Monday, January 21, 2013

Forgive Me

I crave forgiveness.  Not since my rebirth have I been in such need of mercy.  Actually that’s not true – I've always needed forgiveness, I just now recognize it so much more. When we feel guilt, when we recognize our sins, that’s when it’s easy to tell everyone else how forgiving they should be.  

But I also need help being more forgiving.  When we've been hurt and others ask us for forgiveness … we are tempted to demand restitution, or often – simply refuse to extend the right hand of fellowship. 

I've been wronged, and I've done wrong.  I need to give and receive it. 

We all need forgiveness, and we all must give it.  This topic is neither easy nor simple, but it is necessary.  The next few blog entries will be about forgiveness from the scriptures, and there will be bits and pieces from Lance Armstrong’s story.  Most of those involved in his story aren't Christians, but it makes an excellent parable for all of us.

Topics will include:
  • ·        What forgiveness is – and is not 
  • ·        Forgiveness from God – and one another
  • ·        Confession, apologizing and repentance
  • ·        What to do after you’ve sinned
  • ·        Different responses to disciples and outsiders 
  • ·        Reactions and expectations
  • ·        Moving forward after the fact

What’s better than forgiveness? 

Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.  God’s love sent His Son to die for us – so we would be forgiven.  Forgiveness is grace – it’s mercy – it’s love.  If we love God and our neighbor as ourselves, then we will be forgiving as we wish to be forgiven. 

Forgiveness is (for me) my greatest challenge to Jesus’ statement that “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  Giving money is easy.  Giving a smile, singing a song, telling a joke, ‘hanging out,’ patting someone on the back, having a bible study … these things are easy.  But: 
  • Turning the other cheek is not. 
  • Forgiving a debt is not. 
  • Forgiving harm to a friend or family member is very hard 
  • Forgiving harm to a brother or sister in Christ is perhaps the hardest thing of all 

Is it more blessed to [for]give than to receive?  According to our Lord, it is.  And He knows, because He’s pure forgiveness. Being like Jesus means we forgive.

Each of us needs forgiveness, and each of us must be forgiving.  Our Lord understood this when he taught us to pray like this:
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6.12
I’m still deep in study on this topic.  I expect to write some basic lessons here, and I hope you will also study this topic.  It is changing my life in beautiful and unexpected ways. 

My prayer is that you will read these and share these, that you will learn from my mistakes, and that you will seek God’s help to be more forgiving, and to recognize your own need for forgiveness as deeply as I am. 

Here's a prayer for forgiveness from Psalm 51:
Be gracious to me, O God,According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity & cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, & my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned & done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak & blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, & in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
 Create in me a clean heart, O God, &
…renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Don’t cast me away from Your presence &
…don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation &
…sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, &
…sinners will be converted to You.
 Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You don’t delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You aren’t pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar. 

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