Monday, March 31, 2014

The Importance of Forgiveness

Why is forgiveness so important? Why are we told to forgive 7 times 70 times a day? We are told over and over again in the Bible to get rid of wrath, malice, gossip, slander, hatred, discord, division, and similar attitudes in our hearts. Stop and think a moment. Why are most of these in our hearts in the first place? Most of the time, these things can be traced back to a time(s) we were wounded and hurt by another in some way.  Many times we say “but I don’t want to forgive them, they did wrong”, Forgiveness is always a gift given to someone who does not deserve it, Just as Jesus has forgiven us even though we do not deserve it.

Forgiveness is a choice to overlook the wrong done by someone towards us; it is not to say that what happened was not wrong. There can be no forgiveness if there wasn’t a wrong to forgive! Forgiveness is not for the other person benefit, what forgiving does is set you free from the hurt and pain caused by whatever happened. This can only occur when we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God! We cannot do this without Gods help! We cannot forgive as completely as God forgives us under our own human power and ability!

 This fact was brought home so clearly to me this week. A person was hurt because someone had promised to call them then didn’t for some reason. Now, this happened a few weeks ago, but this person was still being hurt by it every time they saw the person who was to call, because they kept remembering it how they were not called and hurt by this. And they felt the same hurt again every time she remembered the incident. The person hurt them once, but because of choosing not to forgive them, they were continually hurting themselves over and over again. By refusing to forgive, because they didn’t think the other person deserved it, they were holding on to pain and was becoming very bitter over it! That is exactly what happens when we choose to not forgive… we hold on hurt, and it becomes, anger, resentment, bitterness, ECT. It doesn’t change them, it changes us when we make a choice to forgive or not. We are the ones who are set free when we choose to forgive others.

We are told that if we are on are way to the alter (to worship God) and have a grievance against our brother, we are to leave our gift and first reconcile with our brother. We are told that if we hate out brother, Gods love is not in us. Un-forgiveness is always hatred! If we hold hate in our hearts, the outward actions of worship mean nothing. God wants whats in our hearts to be right, and Love is all that is right to God. God sees what is in our hearts. We may fool others with outward actions, but there is no decieving God. He knows if we have chosen His love in our hearts, or if we have chosen to hang on to hate in our hearts. Man sees the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

God tells us if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. The same measure we us to judge another, will be used to judge us.  We have been forgiven a huge debt of Sin by God. A far bigger debt than we can even imagine. Yet we refuse to forgive the small debt of sin and wrong done to us by another?  Even the most greivous wrongs done to us, such as abuse as a child, are small compared to our debt of sin before God. We stay in bondage, and are continually controlled by that wrong unless we choose to forgive!

I was counseling a pastor, an elderly man who had been a pastor for many years. He admitted some hurts that happened to him as a child. He insisted that he had forgiven those who had hurt him. He mentioned his mother had chosen to place him and his siblings with other church families when the father left and the mother had to get a job to support the familly. He remembered that his mother would leave church early, because it was difficult to say goodbye to her kids every Sunday. He was about 8 yrs old at the time, and would run crying after his mother, feeling abandonded by her. As he told me this, tears were flowing as if it happened only yesterday.

He was not free from this! The hurt and pain was a fresh as it had ever been even after 60 years! It was still affecting his life, his attitudes, his abillity to trust God, and the same fear of abandonment affected his marriage and his children! Why? Because he had never forgiven as God forgives us. He had maybe done some forgiveness on a human level, and pushed it down to hide from the hurt and pain, but he had never taken it before God, and asked for Gods help in order to be able to forgive as God forgives us.

So how do we begin to forgive others when it hasn’t been a habit for us? What worked for me was doing a forgiveness list. I would have a notebook out, and ask God to help me know what I needed to forgive. Then I would begin to list them. I organized by the person’s name, and a miscellaneous category for those I didn’t know their names. I would be very specific and include everything from the biggest to the smallest, from the lady in the checkout lane with 50 items in the express checkout, to those who had hurt me deeply in some way.  I would then take that list and pray it to God saying..  (This person name) was wrong in (the offense that hurt) but I choose to forgive them, Help me to forgive them as you have forgiven me, and I ask you bless them.
 When I got done I would throw that list away and start a new one. Some hurts were so deep God would have me put them on the next list because it took awhile for forgiveness to really “take” in my heart.

As I did this, it became a habit, and I learned to forgive right away, rather than holding on to the hurt. I was also set free from false guilt and shame, from false condemnation, and from despair and depression. This was not an overnight transformation though. It took me several months to remove all I had been holding in for 35 years. It was not easy to face and feel some of those pains over again, but it was so worth it in the end, without all the anger, bitterness, wrath, in my heart, it allowed more of Gods love to be there! What an exchange, giving up hurt for amazing, wonderful perfect Love.


My beloved one,
How can you be depressed by your own sinfulness
 when the wonders and joys of My mercy are freely available?
Dear one, why be nailed by the enemy when the keys of My
unfettered grace can open every prison in your life.

Why be subject to the relentless condemnation of the evil one
when the Love of the One who is Almighty is yours to delight in?
Do you not know the enemy is defeated?
Do you not appreciate that you are endlessly forgiven?

I am going to peel away this part of your life and expose the grace
that is freely available. I am not obsessed with sin-
 I have dealt with it through Christ.
I am obsessed by you loving My grace, and experiencing the joy of
My life within your heart.

You have always been forgiven. You must learn to forgive yourself.
Become as gracious as your God. Do not nail other people ( even
If you legitimately can), but be endlessly forgiving. They who are
Forgiven much also love much.

Enjoy forgiveness; revel in it! I am not disillusioned with you, for I
Never had any illusions about you.
I have always understood who you are and the struggles you face.
Why would I not love you, since I am Love itself?

Live as one not condemned, but released.
Then take the key of My grace and unlock the prison door of as
many captives as you can find.
Forgiveness grows when it is employed.

Poem by Graham Cooke

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