Christmas time and everyone is thinking about, blogging about, shopping about and hoping about gifts. Here is a gift for you. The only catch is that you can only keep it by giving it away. Confused?
Remember that guy in second grade who always picked on you? How about the fourth-grade girl who copied your test and blamed you when the teacher got suspicious, and you were punished? Then there was the college girl who pointed at you with her friends who were laughing hilariously at you, and you were left wondering what was so funny. What about the guy who cut you off in busy traffic so that you had to wait for another light? Go back to each one in your mind and in your heart of hearts and forgive them, — one — by — one. Not all that hard to do for these.
But what about the guy who raped you when you were 16? He died in an auto wreck a few years later; how do you forgive him!? Or the guy who lied at work and cost you your job and left your family reeling from financial difficulties with which you are still struggling? The continuous offense of a family member who just will not quit doing that even though it is so offensive to everyone in the family? The cruel words, “I do not love you anymore,” that left a woman bereft of the love she thought would last forever. An ex-spouse whose lies and distortions hurt more than if she had an affair.
Forgive them, too. As hard as this can be, you simply must forgive them. Jesus almost made it sound like a caveat that God’s forgiveness of you was dependent on your forgiveness of those who offended you. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Okay, not almost! He said it specifically so that it sounds like that! What Jesus is describing here is not a one-time action; it is an attitude of the heart.
Attitude: “manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind” according to Dictionary.com. It is like muscle tone for the brain. Muscle tone means greater strength, increased mobility and flexibility, and less exhaustion from the same amount of work. Attitude is this for the brain; it is the automatic positioning of unconscious choices that makes your thoughts work in a certain way. And development of this can make training for Mr. World seem like a walk in the park, especially where forgiveness is concerned.
We take offense so easily and feel like we cannot love the sinner while hating the sin. Yet we do it almost every day. Well, maybe you don’t, but I do. I do something that I know is offensive to my Lord and Master, and then I just say how sorry I am for messing up again and go on my way like everything is now okay since I sincerely repented. And it is.
The only trouble is applying this same principle to others when they mess up. So you see, I really do know how to hate the sin yet love the sinner, as long as the sinner is me. And in fact, the more I love myself, the more I hate the sin I commit. What I need more of is recognition that everyone else is living regrettable lives sometimes committing sin they detest. Does anyone really want to be angry all the time? Is anyone wishing to be lonelier because of their bitterness? Who among us enjoys being miserable?
Joy is not an absence of pain, problems or predicaments. It is a sense of God being in control even in the middle of the trial of tears and tribulation, a confidence that He will balance justice and mercy perfectly one day. And it is only discoverable as we develop an attitude of forgiveness.
This is what sustained Betsy and Corrie ten Boom through the horrors of a Nazi POW camp. It is what made Louie Zamperini forgive The Bird who had tortured him in a Japanese prison. It is what gave Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah confidence to defy the king of Babylon (See Daniel 3). It is why Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
A word of caution is appropriate here. I am not suggesting you go tell the offender he/she is forgiven. That could open a “whole ‘nuther can o’ worms!” Do this only if the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear that you must. The issue is not to get kudos from the offender for your being so forgiving. The only issue is for you (me!) to develop the mental tone, the attitude, the heart-felt forgiveness that you need in order to understand and accept God’s forgiveness of you.
So receive a Christmas gift that you can only keep by giving it away. Forgive someone who does not deserve it, but needs it.
When You Pray by c.a.post © May 1, 1996
Don’t be fooled to thinking He counts the number of your words
As if pagan repetition can get your prayers heard.
Forgive as you’re forgiven. That’s where prayer has to start,
For He who is unseen looks on the secrets of your heart.
So when you pray, go into the secret place.
Close the door, and begin to seek His face.
Wait for Him. Though unseen He’ll meet you there,
And He’ll reward you openly in answer to your prayer.
Those who love the praise of men offer prayers just for show.
When they fast they make their faces sad so everyone will know.
Their reward is to be seen of me, whatever else they may believe.
I tell you now this simple truth: That’s all that they’ll receive.
Now there’s a room within your heart that only two can share.
It’s a secret place He’s made for you to meet with Him in prayer.
And though your conversation may be heard by many more
The Lord comes to the secret place to know who the prayer is for.
Our Father up in Heaven, holy is Your name;
Your kingdom come, Your will be done in Heaven and earth the same.
Provide for us our daily bread. Grant us grace as we forgive.
Lead us not into temptation, freed from Satan’s power to live.