Monday, February 6, 2017

5 Benefits to Forgiveness - Part Deux

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
Psalm 32:1 

We are blessed, aren't we?  The fact that our sin is not on our account anymore is nothing short of miraculous.  We know that since we have been forgiven such a great debt, the Lord wants us to be great forgivers. This act of imitation brings Him great glory.  But it's hard to do, isn't it?

We've talked about how choosing not to forgive breaks relationships, hinders our capacity to serve the Lord, changes our identity from forgiven to victim, and affects our testimony and fellowship with the Lord.   Last blog we discussed how when we forgive, our capacity, identity, testimony and fellowship fall back in line.  Today I want to talk about the restoration of relationships.

You've heard it before - there are no enduring relationships without forgiveness.  Yes, restoration to relationships does come with forgiveness.  A marriage can't survive without it.  Friendships can last for decades because of love and forgiveness.  

But forgiveness doesn't automatically restore relationships.  Here are a few exceptions.  First of all, when there is no repentance, the relationship will be limited.  We are still called to forgive so that a root of bitterness does not spring up in our hearts, but the brokenness of the relationship begins healing when there is acknowledgement and repentance.  When you are the one hurt, you are not in control of that process.  It still is not cause to hang on to the hurt, marinade in the offense and build up a wall that would be impossible to climb for restoration.  But there are consequences to sin and when someone has a hard heart towards you, you are not responsible for the loss of relationship that comes from that brokenness.  

A second exception is in regards to the specifics of the sin.  In some circumstances, while again, forgiveness is paramount for you to continue walking close to the Lord, the consequence of the sin means permanent separation.  For example, a young mother who was sexually abused by her father must choose to forgive for her own well-being, but because of the nature of the sin, she will never have a close relationship with her father again. He will not be a part of her life and she will not take her children to his house for him to babysit or even sit on his lap and play with grandpa.  This is not because she is unforgiving but the nature of the sin is so heinous, that these consequences must not be overlooked.  

A final exception that comes to mind is unhealthy relationships.  Though perhaps there is sin on both sides, when there is a need for repentance and forgiveness, sometimes the relationship cannot go back to what it was.  When a dating couple becomes intimate with each other and then through the Spirit, responds to the guilt of crossing lines that the Lord put in place for their protection, there can be repentance and forgiveness, but they can't just go back to what it was before.  Boundaries have to be set and changes made to keep them from temptation.  Though the relationship can continue, it can't be the same.  Same with a marriage that falls into adultery.  There can be restoration but the marriage will be different on this side of forgiveness.  It's not because there is unforgiveness, but the necessity to change in the marriage to make it stronger means they can't just go back to what they were before the affair.  And a truly repentant heart understands this and wants it, as well.  

As simple as it sounds, when we say "I forgive you" to someone, it's a hard process.  We are making the agreement not to hold the offense against the offender or talk with others about it.  But more importantly than these two things, we are agreeing not to talk to ourselves about it.  If we are forgiving on the outside and not on the inside, we are still germinating the seeds of bitterness in our heart if the heat is still on the inside.  We must take our thoughts captive and choose not to dwell on the hurt.

In taking our thoughts captive, we have to replace our hurt with different thoughts.  Even better, when we find ourselves thinking about the sin against us, we should ask the Lord to forgive our lack of forgiveness, and then put our mind on something else.  A few practical suggestions:
  • Scripture - memorizing scripture is perfect for these circumstances
  • Worship music - turn it on and sing it loud
  • Prayer - pray for someone completely unrelated to this circumstance - pray for their work, for their family, for their health, for their church, for their relationship with the Lord
  • Study - get a notebook and pen, open your bible and read through a book, noting observations about God through out your reading - God is sovereign, He has a sense of humor, He really doesn't like the Pharisees, etc.
  • Phone a friend - if worse comes to worse, call a friend, don't give them the specifics because that would be gossip, but ask them to pray for you and to tell you to "Knock it off" and get on with your day!
In closing, let me add two more words of wisdom.  First, don't spend your whole life being offended and a victim of other people's sin.  Most of the hurt in our lives can be covered by love.  We don't have to correct every offense against us, constantly telling people how they made you feel and waiting for repentance.  Because we have been loved so much, we can cover a lot of offenses in love. Love is patient and kind, and it doesn't keep track of wrongs.  It's super gracious, not jealous and can bear a lot of things.  Its ability to endure is off the charts and it always hopes for the best in people.  

And finally, remember that forgiveness, though difficult, is a protection for your heart.  We are to put off bitterness and anger and the only way to do that is through forgiveness.  It will keep you tenderhearted and kind, and it will make you more like your Savior.

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