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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Okay...so forgive means???

Probably one of the most frustrating things we encounter in this lifetime is the need to actually forgive another human being for something they did against us or someone we love. It is doggone hard to forgive, move on, and let God deal with the other individual - let's be honest! If we look up forgiveness in the dictionary, we'd hope to find the definition that says we turn them over to some terrible fate, simply because we don't want to let them "off the hook" for what they have done. Webster's defines the act of forgiving as "giving up resentment of someone" and the idea of "pardoning" someone. Rarely do we want to pardon someone - we have a hard time "getting over" what they did without "giving up" on our feelings of being violated, though. The feelings follow the action, not the other way around. We give up the right to hold that other individual in a position of "owing us" anything - then the feelings of "letting them go" really begin to set in. It takes some time to really feel "free" of resentment - but if we consistently remember there is no more debt owed because we gave up our "right to repayment" when we released them from that debt.

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.  But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.  David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4:4-8 NLT)

We would like to think of forgiveness as a debt being repaid - in some way the other person is "on the hook" until they are somehow able to repay that debt. If we examine what scripture says about forgiveness, we might turn to this passage above. Wages are earned - it is something we "get" because we "did" something to deserve those wages. We engage in a profession of some sort, putting in the hours "at work", and in turn, we get "paid" for what we have done that day. In essence, we say our employer "owes us a debt" of wages because we earned those wages by the efforts we put forth. Biblical forgiveness is just the opposite. Righteousness (right standing) is not because of what we have done to "earn" it, but because our "unrighteousness" (far from right standing) is put out of sight for us. We don't do it - God does all the "clearing" of the records that ultimately end with us having "right standing".

The place where the rubber meets the road is where our will and our conscience do battle. Our conscience knows we need to release the other individual - to restore them to "right standing" by letting go of the debt they owe us. Our will, on the other hand, gets muddled by the feelings of distress we have experienced because of what the other person did. Will wants to "take action" - but that action isn't always biblical! There are just some things our "will" needs to understand:

The other person doesn't have to see they have offended us deeply before we release them - releasing them doesn't limit God's taking of that offense on himself and dealing with it as he sees best. In fact, releasing them allows God to take the offense and begin to work in the life of the other individual to do as he will to bring them to a place where they encounter their need for his grace.

The "crime" may warrant some "time" when the offense has been egregious - such as when someone has violated someone sexually, beaten up the innocent, etc. The "time" isn't ours to determine - we might see them do some time as a penalty for their egregious action, but even when they receive a "sentence" for their actions, we can "release" them by granting them forgiveness in our hearts, minds, and souls.

The obligation to forgive is foremost - God asks for our obedience to forgive. He expects nothing less. The point of forgiveness begins often more with a prayer to God to ask him for the assistance to "let go" of what you have been harboring against that other individual. You begin to pray for his help and in turn, he begins to turn your heart toward praying for that other individual, so they will be helped to see the pathway to God's grace in their own lives. This may just be the greatest "miracle" we could be "parties to" in this lifetime - the "miracle" of turning from hatred and contempt toward another through embracing them in prayer for their "right standing" with God! Just sayin!