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Posts tagged ‘revenge’

Remembering Our Place When Wronged

SOURCE:   John Henderson/Association of Biblical Counselors

Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants. ”

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” (Genesis 50:18-19)

We find in Joseph a kind of humble grace that deserves our thought and appreciation. His brothers had wronged him severely.

They had sold him into slavery and death. Years later, as second in power to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph is given an opportunity for retribution. It would be easy to assume that God was providing a chance for him to even the score. What would you do if you were in Joseph’s place?

I am amazed by how he responded. The posture Joseph takes is contrary to our sinful nature and wholly divine.

Clearly the Spirit of God abides in him. Mankind tends not to act in this way. None of us tend to act this way. When hurt and abused, we tend to be quicker to punish and revile. We need help. We need God abiding in us. We need to believe and practice what Joseph believed and practiced.

Remember the place of God– to assume the seat of judge upon the souls of others is to forget the Lord has already filled the seat. It is like a pardoned convict demanding the judge step aside so that he may evaluate and sentence a fellow criminal. The Father has given the position of Judge to His Son.[1] Not one of us can bear the burden, nor would we exercise the chair with wisdom that is fitting. We can take comfort, however, that God is Judge enough. He dispenses mercy and wrath in perfect seasons and proportions.

Remember the place of Self– a recipient of grace. Perhaps we are offended in the present situation, but we have often assumed the other spot. Whether we recall the incidents or not, the Lord remembers countless moments when His grace was extended to us, undeserved. Our grit and savvy did not secure our pardon, but God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?”[2]

Remember the ways of God– they are righteous and pure. They have always been righteous and pure. “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He. ”[3]

We can trust our God. We can trust His works. Since the foundation of the world, He has proved Himself holy beyond measure. His law is perfect. His wrath upon sinners is perfect. His wrath was so perfect that the sacrifice of His Son was necessary to satisfy it. Indeed, His grace is perfect too.

Remember the ways of Self– they are prideful and distorted. Whatever true justice we perceive and dispense is a gift from God anyway. It is not of us or from us. If we had our way, then true grace and mercy wouldn’t happen.

Justice wouldn’t either. We cannot trust ourselves. We cannot trust our works. It is not our instinct to redeem, or absorb transgression, or overlook a fault in love. The Spirit must train our hearts to believe and apply the gospel in these forms.

Next time we are offended, let us pray for the Lord to bring these verses and truths to our minds. Let us pray to give the same mercy we have received. Then we will better understand what it means to be children of God.

“But I say to you, 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. ”[4]

[1]John 5:22

[2]Proverbs 20:9

[3]Deuteronomy 32:3-4

[4]Matthew 5:44-45

ANGER: Right OR Wrong?

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry … but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” Ephesians 4:26-27 MSG

Anger: right or wrong?

The answer is that anger is right … but it can be wrong.

Anger is God-given emotional energy designed for good. The expression of this anger-produced energy can lead to sin … but it doesn’t have to. With God’s help, we can control our thoughts and actions.

The Bible tells of many times when anger was a positive force for good. Moses’ anger when the Israelites worshipped idols resulted in their repentance (Exodus 32:19-35). Jesus’ anger motivated him to clear abusers from his Father’s temple (Luke 19:45-48).

Our anger can be a positive force as well.

Appropriate anger at our children’s wrong behaviors can motivate us as parents to exert firm but loving discipline. Anger against injustices and wrongdoing in our communities can motivate us to do something positive about the situation.

Our anger can also lead to sinful acts of selfishness, unkindness or even aggression. It is our responsibility to use our anger-induced energy in positive ways, even if it’s just walking around the block to cool off.

The next time you feel angry, remember that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s your choice.

Father, forgive me for the times I have used my anger in sinful ways instead of as a positive force. Help me control my thoughts and actions and to use my anger in positive ways. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

What Revenge Can Teach Us About Forgiveness

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003,p. 206.)

Forgiveness is not forgetting.

Forgetting is a passive process in which a matter fades from memory merely with the passing of time.

