Tag Archives: forgiveness

Recommended: Jeff Crippen: Why is Forgiveness Even Possible?

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Here’s another article on forgiveness that clarifies Jeff’s teaching on the subject a bit more:

In my ongoing discussion of forgiveness, I am challenging much of the contemporary thinking among Christians regarding this important subject. I trust that all of you realize (and I think that you do) that when I maintain that because God does not forgive His enemies (they must bow and humbly repent of sin and confess Christ as Lord and Savior, thus laying down arms against God), I do not mean that we are to remain hateful and vengeful toward those who sin against us and who, in fact, are our enemies. No. We are to reflect God’s own character in dealing with them. He does good to them, and so must we. He tells us to pray for them. We are not to seek personal vengeance, but to leave that to God. But what I mean is that in all of this, we do not declare that they are no longer our enemy, when in fact, they are. They continue the warfare. And I address this because so many victims of abuse are being told that forgiveness means that they must no longer regard their abuser as their enemy, which is simply a denial of reality.

Personally, I think it goes without saying that only God can truly forgive sins but then I’ve been accused of saying much worse so there’s always that. You never know what sort of crazy ideas people might get these days.

You’ll find the rest of the article here and I’ll go insert a link into yesterday’s post just for fun.

Forgiveness Matters

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These days, we’ve got some mighty squishy ideas about forgiveness.

Jeff Crippen recently wrote another brain-niggling article over at A Cry for Justice titled,  The Lord is Merciful and Gracious but He Does Not Forgive His Enemies:

Every victim of abuse, especially Christians, know what it is like to be pushed and prodded with “as a Christian, you are required by God to forgive your abuser.” Too often this pressure includes the demand that the victim reconcile with the abuser, and it leads to being deceived by the typical false repentance abusers love to claim for themselves. Here is the principle:

“God does not forgive His enemies. He never has, and He never will. As His children in Christ, we are to reflect His character and attributes. Therefore, this has profound implications for how we deal with our enemies, who are also the enemies of the Lord.”

And a followup article here to clarify a bit more:

Now, think about this. Do YOU have authority to forgive sin? I mean, do you possess that authority and ability within your own self, simply because you are you? No. Any authority given to any human being to forgive sin is really authority that resides in Christ alone. When we pronounce a person’s sins forgiven, it is only because we do so by the authority of the Word of God. The sinner is not forgiven because of my words, but because of Christ. This is why there is forgiveness only in Christ and nowhere else. Ultimately, if a person will not have Christ, then their sins remain unforgiven. Only Christ can forgive sin, and He can do so only because of His work of redemption for us.

Acts 26:19-21, Matthew 3:7-8

First off, let’s make a distinction between those who genuinely repent and, as a result, bring forth works of repentance. These we are urged–make that, required to forgive if we want our own sins forgiven when we repent ourselves.

As believers in Christ, we have repented right? We’ve agreed with God that our selfish, unloving actions harm others. We’ve agreed with God that His authority on the matter is righteous no matter how much we might squirm, no matter how we try to justify our gluttony, gossip, lust or murder. If we have not repented, the point is mute. If we continue to cling to our own sin, thinking we know better than our Creator, all bets are off,  just saying.

But when we approach the throne in genuine repentance, willing to accept the consequences of our actions here on earth, ready and willing to make full restitution for the harm we’ve done, fully trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus to restore us to fellowship with the Father, then we must forgive those who have done the same.

Apologizing is fine when you bump someone in the checkout line. It’s great when you’re late to a doctor’s appointment and the nurse looks pissed whilst holding instruments both sharp and pointy. In fact, it’s a really good idea for all manner of thoughtless bumping about in any area of everyday life. But an apology is not sufficient when we sin against each other.

I’m sorry but saying sorry does not equal repentance.

In this day of  inch-deep, pop-christian culture, apologizing is nothing but cheap emotional blackmail to lure the naive and undiscerning into dropping their guard for a better shot on the next go-round.

By definition, an enemy  has not repented. They took up arms against us, intent on our harm and destruction and the fact that they are still an enemy means they have not laid them down. They do not believe they need to repent and they will rip us apart at the first glimmering opportunity. In fact, they fully believe they are justified in their actions and if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll see the apology dance as just one more weapon in an overstuffed arsenal.

