Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is It Or Isn't It?

My Scripture today is from Ephesians 4:32:  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Jesus is known as the “Man of Sorrows.” He endured personal abuse, culminating in His crucifixion. If anyone had a right not to forgive, it was Jesus. If He’d harbored resentment for all the wrong done to Him, there would’ve been no cross. He chose to forgive, even while on the cross. His life and death make our pardon possible--we are declared blameless--our record of wrongs is erased, and the new life Jesus bestows enables us to be forgiving people. No offense by anyone could ever equal our guilt before Christ, Who stands ready to forgive us.  Forgiveness involves self-sacrifice. In order to forgive others we have to surrender our desire for revenge and retribution. We offer the offender free grace, just as God has for us. Grace forgives what it cannot excuse. We receive it and offer it to others.  What does it really mean to forgive? I think many people are unclear on the concept; in order to know what forgiveness is, we need to go over what forgiveness isn’t…
>Forgiveness isn’t forgetting. It’s not amnesia. People claim, “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget.” My answer to that is, “Don’t forget--each time you remember the hurt, remember your forgiveness.” This means we don’t bring up the past. The “love chapter” of the Bible, I Corinthians 13, says that “love keeps no record of wrongs.” Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, was asked, “Don’t you remember the wrong done to you?” She answered: “No, I distinctly remember forgetting that.” >Forgiveness isn’t pretending. We don’t act like the past doesn’t exist or that a hurt didn’t occur. We no longer use past hurts as a weapon; the past is a dead issue. We can’t ignore that a hurt occurred, but we can’t change the past, and wishing it never happened won’t make it go away. When we forgive we don’t change the past, but we sure do change the future.  >Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It is an intentional action. It has nothing to do with how we feel. When people say, “I can’t forgive”, they mean “I won’t forgive.” Forgiveness is a clear choice, a conscious decision. We can feel hurt, betrayed, and angry, and still forgive.   >Forgiveness isn’t conditional. We don’t demand change before we forgive. When someone asks for pardon we don’t say, “I’ll first wait and see.” The person who hurt us may hurt us again, but we have a responsibility to forgive. We may need some recovery time, because forgiveness is also not immediate. We may even ask for reparation, but we shouldn’t demand proof that those who hurt us are truly sorry. That’s not our job.  >Forgiveness isn’t weakness. It’s not “giving in”. It takes strength to forgive. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.  >Forgiveness isn’t partial. The Jewish  standard in Jesus’ day was to forgive 3 times (“3 strikes and you’re out!”); the divine standard is “70 times 7”, according to Jesus. What He meant is that there’s no limit to our pardon. In forgiving, we cancel the debt. It might be useful to write your hurt on a piece of paper, then tear it up, showing that the debt has been forgiven.  >Forgiveness isn’t waiting for an apology. We initiate the healing by taking the first step. Determining who is wrong is less important than restoring the relationship. Sometimes those doing the hurting feel they’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not our job to convince them otherwise but, in our hearts, to forgive them. Telling someone who doesn’t want forgiveness that they’re forgiven can be an insult. It may be better to picture the one who hurt you in an empty chair, tell them how you feel, and that you forgive. >Forgiveness isn’t a one-time event. There is no instant forgiveness in that true forgiveness takes effort. It is a lengthy process of steady growth as a relationship is gradually restored. Trust isn’t rebuilt overnight. We forgive--one memory at a time. The goal of forgiveness is reconciliation. >Forgiveness isn’t condoning wrong. By forgiving, we’re not saying the action was OK; it’s not. Nor does it let the wrong happen again. Forgiveness does not mean turning a criminal loose. When people hurt us accidentally, we excuse them; when they hurt us intentionally, we forgive. But we don’t minimize what was done to us.  >Forgiveness isn’t losing. What do we win by holding onto the hurt and anger that accompany unforgiveness? When we don’t forgive we’re imprisoned by bitterness. To forgive is actually to win.  >Forgiveness isn’t figuring out why we were hurt. When we’re the victims of what seems a senseless attack, we’d like to understand why anyone would want to do such a mean thing. We may never know their reasons, but that doesn’t release us from forgiving.  >Forgiveness isn’t suddenly “liking” the person. We’re to love everyone, but not everyone’s our buddy. Friendship may grow out of forgiveness, but sometimes the best we can achieve is tolerance, forbearance, and peaceful coexistence. Be aware--people with clenched fists can’t shake hands. >Forgiveness isn’t a guarantee of closure. When murderers are executed, the victim’s family members often say they hoped the prison time and capital punishment would bring closure, but nothing can compensate for their loss. Some hurts aren’t resolved till Heaven. There’s no pain on earth that Heaven cannot heal. Even when there are consequences for those who’ve hurt us, it often doesn’t matter. Healing has to come from Above and from within.  >Forgiveness isn’t optional. British General Oglethorpe commented to John Wesley, “Preacher, I never forgive.” Wesley replied, “Then sir, I hope you never sin.” Forgiveness is a bridge we don’t want to destroy…because it’s one we may need to cross ourselves some day. It is risky business praying the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  >Forgiveness isn’t easy. What we forgive too quickly or freely doesn’t stay forgiven. Forgiveness is not cheap or casual; it’s expensive—it cost Jesus His life. Jesus buries our sins and doesn’t mark the grave. The cross shows us what God thinks of us, and what we think of God. To forgive is divine.  >Forgiveness isn’t impossible. The presence and power of Christ in us can do “all things.” God can enable us to forgive.  Let me give you a selfish reason to forgive--you’ll feel better. When we free ourselves from being “the offended one,” we unlock our prison of bitterness. The resentment we’re carrying is a live coal in our hearts. When we choose not to forgive, it’s like reopening a wound. When we forgive, the wound heals; there may be a scar, but the pain is gone. Unforgiveness depletes our strength and takes away energy toward building a better tomorrow. Forgiveness heals the hurts of the past. The word forgiveness in Hebrew is salach, which means “to have anger in one’s fist and to release it, relinquish it, to let it go and remove it forever.” What a release!


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