Forgiving is an active process; it involves a conscious choice and a deliberate course of action.

To put it another way, when God says that he “remembers your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25), he is not saying that he cannot remember our sins. Rather, he is promising that he will not remember them. When he forgives us, he chooses not to mention, recount, or think about our sins ever again. Similarly, when we forgive, we must draw on God’s grace and consciously decide not to think or talk about what others have done to hurt us. This may require a lot of effort, especially when an offense is still fresh in mind. Fortunately, when we decide to forgive someone and stop dwelling on an offense, painful memories usually begin to fade.

“Revenge,” says the famous Sicilian proverb, “is a dish best served cold.” In other words, “effective” revenge requires careful planning as well as emotional distance from the experience that prompted the desire for revenge in the first place.

Interestingly, there’s also a sense in which biblical forgiveness is best as a “chilled dish.” It shouldn’t be emotionally chilled, of course, but it should be carefully planned and originate in a place deeper than our emotions. As Christians, we don’t wait to forgive so that we can let the memory of the offense fade or so the other person will suffer. Instead, we forgive deliberately. We carefully plan for the restoration of the relationship that has been wronged, and we submit our emotional hurt to Christ, who compels us to forgive as he has forgiven us.

As you “plot” your own forgiveness of others, remember that God’s plan for forgiveness was a profoundly deliberate effort that impacted literally every generation over literally centuries of time. If “cold revenge” is deeply satisfying, how infinitely much more so is deliberate, planned biblical forgiveness.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Forgiveness Requires That We Face The Truth

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/ Lighthouse Network

Facing the Truth

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth:  the truth that it was necessary for Christ to die to pay the price tag for our sins; the truth of our own sinful behavior and desperate need; the truth that if we are ever to be free, we must receive Christ’s forgiveness; the truth that we need to extend the powerful gift of grace to others and forgive those who have hurt us.

In order to experience true freedom in Christ, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But when we confess our sin to Him, God treats us much better than we deserve. And because of Christ Jesus, He freely accepts us back and sets us free from the grip of sin. How can we do less? Are we more powerful than God? Do we have a higher standard than God? Are we more upset about sin than God is?

We have both the reason and responsibility to forgive others because we are forgiven by the Lord. Forgiveness is a choice we make. When we forgive, it shows that we understand who we are, who God is, and what He really did for us on the cross.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. With Him as our model and source of power, and having accepted His forgiveness, we can then forgive others. We can actually enjoy the freedom and blessing God has for us by forgiving them and freeing ourselves from the power they had over us before we extended forgiveness.

Our goal should be to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. But glorifying ourselves is actually what we do when we prioritize our pride, hurt, bitterness, revenge, spite, and other feelings above God. Shift your focus to His love and power. It will be the best lenses you can wear.

Today, identify a relationship in which you need to reach out and forgive. If you are struggling to forgive that person, ask Jesus to help You. Then look at whether you really understand and have accepted who you are, the sins you have committed, what you did to deserve God’s forgiveness, and whether you realize the unfair pain and sacrifice Jesus endured for you. Hopefully, the gift of forgiveness you received will help empower you to offer the same forgiveness to others. Life is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. I know I didn’t deserve Your forgiveness of me. Help me understand why I should offer forgiveness readily to others. Help me to face the truth. Thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One to who paid for all my sins, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

The Field Guide to Forgiveness

SOURCE:  James Cain/In Touch Ministries

Betrayal. Rejection. Condemnation. No one requests such treatment, yet few escape life without a wound or two. The circumstances that call for forgiveness aren’t usually in our plans. But to follow Jesus faithfully, we must learn to say, “I forgive you.”

The following “field guide” isn’t exhaustive. But the tips, quotes, and stories collected here will provide guidance about fulfilling the Lord’s challenging command to forgive, regardless of the offense.

More Than Words

The Work of Forgiveness 

While I watched my boys play in a community park one morning, a curious drama unfolded nearby. Two women sat facing each other, their sons standing between them.