The Priesthood of the Saints

I’ve come to see forgiveness as a sacrament– something extended to others as part of our inheritance and position in Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus said this:

John 20: 22, 23

22 And having said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit!

23 [Now having received the Holy Spirit, and being [b]led and directed by Him] if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.

Its a lot harder to discern true repentance and to struggle before the throne with our responsibility as a child of the King. Instead of offering a blanket of easy forgiveness for every offense, how about we trot ourselves into our Father’s presence and present our case?

What if this Christian life is more than just a sanctified spreadsheet of good works to check off before departure? ( Forgive everybody? check. Love my enemies? check. Cast out demons? check.) What if being a born again, child of God involves a relationship with our own High Priest where we must hear His voice, stay before Him until we know His heart and then faithfully obey His righteous judgements?

What if learning and growing in this intimate relationship with the Divine is the key to bringing the Kingdom of Heaven here to earth?

In no way does this negate our personal accountability before God. We are to guard our hearts, allowing Him the space and time to do His job and trusting that He will,  refusing to seek personal reckoning or vengeance and guarding against  a root of bitterness that might take hold and spring up, defiling many. These are all personal, internal, heart issues. Before our own Master we stand or fall. And so do our enemies.

Its a whole lot harder to wrestle with our own fallen nature, our own desire for vengeance, our anger, bitterness and wrath before the heavenly court.

Maybe it’s time we grow up.

Forgiveness and Other Silly Ideas

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For the last week, I’ve been hanging. Just sitting. Sometimes the excitement bumps over so I thought I’d share.

I’ve read other blogs and commented lightly, kept up with emails, done a little work for a new friend. At the moment, I’m eating eggs and spinach. If envy hasn’t swamped your boat just yet, give it a minute.

*pause and think calmly whilst I finish eggs*

Thoughts go running by, most of which are not the least bit naughty. I killed several spiders but did not think badly of them for hiding in my covers preparing to nibble my flesh.  I took a few cleansing breaths before sending them on to spider heaven. I did not hold their wicked ways against them for, you see, that’s how spiders are. The very nature of spiderhood involves skulking and nibbling. You can’t fault a spider for acting like an arachnid.

I took several walks of a tranquil and peaceful nature and was sniffed inappropriately by a dog. This is not funny. In fact, it’s quite invasive. My thoughts remained all peaceful and stuff for, after all, dogs sniff. They tend to like aromas of a personal nature. They lick their backsides for goodness sake. I hold no grudge against this or any other pup for sniffing inconveniently. I did, however, glare at the owner who should  have used a regular leash instead of a twenty foot retractable line particularly with a dog prone to olfactory mishaps. After a few moments of near-naughtiness, I moved on with my life.

Ida Mae (you may be asking)—this is way cool but why-oh-why are you tormenting  us with the minutia of your serene and peaceful ordinariness?

*pause and discuss amongst yourselves whilst I get tea*

 

The Part Where The Accuser of the Brethren Shifts Blame. We are all Quite Shocked Really.

When I left the beast, I was accused of many things. Most are not appropriate for a PG-13 blog such as this, however two of the most common (and least interesting) come to mind.

  • I was told the anti-husband was not angry, no sir. Indeed, I was the one with anger issues. I even received a book in the mail on just this subject from one of his helpful new friends.
  • I was accused of the sin of unforgiveness and informed that I would not have my own sins forgiven. (The beast is quite helpful with it comes to scriptural interpretations and such, especially as applied to my flawed and deficient selfhood.)

Because I really do care, these accusations bother me. I do not want to be a bitter, angry woman going through life biting the heads off small animals. So what’s a girl to do?

This one prays a bunch. I ask the Father to reveal those things hidden in my heart He doesn’t much like. Through long years of association, I know He’s faithful to do just that. Most recently, He released me from this fear that I’m carrying about  a root of bitterness inside a heart too hard to know any different.

Let’s Be Clear

For decades now, I’ve taught the kids we are not responsible for someone else’s behavior. We are only responsible for our reaction to that behavior.

