Those who wish to reject the Gateway to Freedom that I posted yesterday are, by and large, those who are looking for reasons to not forgive. Contrary to what you might believe, the degree of hurt that one has experienced does not dictate the degree of difficulty that people have in regard to forgiving. I’ve long been amazed how some people who have experienced at the hands of others - broken limbs, or smashed faces or horrible betrayal, seem to “move on” rather nicely, while someone who “always got hand-me-down skates” marinades in bitterness. If a resistence to forgiving others describes you, then there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
1. If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, God will not forgive you. And that’s a promise. Love and forgiveness are the language of heaven and Jesus will pound us with opportunities to practice what is essentially a foreign language. Forgiveness needs to become an essential part of our character.
More than anything else - More Than Anything Else - the world needs God’s forgiveness.
Until that takes place we remain His enemies. I am obliged to forgive others because of the huge and unpayable debt that has been forgiven me by my heavenly Father (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus gives no exception, no loopholes. The proof of our being right with God is when forgiving has become second nature. We aren’t to be counting to see when we’re up to 70 x 7. We just let it go - Period! Not forgiving is not ok.
2. If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, you will lose opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to an unforgiving and profoundly angry world. Forgiving others lets others know that God is real. This is because forgiving is not something that we do naturally. It requires a supernatural change of character to make a forgiving character possible. Forgiving makes us like a city set on a hill. People cannot help but take notice. They might think us stupid or foolish but when we forgive those who have or who continue to hurt us, that kind of mercy and grace cannot be ignored.
God’s forgiveness and grace toward us is shocking, counterintuitive, and to many, abhorrent (“You mean if Hitler asked for forgiveness just before he died . . .”). We can offer no less to those who do wrong to us. To walk in the light of God’s mercy points people directly to the cross.
3. If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, you will remain imprisoned, unable to enjoy God’s grace and mercy in your own life. As someone has said, “Holding on to bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
It breaks my heart when those who call themselves Christians look for reasons to withhold forgiveness from those who have done them wrong. Withholding forgiveness is the way of the world. It should never be the mark of someone who claims to follow Jesus.
. Forgiving is not intended to mean forgetting, although that should happen to a degree over time.
. Forgiving is not intended to erase strong emotions, although that too should come with the passage of time.
. Forgiving is not intended to mean reconciliation with the offender as that would require his/her input.
. Forgiving is not intended to mean condoning the abusive behaviours.
. Forgiving in not intended to mean that you begin to trust the offender.
. Forgiving is not about what’s fair or unfair.
Now for what forgiving is. The simplest definition of forgiveness is “When I give up my supposed right to punish, or to resent you for hurting me.” While that’s a nice start, forgiving is much, much more than that. For one thing, forgiving is not the result of emotional health. Forgiving is the beginning of emotional health. Forgiving is about entering into a deeper, healed relationship with God.
“When you forgive a person who wronged you, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the prisoner you set free is you.” Lewis Smedes.=====
4. If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, your anger at God will become visible for all to see. “Don’t hold your breath!” That’s what I’d say to anyone who is anticipating an apology from God upon their entrance to heaven - or hell for that matter. God is Love. It is insane to direct our anger toward a Being Who is incapable of doing ultimate and unjust harm to us. The agony we suffer on this earth is a normal part of living in a fallen world. God takes those trials, ALL of them and will use them to develop within us the very character of Jesus. If we want anything less than that, we’ve missed the point of living and may very well end up being angry at our Creator.
Of course it’s God’s fault that loss or suffering or tragedy has entered your life. He could have protected you from it but chose not to. Whether He caused it or allowed it to come to us, the result is the same. The reason He has no need to apologise is because God uses our trials to make us “more than conquerors.” Here is what we know for a fact. God is sovereign, God is love, God is fair and just and incapable of doing to us arbitrary, capricious and callous harm. Events in our lives DO NOT change or determine the facts of God’s character.
As Christians, our lives have meaning and context and purpose. Suffering never has the last word.
I know that a lot of people have suffered in life far, far more than I have. A common thread that runs through the lives of us all, however, is the decision to either “move on” or to allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity. The choice is ours.
We can be destroyed by the relentless blows that life in a fallen world delivers or we can allow Jesus to bring us to a point whereby we experience Post Traumatic Success.