One woman held her son’s hand. The other woman, more agitated, grasped her son’s elbow. Both boys were frowning, chins out and hands deep in pockets.

“He said he was sorry,” the second mother said. “Now you say, ‘I forgive you,’ and you guys shake hands.” Neither boy would meet the other’s eye. During the silence, the frustrated mom began alternately cajoling and threatening until her son grunted a word or two. Relieved, she sent them back onto the playground and then commiserated with her friend about the difficulty of getting at their sons’ hearts. “I know he needs to do it,” she sighed, “but if his heart’s not in it, what’s the point?”

It was a fair question. After all, her boy’s grumbled “Forgive you” was about as heartfelt as the grunted “Sorry” it answered. The incident reminded me that knowing we should forgive isn’t the hard part; the actual forgiving is. The point, after all, is reconciliation—restored communion and healed brokenness—that results from practicing this discipline. In the end, forgiveness changes the one forgiving more than the one being pardoned.

This is true because forgiveness forces us to admit our powerlessness and trust God for justice. The boy who was reluctant to forgive knew instinctively that weakness is not generally considered a virtue. Pursuing vengeance makes us feel strong, empowered. Forgiving, on the other hand, acknowledges that we may not receive the “justice” we thought we deserved.

Change also happens because forgiveness creates space for restored fellowship. Giving up our claim against the offender moves us from weakness to strength, as we invite the peace of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and neighbor. Denying forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks fellowship not only with our adversary, but also with our Father (Mark 11:25).

A while later, as I walked with my own children to our car, I turned to see the boys back at play. They smiled and laughed as if nothing had happened. Though the process doesn’t always go that easily or well, forgiving—and receiving forgiveness—had made room for their friendship.

Most people will experience wounds far deeper than the playground mishap I witnessed. The obstacles to forgiving will be far greater, the cost of forgiving, far higher. But the point remains the same: When we forgive, we make renewed relationship possible, if not with the person we forgive, then with the Person who has forgiven us.


Word Power

Forgive
Merriam-Webster—1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for  b : to grant relief from payment of    2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
Synonyms: pardon, excuse 
Phrases: bury the hatchet, wipe the slate clean, let go


Tip #1: Forgive and Remember

We usually put the words “forgive” and “forget” together, but to forgive authentically, we have to remember. The apostle Paul suggests that our duty to forgive others depends on recalling the pardon we received from God. “As the Lord forgave you,” he writes, “you do also” (Col. 3:13). Not only should we remember that God forgives us; we should also imitate how He does it: graciously, freely, and completely.

We might be tempted to keep a “record of wrongs,” but love precludes that (1 Cor. 13:5). The unbelieving world tends to nurse grudges against whoever has wronged them, but as followers of Jesus, we forgive freely, without expecting anything in return.

Application

Forgive completely, wiping the slate clean for a fresh start. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the offense. You are human, after all, and cannot truly forget. More importantly, pretending the wrong never happened prevents the work of healing from being done. When you remember the sin against you, see it as opportunity to remember God’s grace, toward yourself and through you to the offender.

Tip # 2: Don’t just say the words

From a Christian perspective, forgiveness requires far more from us than a few brief words. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson gave a surprising answer to the question,What is forgiveness? He wrote, “[We forgive] when we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” In other words, forgiveness requires gracious inward action before we can pursue gracious outward action (see Tip #4). Much of this internal work can be done without the offender’s knowledge.

Watson’s phrase “strive against” acknowledges how strenuous forgiveness can be, requiring us to actively and energetically oppose the natural inclination toward assaulting the other person, physically or verbally, or withdrawing from relationship with him. Either approach is a way of withholding forgiveness and will impede the healing process for both people.

Application

Avoid assaulting or withdrawing from others by looking for opportunities to celebrate your offender’s successes. Do not rejoice when he suffers, but grieve along with him. Prayerfully seek to “relieve” the person, and seek the right moment for reconciliation. All this heart work will enable you, when the time comes, to offer authentic forgiveness.


