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Monday, April 24, 2017

Forgiveness has a depth, breadth, and weight

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. 
(Corrie Ten Boom)

23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. (Mark 11:23-25 NLT)

The temperature of our heart often determines how quickly we are willing to step into the uncomfortable ground of forgiving another who has offended, doesn't it? If it has grown cool through unkindled passion, we are less likely to overlook an offense. If it has been allowed to reach that "tepid" point, we are neither hot nor cold, and we are likely to embrace whichever "emotion" seems to cloud the picture at that particular moment, oftentimes making forgiveness harder to extend.

The power of forgiveness lies not in the gravity of the offense, but the red-hot embers of Christ's forgiveness burning passionately in our own heart! If there is a continual renewal of our position of grace in Christ, we are less likely to embrace any offense as worthy of holding a grudge against another. In fact, we are more likely to let it go - covering it with an equal measure of grace as we have been given ourselves. To believe forgiveness is an emotion alone is to be wrongly informed as to the depth, breadth, and weight of forgiveness!

Forgiveness requires depth - first in our relationship with Jesus and then in our relationship with each other. The temperature of our heart is determined in direct correlation to the depth of our relationship with Jesus and the acquaintance we keep with is grace. The deeper we sink into his grace, allowing it to permeate each fiber of our being, the less likely we are to allow unforgiveness toward another to take root in our lives. Why? Where fire burns there is no opportunity for that seed of bitterness to take root - it will be consumed by the fire of his grace within.

It also requires a breadth - looking beyond the immediacy of what we see or hear right now, into the vastness of the future God holds in his hands. The moment we focus on what happens right now, holding that as the reality of the outcome for the future, we limit the future. If I hold a grudge because I can only see the action right in front of me, I don't count on the work of grace to change the circumstances both in the now and in the future. To this we must add the tremendous "weight" of forgiveness, for if we could place it upon a scale, we might find it often weighs much more than the offense itself. Forgiveness may mean we give much more than we ever received in the way of the offense!

That last point may be a little hard to handle, but it is so very true. The moment we determine in our hearts and minds that we will forgive an offense, we are opening ourselves to be extended in ways which go beyond human reasoning and power. There is much required of the one who is forgiven, but nothing compared to what the one who is extending that forgiveness must pile upon the scale! The desire to be right, to hold onto the offense, and to create a sense of hostility or animosity toward the one who has offended you outweighs the offense! Maybe this is why Jesus warns against holding onto the offense - the weight of it is overwhelmingly huge compared to the lightness of grace being extended! Just sayin!