Friday, February 26, 2010

The 'F' Word

No, not that one!!! I'm talking about forgiveness. Though, sometimes it seems like a dirty word when we want to hold on to a grudge, but it shouldn't be that way. Sometimes it seems like an impossibility, but it's not.

Forgiveness has been at the forefront of my mind the last month or so. Everywhere I go, it seems to come up in discussions, in Bible studies, and even movies. The children's movie about a brave mouse, The Tale of Despereaux, is all about forgiveness. And not just an underlining message, either. It is boldy presented. One quote from the ending narration is, "Ok, remember when we said that grief was the strongest thing a person could feel? Well, it isn't. It's forgiveness, because a single act of forgiveness can change everything."

(I do want to point out that forgiveness isn't a feeling. We are commanded to forgive. We forgive out of obedience, not because we feel forgiving.)

Anyway, that part in the last sentence is so powerful. "A single act of forgiveness can change everything." Wow. There is a single act of forgiveness that comes to mind when I read that. God's single act of forgiveness. God's single act of forgiveness changed EVERYTHING. His forgiveness of my sins is what allows me to forgive others. Not that it comes easily or naturally, because it doesn't. I'm human. I can dwell on a grudge with the best of 'em! But, I know the freedom that comes from letting that grudge go and forgiving, and I would much rather be free & move on with life, than be a prisoner to my unforgiveness. After all, what does my unforgiveness do for me? It doesn't make me strong; in fact, it weakens me. It doesn't teach whoever wronged me any lessons. That bitterness rots my bones, not theirs.

If forgiving wasn't already a tough task, try this on for size:

Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
 Ouch. That's not a mild statement. That's in-your-face.
Jesus says we are to forgive seventy-seven times! That's not to be thought in a literal way. Nope. It's meant that we are to keep on forgiving. Over & over. As many times as we may have to. Even if it's the same thing every time!! Don't confuse forgiving with enabling. That's not what forgiveness is - that's a different topic- but let me put it this way: as a parent, I forgive my kids every single day. Not a day goes by that at least one or two of my kids isn't disobedient in some way. Usually, it's the over the same things/behavior/attitudes, etc. I know they're going to do it again, even as I forgive them, but does that stop me from forgiving? Does it mean I'm OKing their wrong behavior? No way.  If Jesus got tired of my same struggles and stumbling - deciding to give up on me - I'd be in a world of hurt. I know it's 'easier' to forgive your children than a stranger, or even friend or spouse, and definitely easier than an enemy, but just as we forgive our kids over & over, and Jesus forgives us over & over, we are to forgive others over & over.  
So, why do I forgive? It sure isn't because it's easy. Definitely not because just I want to. Nope. Here's a few reasons why I forgive:
Unforgiveness makes me bitter, and bitterness doesn't always come with a neon sign over your head - at first,  anyway. If unforgiveness and bitterness are allowed to dwell in you, believe me, that neon sign will be glowing in time! I do not want to be one who rarely smiles, who is rude and unkind, who has no true friends, or who people try to avoid. How miserable life would be! And at no fault but my own!
Acts 8:23

For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.
*Being bitter makes me captive to sin. Enslaved. Chained. Imprisoned. NOT anything I want to be!
Beacuse I want my sins forgiven!
Mark 11:25

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Luke 6:35-38
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Because I want to be at peace. I want to be full of life.
Proverbs 14:30
A heart at peace gives life to the body...

Because Jesus did - even as they were killing him - and I want to be just like Jesus.
Luke 23:34

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

There have been so very many thoughts running through my mind recently in regards to forgiveness. I'm not even sure I've made much sense; these thoughts are being typed out so quickly. I just wanted to throw a few of them out there. I know & have known some pretty bitter people (honestly, I think it's a part of human nature we all have to deal with - why else would we be told to take every thought captive (see my captive synonyms above) and MAKE them obedient to Christ?). Bitter people are not very fun to be around. I don't want to be that way. I see what bitterness looks like on others, and I don't want that. The times I've stuggled with it, I don't like being myself. It's a pretty yucky feeling. Thankfully, I have the choice to forgive - releasing the stronghold (and it is STRONG!) of bitterness, and spreading the love of Jesus.
I've been playing around a bit with black and white conversions - trying to figure out what I like. Here are a few I've had some time to do:

Well, it's quite late now, so I need to head to bed. If you would, I'd like prayer for my left hand/wrist. Not sure if it was tweaked from mopping, or if it was hurt when I fell hard the other night. It's pretty much useless right now as it hurts to do much of anything with it.

Good night! Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite!


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