The Lost Discipline

In the Lord’s Prayer, as Matthew 6:9-13 is popularly known, Jesus presents forgiveness as a “hinge” for Christian life: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12) reveals that God’s pardon of us is contingent on our own forgiving behavior (see also Mark 11:25).

That verse makes us uncomfortable, as it should. After all, our pardon depends on the finished work of Christ, not our own works. Author Richard Foster explains the paradox as a condition of the created order: to receive, I must give, and I cannot receive what I am unable to give.


Tip #3: Start small

Application

Practice secretly forgiving others for small offenses, such as being cut off in traffic or receiving an unintended insult, throughout each day. Doing so will slowly transform your heart over time, making it possible to forgive others when bigger, more serious conflicts occur.

Tip #4: Head off resentment

We might be tempted to dismiss sin against us it by taking full or partial responsibility. Phrases like “I probably deserved it,” or “It takes two to tango,” can mask real feelings.  This false path seems like wisdom, but burying pain plants seeds that grow into bitterness.

Application

When you are wronged, look for opportunities to work for the wrongdoer’s good. Prayer for the perpetrator is a good place to start. Doing the work of love and mercy before it comes easily can uproot resentment.

“I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
—William Blake

Tip #5: See (and seek) mercy more than justice

In our culture, which celebrates vengeance rather than mercy, the idea of biblical justice escapes many, including Christians. Some use phrases like “the punishment should fit the crime” and falsely conclude that justice and mercy cannot coexist. Such people ignore the intended close connection between the two, as Scripture illustrates through expressions of profound forgiveness when “justice” could have been meted out with violence.

Just consider Joseph (see Gen. 37, 39–47). Imagine his story retold in today’s cultural standards. Instead of forgiving his brothers, Joseph would exact his long-awaited revenge through vicious reprisal or a long legal battle. This might sound laughable to our ears, but movies and books (the “bibles” of today’s world) tell similar tales all the time. How much greater and more poignant is the story of the real Joseph. He chose to offer mercy when no one would have denied him revenge.

Application

Doesn’t your life offer similar chances to forgive? A coworker pads his accomplishments, gaining a promotion that should have been yours. An acquaintance betrays your trust, costing you a friend. A spouse lies, jeopardizing marriage and family. However impossible any case may seem, choose to let God reveal the manner in which mercy and justice should meet.

Tip #6: Forgive your enemies

On the morning of October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Just over a half-hour later, five girls were dead, five more were injured, and the community’s peace was shattered forever.

Except it wasn’t. The same day, while bodies remained unburied, an Amish grandfather was heard telling his young relatives, “We must not think evil of this man.” Roberts had taken his own life during the crisis, and in the days that followed, the community reached out in mercy and forgiveness to his family, astonishing the world with their graciousness.

The Amish response of mercy and forgiveness was remarkable because of its uniqueness in a world fascinated by justice. One of the authors of Amish Grace, Donald Kraybill, found the response not surprising but natural. He says forgiveness is woven into Amish culture. Their communal life requires a forgiving spirit, so they practice it as a way of life, working at it, as Scripture seems to require.

Not everyone has an enemy—that is, someone who has wronged you repeatedly, maliciously, without regard for your well-being. If you have one, the work of forgiveness begins with a prayer to remember God’s grace toward you. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He alone can bring about the change of heart necessary to see your own sin, to recognize Christ’s righteousness, and to see that judgment belongs to God alone.

Application

Most of us have no enemies, but we should prepare our hearts for the hard work of forgiving as the Amish do, working forgiveness into the corners of our life. Take the initiative when someone wrongs you. Ask God to show you your sin and remind you of His grace. Sooner rather than later, seek the person out, and, mindful of your own faults, ask for and extend forgiveness. Pray for the well-being of the wrongdoer—not just that he’d see the error of his ways, but that God would protect and prosper him.

Offer mercy quickly, leave justice to God, and make sure you don’t allow resentment to find fertile soil.

Forgiven, But Not Forgiving?

