Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ingredient #8 - Forgiveness (Love - Part 10)

"...does not take into account a wrong suffered..."
I Corinthians 13:5

I have been looking forward to this ingredient since the inspiration to write this series.  This is my favorite ingredient, though it is the hardest to acquire. Like imitation vanilla, too many people use imitation forgiveness and though is tastes similar, it really does not replace true, rich, costly forgiveness.  Artificial forgiveness not only cheapens your love reduction sauce, it will ruin it.

When you do not "take into account a wrong suffered" it means you have truly forgiven the "wrong."  If you have been at Harvest for any length of time, you have heard my husband say, "There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness." So let's start by defining forgiveness, and obviously we have been exampled this by God.  

Forgiveness is a three-part contract:
  1. First, when you forgive, you agree not to hold the offense against the offender.  This means the slate is wiped clean.  You don't bring the offense back up to the person, like, "Hey, remember when you did this to me?  Remember how you hurt me?  You really owe me because of what you did..."  All of those responses are gone because the offense has been removed from the account.
  2. Second, when you forgive, you are agreeing not to talk to other people about the offense.  You can't call your mother/father/best friend or co-worker and talk about it.  When your friend says to you, "I heard what _______ did and I can't believe they did that to you!"  You politely say, "Oh, that - I forgave that and there's no issue between us."  Period. Discussion over.  True forgiveness doesn't talk to others about it.
  3. And finally, when you truly forgive, you are agreeing not to dwell on the offense in your mind.  You won't think about it.  When the offense comes to mind, you stop and replace it with a different thought.  Dwelling on the offense only produces bitterness that has a ripple effect in your life.  If you can't stop remembering - or I should say, when you choose to keep remembering, you will not be able to continue with that relationship because inevitably your thought life will come out of your mouth and your actions.  This is the hardest part of forgiveness but just as God chooses to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), we can make the choice not to dwell on the offenses of others.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  Psalm 103:12

"When you were dead in your transgressions...He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions..."  Colossians 2:13

"Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin..." Hebrews 10:18

"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9

Jesus' middle name is forgiveness.  Over and over in the gospels you see Him forgiving people of their sins.  It's His business - He delights in extending mercy and grace.  Forgiveness, complete forgiveness is the only way we can come into the presence of His Father and we know that because we are forgiven so much, we are called to be GREAT forgivers!  

Jesus used the moment of the women who washed His feet with perfume and tears to point out to the Pharisee who had invited Him for dinner this truth:  "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much;  but he who is forgiven little, loves little."  Forgiveness is the result of great love.  When you put the needs of others before yourself in a loving, godly relationship, forgiveness is an abundant ingredient that fuses all the other ingredients.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His followers to be great forgivers - "But if you forgive others their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their transgressions, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Matthew 6:14,15  We are called to live with a preparedness to forgive so when we are asked forgiveness, we are quick to forgive.  I call this - living with a spirit of forgiveness.  True love forgives quickly and even at times it lets love cover the sin, "because love covers a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8

Forgiveness is costly - Jesus paid the price of forgiveness with His life. When you forgive, you will lay your life aside and bear the cost of the offense by saying three simple words:  "I forgive you."  Forgiveness is the most important ingredient in love, for without it, you are unable to be patient, kind, selfless, gracious, humble, etc.

Be sure you understand what you are doing when you extend forgiveness - it's a gospel moment for you to emulate and imitate your Creator, Lord and Savior.

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