Be angry– sin not.

Anger in its purest form is not a sin. It is neutral, like any other emotion in a range the Lord provided. God gets plenty angry. Just like everything else, anger has a purpose.

We all know anger can be  mishandled. “Do not let the sun go down on  your wrath.” Right?  Anger dwelt upon, buried deep, allowed to ferment below the surface can lead to sin. The scripture describes this as a root of bitterness, springing up, defiling many. Pretty accurate description all around.

So am I angry? Not really. In fact, I had to *become* angry before I could find the motivation to finally leave.

I needed the energy, the force, the strength within the emotion to propel me to righteousness—to doing right actions. The fancy term for this is righteous indignation. I had to stop making excuses for inexcusable behavior, force my eyes wide-open to see the wrong done to my children. I had to get up and walk out, knowing I was right to remove them from the reach of someone who continually and purposefully harmed them at every opportunity.

But I do not live in a state of perpetual rage. I’ve got my moments sure but anger is not my go-to emotion. When I see injustice I feel sorrow. When I hear another victim’s story, I feel their pain within my own. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I figure their mommy didn’t teach them any better.

And when I recall abusive events, I bleed. I am not an angry person.

Unforgiveness?

Forgiveness is another matter.  I firmly believe half the reason I couldn’t  get free of abuse? Too much forgiveness.

*lets pause and think calmly on this whilst you put away your stones*

Our definition of forgiveness is much too squishy. My definition of forgiveness followed the typical party line:

  • Make Excuses
  • Find a Rational (rotten childhood, poor upbringing)
  • Forget (pretentious really but most of us are pretty good at faking)
  • Wipe the Slate Clean
  • Move on and Keep Quiet (never mention it again)

Forgiveness doesn’t broadly encompass all topics. We need to make finer distinctions. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation nor is it co-joined with a case of self-induced amnesia.

We do not become suddenly stupid.

I forgave on a regular and continual basis. I did not hold a record of accounts nor did I demand repayment. In fact, with every infraction, we started all over. The problem here is the beast never actually repented nor did he *ask* for forgiveness. How could he when he believed he did no wrong? He was sorry all right—sorry he got caught, sorry I was upset, sorry I was rocking his boat with my feelings. He wanted me to shut up and move on so he could go back to doing the exact same thing, over and over and over.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Reconciling with someone who has not changed, nor has the slightest inclination to do so
  • Pretending nothing ever happened
  • Giving someone a free pass to start all over with no account for past behavior

Forgiveness means we do not pursue our own course of vengeance but turn the matter over to the Heavenly Court. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Sometimes we forget that second part.

Our Father has promised to repay our enemies. When we forgive, we let go and let God be Who He is– Righteous King and Judge. We can do this because we believe and acknowledge His position, power and authority and we trust His wisdom and timing.

This whole subject of forgiveness came to a screeching crescendo in my mind and heart when a dear friend of mine stepped way outside her comfort zone and shared her agonizing story. Right now, she  is going through her own version of hell. In fact, she endured yet another slapdown just this morning.

Years ago, she found herself in a tight spot and took something that belonged to another. In time, she was caught and sentenced. She spent years faithfully repaying her debt. There is no doubt she repented and has offered her heartfelt apology again and again. The aggrieved party,  however, will not let go. This person hounds and pursues,  intent on destroying her life, livelihood, and peace of mind.

The former victim has become the abuser.

That’s unforgiveness.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

I have forgiven the beast but this time around, my eyes remained wide open. I recognize he has never repented. He has never acknowledged the sin of abusing, berating, and bullying his own family on a broad scale, much less apologized for the hundreds and hundreds of incidents he created along the way to punish us for our many sins against him. He fully believes that everything is the fault of one person and one person only (and that would be me.) Even now, when no one from his immediate family will have a thing to do with him, he refuses to accept any responsibility.

That’s fine. It’s now between him and his Maker. Someday, he will answer for what he’s done.

Perhaps with time, he’ll actually repent. That’s fine too, but I’m not counting on it.

After all, what can you expect? Like spiders and dogs, he just did what came natural.