Would you rather punish those who hurt you than forgive them?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Gloria Chisholm

I struggled with angry and hurt feelings toward a group of people with whom I had engaged in conflict for what seemed like the hundredth time that week. My prayer scenario went something like this:

Me: Lord, they did it again. Do they lie awake at night thinking up ways to torment me? Of course, I know I’m not perfect. Please forgive me for my part in this.

God: I do.

Me: But I pray that You show them what they’re doing. I know You want them to grow and all that, so I know it’s Your will to bring them to repentance. God, make them pay (whoops!).

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Father, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12). Forgive? To forgive would be to let the offense go and open myself up to my tormentors once again. It would be to get hurt again and again and again.

Peter thought he was doing well if he forgave someone seven times (Mt. 18:21). I’m with Peter. Seven times seems like plenty to me. Yet Jesus pushed it to seventy-seven times. In other words, He wasn’t putting a limit on forgiveness. In fact, He was saying, “Forgive anyone and everyone as often as necessary, and make it a lifestyle.”

An impossible feat? In the context of these verses in the Lord’s Prayer, what Jesus is after is the attitude behind our inability or refusal to forgive, our resistance to face the truth God wants us to see in our hearts.

Along those lines, I see four basic attitudes connected with the forgiveness process that we must eventually acknowledge, whether consciously or unconsciously, in order to work through our hurts to a place of healing. We may hold more than one of these attitudes simultaneously, or we may move through them one after the other. The important thing is that we see where we are so that we can respond to where God wants to take us.

“I Won’t.”

The unmerciful servant had experienced forgiveness (Mt. 18:23–35). With his wife, kids, possessions, and his own life on the line, he pleaded for mercy. His master forgave him, canceled the debt, and let him go.

Offered the same opportunity to forgive a fellow servant, he made a sad choice. The Bible tells us “he refused” (v. 30).

When his master found out about it, he was furious and had him thrown in jail. Jesus summed up this parable with these shocking words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).

These may sound like harsh words coming from our compassionate, loving Savior. But the truth is that it’s because He is a loving God and desires for His people to love each other that He lays out the choices for us. It is always our choice. We get to forgive or be locked up. Literally. Refusal to forgive thrusts us into bondage.

If we look at this parable symbolically, we can imagine who the “jailors” are: bitterness, unforgiveness, depression, physical disease, etc. If we choose to act unmercifully to a fellow sinner like ourselves, we leave our Master no choice but to turn us over to unmerciful jailors. What else could a just God do with an unforgiving heart?

You may think you have never said “I won’t” to forgiveness. But what about the church you stopped attending because people there hurt you? Or the boss who fired you? The parent who abused you? The friend who gossiped about you? Have you ever stopped pursuing a relationship with someone because they hurt you and you live in fear of the same thing happening again?

There is hope for those of us who have said “I won’t.” I don’t know about you, but the isolation I feel in my soul drives me to repentance. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Ps. 13:2).

God leaves how long up to us. We decide when we’ve suffered enough bitterness, enough isolation, enough unforgiveness.

“I Can’t.”

Those of us who claim we can’t forgive have often been burned by a relationship that has caused us more pain than we ever thought we could endure. We’re tired and resentful, and we’re full of unforgiveness.

Gordon MacDonald writes: “Spiritual passion cannot coexist with resentments. We can do our best to claim that we are in the right, but the Scriptures are clear. The unforgiving spirit is no home to the energy that causes Christian growth and effectiveness.”

It takes a lot of energy to maintain a bitter heart. Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging the painful feelings that surface when we’ve been offended, we repress them. We continue to say, “I can’t,” and the pain sinks deeper and deeper into our subconscious, finally coming to rest on top of the pile of offenses we’ve collected throughout our lives.

To say “I can’t” is to say “I don’t want to try anymore. I give up.” Here we totter on a precarious edge. We can become numb, or we can admit our powerlessness and our dependence on God. When we do this, we allow God to surface the sinful attitude and skim off the impurities unforgiveness produces. The decision to do this takes courage, since the process can be extremely painful. But it is productive pain that activates healing, unlike the destructive pain of unresolved bitterness.

