Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Forgiveness Is Not All About You!

Today's post is a little different from what I usually write about.  I am going to do something publicly I've never done before.  

I recently read in the July issue of Reader's Digest, an article by Bishop Desmond Tutu titled, "Why We Forgive."  (Please take the time to read it; it's fairly short.)  I believe this article is just another in the parade of many that espouses a dangerous teaching and many, Christians and non-Christians alike, are embracing it.  This article puts forth the theory that forgiving someone else a trespass (debt) is really something we do for ourselves; it's in our own self-interest.
So much is wrong with this article and the premise it stands on.

It's not all about you!  Sorry!  

If the only reason you forgive another or say you forgive another, is for your own selfish agenda to be advanced, then you've already violated one of the major teachings of Jesus Christ.
"And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God
for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 3:32

In the article Bishop Tutu talks about forgiving his father, "Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all."

No-one deserves  to be forgiven.  As if we could earn forgiveness!
Scripture says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."  Romans 3:23 

There is a widespread mindset in our culture today that tells us - We deserve.
The only thing we truly deserve is death! 
"For the wages of sin is death;...."
Romans 6:23
If we were given all that we truly deserve, none would be left standing.

Bishop Tutu goes on to say, "When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings.  We become our own liberators.  Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest.  This is true both spiritually and scientifically.  We don't forgive to help the other person.  We don't forgive for others.  We forgive for ourselves."

First of all, we can not take back something we had no control over to begin with. 
We have no control over our fate. 
And we can NOT set ourselves free.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 
John 8:32
And since when is the gospel preached for my self-interest?

Scripture says when we save our life, we lose it.  (Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35 and Luke 9:24) It's only in losing my life, I save it. 

We DO forgive to help the other person.  Leslie Leyland Fields, in her article titled "Why 'Forgiveness Is a Gift You Give Yourself' Is a Dangerous Myth" says this, "We release another person's debts for their sake and for Christ's sake.  Forgiveness enables us to care about the good of the other rather than just ourselves. This is the gospel: loving our neighbors and our enemies. Yes, the forgiver often heals through forgiveness as well, but as a consequence of 'loving their neighbor.'"

We also forgive because Jesus commanded us to.  He said if we don't forgive others, we ourselves will not be forgiven.  We are bound in our unforgiveness and do not have access to the freedom that only comes from obedience to God's word.  We become bitter because we become bound in the cords of our own sin of unforgiveness.  When we repent, the winds of refreshing come and cleanse us.  (Acts 3:19)

When we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us because of the sacrifice of His Son's death on the cross.  Jesus became the way to the Father.  We then receive His forgiveness by faith, believing in the paid debt.  My access to God is now secure because of the righteousness of Christ, not because of any righteousness of my own. 

When I forgive another an offense against me, I do it on the basis of what Christ already did for me.  If I am not held "in contempt" for my sin, how can I hold another?  If God forgave me in Christ Jesus, who am I to deny that forgiveness to another?  I do it out of obedience and also because I know it is scripturally wrong to hold an offense against another.  When I do that, I cut off my own access to forgiveness.

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Matthew 6:12
The word as means "to the same extent or degree; equally; in the same way that."
To state it another way - forgive me my debts to the same extent or degree that I forgive my debtors.
I am not trying to minimize Bishop Tutu's hurt and pain at the hand of his father's abuse.  I can't imagine growing up in that type of environment.  Yes, it is difficult to forgive and  I do understand that first hand.

Many, many years ago, I was extremely hurt and betrayed by someone I thought was a close friend.  I was hurt, humiliated, rejected and felt like I didn't deserve to live.  Because I was a born-again Christian and knew the Word of God, I knew, in my head, that I had to forgive.  But I just couldn't.  I struggled and struggled internally until one day I said to God, "I can't forgive her.  If I have to lose my salvation as a result, then so be it because I just can not forgive her." 

I don't recommend you EVER say those words to God.  I had no idea what I was saying at the time.  It sends chills down my spine to think that I once even uttered those words. 

BUT God - who is rich in mercy and forgiveness - worked in my heart, without my even being aware of it, until one day I whispered to God, "Okay, Lord, I am willing to be made willing to forgive her."  I don't remember the time frame, but one morning I woke up out of a sound sleep and slipped out of bed unto the floor on my knees and said, "God, I forgive her.  Please forgive me."

To this day, I can't explain the work God did in my heart because it was truly a work of His Spirit.  Was it a done deal at the time?  No, I had to walk it out.  I still felt a "catch" in my heart every time I saw her.  The Lord showed me over time how to deal with those carnal feelings.  He guided me to do the loving thing toward her as I walked in His forgiveness. 

God had forgiven her, who was I to not forgive? 

Was this in my best self-interest? 
No, it wasn't. 

Every time I saw her, I had to die to myself and the offenses I wanted to pick up again, but instead, I choose to obey the Word of God and DO the loving thing; show God's love to her as expressed through me.  Today, she and I have a restored friendship and it is all to God's glory!!

Bishop Tutu also writes, "Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us.  We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped.  Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor."

I submit to you that it is not the other person that has the power over you.  It is your own sin of unforgiveness.  Scripture tells us we are bound by the cords of our OWN sin, not someone else's (Proverbs 5:22).  We have given Satan territorial rights over us when we walk in sin of any kind.  He has gained a "foothold" and can rightfully accuse us.  Scripture also tells us to agree with our adversary quickly lest he gain that foothold.  No one person holds the keys to our happiness.  We become barred in a prison of our own making.  In the parable of the unmerciful servant, the man who refused to forgive another's debt to him even though his Master (God) had forgiven him an even greater debt, was delivered to the tormentors.

"Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." 
Matthew 18:32-35

Fields also says, "Forgiveness is far more than a means of personal happiness and health.  God is concerned with the well-being of the whole world."

Forgiveness is not a magic formula.  Just because we say we forgive, it doesn't immediately release our pain and our memories and bring us to a place of automatic peace.  That happens over time, day by day, as we seek to walk according to God's Word and what it admonishes us to do and how to live.  As we continue to seek God, He uses every opportunity to teach us His ways and to mature us in His wisdom.

"God continually admonishes us to 'remember' Him and to remember the events of the past, both the triumphs and the disasters." says Leyland Fields.  When we turn from the past entirely, we will miss the wisdom and compassion that we can learn from our wounds.  As Dr. Dan Allendar has written, 'Every tragedy in the past is an opportunity for redemption.  And each time we forget, we lose another moment to experience God's mysterious redemption in our lives.'"

God uses all situations in our lives for our good.  We don't always understand that, but I know my past has contributed greatly to who I am in the Lord today.  God has used my victories, my tragedies and everything in between to "grow me up" in Him.  He redeems EVERYTHING and one of my greatest joys as a Christian has been experiencing how God turned my "mourning into dancing" and turned my grief into joy.

My husband died unexpectedly almost 10 years ago and I tell you truthfully, I do not want to forget the grieving that took place in my heart.  The depths of my grief turned into the heights of my joy!!  Only God can do that.

I do not want to forget what I went through many years ago that led to my forgiving my sister in the Lord and I also walked through a lot in learning how to forgive and love my Mom.  Those situations produced some of the greatest learning and growing opportunities in the Lord.

Don't be swayed by this enticing teaching.  It is not the teaching of Jesus.  When you find yourself in a situation that requires forgiveness, ask the Lord to show you what you can do to allow Him to love the other through you.  Extend the forgiveness that you've been extended.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Don't allow yourself to be captured by your own sin!

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.  He must turn from evil and do good, he must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.'"
I Peter 3:8-12 NIV

What do you think?  I would truly be interested in hearing your comments.

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