Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Forgiveness is

Who are you?
The forgiving, the forgiver,
or the brother? 
You think you know what forgiveness is? 
Read on – there’s more to it than you know. 

First, what forgiveness is not
It’s not overlooking or ignoring a wrong.  It’s not rationalizing, excusing or justifying a wrong.  (We’ll cover this in greater detail in the next article)

understanding forgiveness
The best way to start thinking of forgiveness is to think in terms of money and debt.  When a guy steals or borrows money from you, he’s in your debt.  Forgiving his debt means that you suffer the loss for his failure.  That’s why forgiving is so hard – the one who was wronged … stays wronged.  The debtor doesn't repay because he or she can’t repay.  The pain or loss goes to the shoulders of the one who was wronged. 

When we sin against God, He forgives us by redeeming our debt to Him through the blood of Jesus.  When we sin against one of His children, it’s the same thing – the blood of Jesus on the cross wipes our debt clear, so that God will accept us back into His fellowship. 

When we sin against a brother or sister, that person is hurt.  He feels the pain, bears your burden for you, and accepts the loss.  When you forgive me, you are the one who is hurt, but when you truly forgive, just like God, you take it - and welcome me back into your fellowship. 
…Jesus … for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame:
Our grief he bore, and our sorrows he carried.
He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed.
He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due
Yahweh was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief; if he would render himself as a guilt offering
He poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors               Hebrews 12.2 and Isaiah 53 mash-up

forgiveness is full redemption
Biblical forgiveness is an offer of redemption.  It’s not merely a pardon.  
Do you know the difference? 

Pardon is when we let something go.  
It’s like ‘overlooking’ something (discussed further in the next article).  

But redemption is when you pay the price for the person’s release.  It’s easy for me to pardon someone who owes you money, or who has hurt you.  But when you have hurt me, and you have asked me to forgive – I must absorb the pain without retaliation.  When you owe me money and I forgive your debt, it means the money has to come from my pocket.  That’s why forgiving is so hard! 

Abraham Lincoln 'pardoned' or emancipated the slaves of the U.S.A., but God & Moses redeemed the children of Israel!  Lincoln just issued an order saying, "Let them go," but God bought and paid for His slaves.   

“I am Yahweh, and I’ll bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I’ll also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you'll know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I’ll give it to you for a possession; I am Yahweh.”
Exodus 6:6-8

The worse I've been hurt – the greater my temptation not to forgive you.  The more you take, the harder you hit, the greater or more personal the loss – the harder it will be for me to forgive you for what you've done to me.  Some losses cannot be paid for – only forgiven:
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.          Psalm 51:16-17
We like to think we can do “make up” homework to work off our demerits.  We want to do extra chores, or give more money to church, or do something – anything – to relieve this guilt.  But no sin can be forgiven by God except through the blood of Jesus.  And sometimes when we sin against others, there’s nothing we can do.  There’s no take-back for some wrongs, no compensation that can restore us, only the forgiveness of the person who is wronged.  And the wronged person is always the one who suffers for our sins.  Always. 

Forgiveness is what God gives us through His Son’s blood.  It’s a debt paid by God.  It’s 100% paid – we can’t earn it.  We can’t beg for it and receive it.  There’s no about of work, effort, brownie points, sacrifices or anything else we can do to even make up for a little bit of our grace and forgiveness.  It’s all on Jesus’ back – every sin we commit that God forgives. 

It’s unconditional, because if we place conditions on our forgiveness, then it’s not full forgiveness, is it?  When we demand payback, restitution or even partial remuneration, we are demanding some degree of justice. 

Justice is fair, it’s right, it’s paying what you’re owed.  But forgiveness is mercy, forgiveness is grace.  It’s when we completely forgive a debt owed. 

See our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount:
You’ve heard that it was said:        ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you:
Don’t resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and don’t turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:38-42
In this section our Rabbi teaches that the difference between the Torah (the Old Covenant) and the New Covenant (Jesus’ covenant of love) is that under the new covenant we no longer demand justice.  Now we are expected to be merciful!  We actually allow others to hurt us, and we forgive them.  And this is exactly what our Lord did when He was hanging on the cross and prayed,Father forgive them.” They/we don’t deserve forgiveness.  It’s a gift.  It’s grace. 

forgiveness is an action, a deed, a work
Some people say they forgive, but do they?  As in all of our lives of self-sacrifice to God, forgiveness is easier to say than it is to give, or do.  When God forgives us, He welcomes us back into His fold.  He allows us to continue to be His children, His friends, His servants.  Otherwise, what good is His forgiveness? 

It’s natural for us to hold on to grudges, to walk about with hurt feelings, to refuse fellowship – but it is not Christ.  Again, it’s natural and understandable, but it is not Christ. 

When we say, “I forgive you,” but then withhold fellowship or attention, is it really forgiveness?

I had a brother forgive me recently.  First he said it, and then he confessed to me that he was angry with me, but then … he embraced me and prayed with me.  He asked God to forgive his anger, even while he prayed for me to be forgiven.  Now THAT was forgiveness!  His heart was open and raw, and he confessed his anger – but he did not allow his anger to get the best of him.  Instead he prayed with me.  In the process, he saved my life. 

Husbands and wives, friends and other family members, take note: this is very hard.  We will often say we forgive, and then keep the peace in silence.  This isn't really forgiveness at all.  If your family, friend or spouse claim to be disciples of Jesus, then rebuke them when they sin, and truly forgive them when they repent – and don’t merely say it … but welcome them back to a healed relationship.  And remember: scar tissue may be there (like my brother’s anger), but scar tissue is often forms a bond stronger than the original. 
Love is patient, love is kind … it doesn't seek its own … doesn't take into account a wrong suffered … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.        Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

forgiveness is what we give

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6.12
Does this part of the prayer bother you?  It should.  On many occasions Jesus makes it clear that if we are not forgiving, God will not be forgiving to us.  This line from the Lord’s Prayer is also reflected in this Parable of Jesus:
Then Peter came and said to him,
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him; up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him,
“I don’t say to you, up to 7 times, but up to 70 x 7.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. But since he didn’t have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying,
‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’
And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying,   ‘Pay back what you owe.’
So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying,   ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him,
   ‘You wicked slave!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’

And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”           Matthew 18.21- 35
So the challenge for all of us disciples is clear: we are receivers and givers of grace.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe and accept forgiveness, but we must.  Usually it’s much harder to forgive.  The burden of anger and resentment, the shame of having someone “take advantage” of us is staggering.  But Jesus said “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

When we forgive, we become a bit more like Jesus.  The grace we sing about, the mercy we enjoy – these are all gifts from God that are not free.  When we forgive, we feel – we experience – the same things (in much smaller degree) as does God when He forgives us. The pain and the joy of grace! 

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be teleios, as your heavenly Father is teleios.”    Matthew 5:44-48
“Freely you received, freely give.”

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