“I Don’t Want To.”

This may be the most honest response you can make when an offense is gnawing at your heart.

“I don’t want to” is usually a conscious response, unlike “I won’t” and “I can’t,” which are often unconscious. “I don’t want to” means you know where you are, but you don’t know how to get out of that place. To forgive is to allow more pain in and you don’t want any part of that. So you feel trapped.

I remember a time when someone in my life was hurting me fairly consistently—the seven-times-(and more)-a-day kind of offender. Inside, I had to admit I wanted God to “get her.”

I discussed the situation with a number of people, sometimes to vent my anger, sometimes because I wanted help.

“Waste her,” was my teenage son’s advice. (If you have kids, you know what he meant.)

“Pray for her,” was another friend’s response.

“Love her.”

“Tell her off.”

“Ignore her.”

I considered everyone’s advice (yes, even wasting her). And then God spoke: “Forgive her.” Profound, yet simple. But I didn’t want to. Now what?

Forgiving this person would be a test in endurance because the offenses occurred daily. But my commitment to grow in love toward God and others finally kicked in. I couldn’t love her if I couldn’t forgive her.

My decision to forgive, which was only the beginning, has taken me on a long, hard journey. I’m still on it, learning to walk in forgiveness, to embrace the pain. Learning to confront and to let go of offenses and judgments. God is there daily, cheering, affirming, and supporting me. I couldn’t make it one day without Him.

“I’m Willing.”

Jesus did not condemn Peter for asking if seven times was enough to forgive someone in a day. He simply laid out the consequences of what would happen when the eighth offense rolled around and Peter’s attitude didn’t allow for any more forgiveness.

God does not condemn you for your unforgiving heart. All He desires is that you sacrifice it for a broken and contrite one (Ps. 51:17) and that, like David, you pray, “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Ps. 51:12). All He asks is that you be willing to forgive.

When the father of the boy with the evil spirit came to Jesus to ask healing for his son, he said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus picked up on the word if, which revealed the man’s heart. “‘If you can?'” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The father did believe, but in a precious moment of honesty, he cried out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:22–24).

Too often, when we see our unbelief, guilt overwhelms us and we deny the reality of our sin. We don’t seem to understand that to cry out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” is to repent of our unforgiveness.

One thing that keeps me stuck in unbelief is fear that if I don’t punish my debtors, they won’t be punished. They’ll get off scot-free. My pain will have been in vain. That’s why I easily fall into a martyr’s role and, in my sinful heart, desire for God to “get” my debtors. But this is where trust comes in. I must trust that God is just; He will deal with my offender as He deals with me.

“Get ‘em, God!”

How long it takes us to move through the forgiveness process isn’t the issue. The important thing is that we keep moving and that we continue to stay open and willing to God’s softening of our hearts.

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. We have sinned against Him, against others, and against ourselves. We can be thankful no one is counting our sins, least of all, God. Instead He offers forgiveness. Can we do any less for our offenders?

Chuck Swindoll sums it up well. “The extent to which you can envision God’s forgiveness of you, to that same measure you will be given the capacity to forgive others.”

Envision forgiveness? How about our Lord hanging on a cross, bloody and beaten? Dying to forgive your sins and mine? Let’s hold that image clearly in our minds. Then we can pray, “God, forgive us our debts, but as for our debtors, get ‘em  . . . with Your love and forgiveness. Pour it on as you have with us.”

Making A Bridge Over My Past

Forget and be Fruitful

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“The past isn’t your past if it is still affecting your present.”

A personal past. We all have one. And sometimes they are not very glorious.

In some cases, painful pasts are consequences of our own bad choices. Self-inflicted wounds.

Often however, the heartache from the past has been caused by others. Betrayal. Unfaithfulness. Deceit. Broken trust. Slander. Needle-pointed thorns that have lodged in our hearts and festered into ugly infected wounds.

