The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
Forgiveness is the foundation of my faith. The fact that we need it, and that it has been freely given is what Jesus followers refer to as the Gospel, or Good News, because, well, it just is! Maybe the best news ever.
When I first read Jesus’ teaching in the gospel accounts nearly 30 years ago, I was wholly unfamiliar with the Christian faith. As a professing, and articulate atheist, I hated what I believed to be the hypocrisy of Christianity and that I was unable to name things that Christians were for, while I could make a long list of what they were against. I was 23 years old, sincerely searching for the meaning of life, yet that search was made harder by what I had witnessed of God’s followers. It astounds me that He allows this to happen. Even still.
For about a year, I studied numerous world religions, and while I mean no offense to any of my beautiful friends who adhere to a different faith than I do, I found nothing I personally would count to be supernatural in many of the most popular ones. Christianity was the last religion I studied in pursuit of God – I was biased against it and yet I found things beyond my understanding there – in the person of Jesus.
So this brings me back to forgiveness.
I forgive others because I myself have been forgiven by God so great a debt, as to be immeasurable. No one had to tell me how broken I was when I met Jesus, and that I myself had broken a great many things around me as well. What I didn’t know was how to fix anything.
When I read over and over again in the gospels, the simple, but costly invitation to follow Jesus, it wasn’t difficult to understand what God was asking of me. He wanted control of my life so He could set me on the best possible course. Of course, control was the hardest thing for me to give up!
This request came with a tremendous gift, and the gift cost nothing but my belief and surrender. Not unlike the monkey who has his hand stuck in the narrow neck of a jar because he won’t let go of the “treasure” he has laid hold of, we often miss out on the free gift of forgiveness because we refuse to let go of past hurts or wrongs when God knocks on our heart and asks us to let go. We simply won’t. It could be anything really, but doesn’t it strike you as odd, that we would clutch at unforgiveness (something we’d all agree is negative) as tightly as we would real treasure.
God’s forgiveness comes freely. Having received it, I wanted nothing more but to follow Him, and it was then that I (the monkey) opened my hand and dropped the meager treasure of what I had a “right to,” and reached instead for the inheritance that was promised to me by the King of Kings.
If you’ve ever found yourself on the side of needing it, you know what a precious gift it is.
That’s the whole Jesus thing. We need it and it comes at too great a cost for us to ever purchase. Then, at some glorious point in our lives, we discover that THIS was the very gift that Jesus died to give us – forgiveness for everything we’ve ever done, or will do, wrong – and by receiving that gift, we are adopted into the family of God. It is quite literally the Cinderella story we’ve all dreamed of. Being adopted by the King. That’s why we call it Good News friends.
Now, if you’ve ever found yourself on the side of having to GIFT someone with forgiveness, who may or may not deserve it, you’re still in the right place.
Jesus told this great story (His stories were so awesome they were referred to as parables) about a man who owed his king an impossible amount of money. After much pleading, the king generously forgave the whole of his debt and sent him on his way. But as this man left the king, he passed by a friend who owed him a very small amount, and he demanded that he be paid in full immediately or he would have him and his whole family thrown in jail. When the king’s servants heard about this, they ran and told him, and the king had the man brought before him again. The king was furious. He had this ungrateful servant thrown in jail along with his whole family for being so cruel to his neighbor – demanding from him at cost, what he himself had been freely given. (Matthew 18)
As a Jesus follower, I forgive because I am forgiven.
If I do not forgive others, I am acting just as the ungrateful servant in the parable did. I do not want to test the consequences of this. Even though it’s unlikely I’ll find myself in a debtor’s prison, I will find myself in bondage. I grew up in an abusive home. My childhood was a nightmare, and like so many people today, I bear the wounds dealt to me by wounded parents who were attempting to raise a child while fighting their own demons. They were addicts and codependents. They did not know Jesus or the joy of His forgiveness. They knew only the unbearable weight of their own shame, unescapable bondage, and the full time work of keeping all the secrets.
One apologized. The other did not. Both needed my forgiveness whether they named it or not.
I needed to grant it, even in the absence of an acknowledgment or request, because my heart was wilting as it tried to carry the weight of all my anger, hurt, and disappointment. It could not go on.
I forgave because I was forgiven. I forgave, because God tells me that’s how I will be set free.
If you’ve decided to forgive someone, I would humbly suggest you endeavor to do so in this way:
Always begin by asking God to help you do it. Tell Him you want to, but don’t know how, and that you realize it’s an impossible thing apart from His help. Nonetheless, you are committed to doing it.
THEN, the next time you think of the offense, OR the next time they commit one, you should take it straight to the Lord in prayer and again ask that He help you do what you have committed to.
Forgiveness is not the act of a single moment. It is a long, and arduous journey. Especially if the hurts are ongoing.
It is all the more possible, though, if you yourself have been forgiven all you will ever do wrong. It inspires in a way that I cannot articulate.
I will be honest, that I found it to be a much easier task having received forgiveness beyond anything I could have ever asked for or imagined. Being set free gives you a generosity of heart that extends to almost everyone in your acquaintance.
Do forgive. Do it every time you think of the past offense. Do it for your own healing. If you’re a Jesus follower, think how selfish it is not to forgive, even the unforgivable. We are so much worse than we think we are. And God is much more generous than we could ever imagine.
These are just thoughts for the day, but in the arena of life, few things matter more than our relationships. When they are mended, and open to flow freely, it is a joy to everyone.
I would suggest it be done one day, or even one moment, at a time.
Love to you!