and to bind up the wound that is so fresh and open in my heart. Next I must stay in His Word, His word and His presence is the only thing that will keep us on the path to forgiveness. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord will help us, and encourage us, but it is God alone who can teach us forgiveness, since He is the author of forgiveness. I must also lay it down; I must send the hurt and the pain to the cross of Jesus Christ, knowing that He forgave me all my sins. Lastly, I must be willing to be the one God uses to bring restoration to the relationship.
                Jesus died upon the cross not only for our sins, but to restore our relationship to God the Father. Restoration is always what God desires. No matter the hurts, no matter who was right and who was wrong, no matter what the situation, the heart of God is always forgiveness leading to restoration. The one who hurt you may never realize nor admit that they did wrong; they may never admit that what they did hurt you, but it is not about you and them. It is about you and God. He forgave you, you must forgive them.
       God wants us to move past the hurt, He wants us to run to Him and allow Him to apply the healing balm of forgiveness so that we can embrace what is to come. He cannot work in a heart that holds onto unforgiveness. He cannot fully take possession of our lives until we admit and accept the fact that we need forgiveness as much as we need to forgive. Forgiveness is a forgetting of the past and embracing the things to come. Forgiveness is forgetting, forgiveness if freeing, forgiveness is the way forward. The longer we choose to not forgive, the more stagnant and putrid our wound will become and we will find ourselves in bitterness and envy, strife and malice. We must choose forgiveness. We must put away any hurts we have felt, no matter what the offender does, and come to the foot of the Cross, where forgiveness was poured out for each and every one, even the one who hurt you.

                Unforgiveness will leave us chained in dark places, we will find ourselves alone and helpless. But forgiveness is the key that unlocks these chains and sets us free to move onto the things God has prepared for us. If we are always looking at what happened, if we are focusing on what was done to us, then we are focusing on the past, and not on what God wants to do through us. Allow forgiveness into your hearts today. Allow the Lord God to heal the wounds of your heart, and forgive your brother or sister who has caused you pain, because Christ forgave you for the all the pain you caused Him. Choose forgiveness, and embrace the things to come. To Jesus Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen and Amen.