It is impossible to reach and stretch for the future when we live in the pain of the past.

The book of Genesis gives us a great example of this principle. Joseph, at seventeen years-of-age, was loved by his father Jacob“more than any other of his sons…and he made him a robe of many colors.” (37:3 ESV)  His brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” (37:4 ESV)  They then conspired against him and “sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” (37:28 ESV) who then “sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, captain of the guard.” (37:36 ESV)  Potiphar’s wife then seduces Joseph, and when he rejects her advances, she falsely accuses him and “his master took him and put him into prison…” (38:20 ESV)  Many years later, he interprets a dream for Pharoah and is released from prison and put “over all the land of Egypt.” (41:43)  At 30 years-of-age (thirteen years after his brothers sold him into slavery) Joseph is given Asenath “the daughter of Potiphera priest of On” (41:50 ESV) in marriage and fathers two sons.

What’s interesting is the names he gives his sons. “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh (making to forget) ‘For’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all of my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The name of the second he called Ephraim, (fruitfulness) ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’” (41:51-52 ESV)

Joseph determined that he would not be a prisoner of his past. All that had happened in the “prison” season of his life was neither fatal nor final.

Make a bridge over your past. Release it. Work through it. Stretch for the future and be fruitful.

The Apostle Paul expresses the same conviction in Philippians 3:13-14, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

The beauty of a past that has been healed is expressed in The Song of Solomon, “My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come…” (2:10-12 ESV)

Let go of the past. Press toward the future. It just could turn your life around.

We Aren’t Made To Bear the WEIGHT Of Unforgiveness

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by the American Association of Christian Counselors

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” -Jesus Christ

In his book “Unconditional” Brian Zahnd asks this question, “So what is your story? Who has been cruel to you? Perhaps bitterly cruel. What injustice have you suffered? How have you been mistreated? Perhaps miserably so. Who has cheated you? Abused you? Lied to you? Lied about you? Maybe it was last week. Maybe it was a lifetime ago.” i

It is interesting to look at Jesus’ words in Mark 11 concerning interpersonal forgiveness, “And, whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses.” (vs. 25 ESV) Christ is in effect saying that our vertical relationship with God is much more related to our horizontal relationships with those around us, than we would like to admit.

As our personal creator, Jesus understands how we are made. Not just spiritually, but physiologically as well. Our bodies simply are not fashioned to carry the burden and weight of unforgiveness. Psychiatrist Loren Olson recently noted that “those more inclined to pardon the transgressions of others have been found to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive symptoms and, once they hit late middle age, better overall mental and physical health than those who do not forgive easily.” ii

Forgive easily? Is that even possible? We all have heard someone say (or maybe even said it ourselves), “I will forgive, but I will never forget!” Ev Worthington, whose elderly mother was brutally beaten, raped, and left alone to slowly bleed to death by an enraged burglar, gives personal insight into this. “Sometimes people have a hard time admitting that they aren’t forgiving a person who hurt them. They think that forgiving is a matter of saying certain words — ‘I forgive you’, but there is a heart by-pass. Being able to say the words is a step, but the Lord really wants our hearts touched.”

At the core, forgiveness is releasing a debt. Choosing not to harbor the hurt and anger anymore. Opening the door for healing — maybe even reconciliation.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s always necessary.

And it only takes one to forgive. When you get to the heart of the matter, our ability to forgive is rooted in the fact that we have been forgiven by Christ, in God. (2Corinthians 5:18-20)

All relationships demand the deep oil of forgiveness. When we forgive it breaks the poisonous cycle of revenge, and allows the broken to walk in peace. The Jesus way is always the way of forgiveness. We forgive to free ourselves and to get our lives back. His way is the way that gives the future hope… a hope that can turn your life around.

i Zahnd, B., (2010). Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Orlando, FL: Charisma House.

ii Olson, L. A., (2011, March/April). Forgiveness: You Life Depends Upon It. Family Therapy Magazine, 10(2), 28-31.

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