Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Freedom of Forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

-C.S. Lewis

Shouting out the name of Jesus from the highest rooftops in the darkest places.
Reviving my soul to its original degree of joy and laughter.
Bringing life to me again so I can share the love of Christ with everybody who the Lord calls me to love.

These are all things that living in the freedom of forgiveness can do to one who simply obeys the Lord's command: to forgive.

"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12)
"forgive, and you will be forgiven..." (Luke 6:37)
"bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13)

And they are COMMANDS they are not a choice or an option.

And last but not least: "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).

This last scripture is the one which convicted me the most when I was praying and asking the Lord for forgiveness. Peter says how often will my BROTHER sin against me, and I forgive him? The greek word for brother in this context is adelphos which means 'a brother whether born of the same two parents or one parent; having the same national ancestor, a fellow believer; brethren in Christ.'

Not only are we supposed to forgive those who hurt us period, but also we are called to forgive our BROTHER who sins against us seventy times seven.

Every day this verse would haunt me. The longer I hadn't forgiven my brother, the greater the weight grew. And I couldn't possibly continue carrying it day after day. Like I said before, living in unforgiveness is living in bondage.

And it is all about will and emotion. I continued telling myself that I would forgive him, even when my emotions were not following, and finally one morning my emotions obeyed my will. It wasn't that I didn't love him anymore, it was that I still loved him. I loved him and Jesus enough to know I couldn't continue in the chains of bitterness. My heart could no longer hold anything against him or over him, the towel had been wrung dry. And I was ready and willing to love him again, not wishing anything bad to happen to him, but to love him purely as a brother and friend.

But there are many faces to forgiveness. Even though I felt like when I forgave him on January 4th that that would be the end of forgiveness, it wasn't. Every day I have to make a decision to live in the freedom of forgiveness. This means there can be no harsh words that can come out of my mouth about him. When I speak of him my conscience can and must be clear. Because he is somewhere in the world right now living a life that is honoring to Christ, obeying God's will and learning to love Jesus better. For me to speak evil, unkindness or bitterness over him would not be loving him well. In fact it wouldn't be loving him at all. We think that in some sort of weird sick way we can bring redemption to our circumstances by holding bitterness and anger over someone who has hurt us, but in reality we are only holding it over ourselves. My brother in Christ, I know, did the hardest thing he probably has ever had to do, and he had to live with the hurt and pain that he knows it brought me. But me continuing to hold bitterness over him, just makes me continue living in the chains of un-forgiveness, and most of all it doesn't represent the Christ, who forgave every sin that I have ever committed or ever will commit, well.

I said yes to learning to love my brother in Christ in a way that left me with a broken heart, but I can safely say on this side of things, my love for people is more genuine and rich now than it ever has been, because it better reflects the glory of Christ. To love fiercely the way Christ did is to risk getting hurt.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So keep loving fiercely, with the risk of getting your heart broken, knowing that at some point it will be broken again, but forgive more than you don't. The freedom of forgiveness is a precious gift the Lord has given us to learn and be and walk according to His ways.

Forgive somebody today, it's a very good thing.

You can read the first two parts to this blog here:
When a heart breaks (Part 1)
Rotting un-forgiveness (Part 2)

Someday I pray, I will be able to forgive those who hurt me even while I am in the midst of the pain and suffering as my Savior did, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

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1 comment:

  1. Redemptive. Painfully practical. True religion. Thankful for this timely post while struggling with the same daily opportunity to hold onto or release an offense by a brother - your words spur me on.