This week's 'thoughts' come from a British lady named Joyce Huggett, and are taken from her book, "All Through the Year." They have to do with one of the most difficult of all biblical commands -- the command to forgive others, as well as the command to believe the promise of forgiveness (the Gospel) for ourselves.
And if you're wondering if the the first of these thoughts (about forgiving others) might apply to you, it doesn't usually take much time. For when we harbor unforgiveness, a person, or a face, or a memory usually pops up within just a few seconds of even hearing the challenge to do so. One may have popped up for you while you were reading that sentence, reminding you of the need to forgive someone, or forgive them again. Because as I have learned, in cases of deep hurt or offense, forgiveness usually involves more than a one time, "I forgive them." It involves an ongoing commitment to release the person from what we believe is our justifiable right to harbor anger, retaliate, desire them harm, or refuse them the grace of forgiveness.
And I say, "the grace of forgiveness," because oftentimes it's a forgiveness they don't deserve, and grace is undeserved favor. It means extending a grace which allows us to practice the very difficult obedience of "forgiving others as God in Christ has forgiven us" (Eph. 4:32 / Matt. 6:14-15).
The second thought also addresses something difficult for us to do (as I pointed out in my message on Sunday). It's the difficulty believers often have in fully accepting the forgiveness Christ secured for them on the cross when He poured out His life-blood unto death to atone for all of their sins -- even the worst ones. Something that is often much harder for us to do than we tend to think.
These thoughts, then, address both aspects of forgiveness: The need for believers to forgive others, and the need for those same believers to fully embrace and accept the forgiveness Christ purchased for them. Enjoy.
" 'I don't get mad. I just get even.' We smile when slogans like that greet us from the back window of people's cars. Yet such tit-for-tat thinking is part of the clutter which sometimes hinders our prayer, because it is incompatible with Jesus' teaching on forgiveness. To forgive means to let go of resentment and bitterness, hatred and anger. To forgive means to let the offending person off the hook. To forgive means to cancel the debt we feel they owe us. To forgive is therefore extremely costly. And it happens in stages.
Forgiveness begins by feeling the full brunt of the pain and recognising that we have every reason to feel hurt as well as every right to want to retaliate; to hit back; to hurt as we've been hurt. But forgiveness continues by making a deliberate choice to refuse to exercise that right. By engaging the will, forgiveness drops any accusations we might wish to make and switches off the gas which has kept our anger simmering. Yet forgiveness goes even further. While refusing to deny that we have been hurt, it searches for acceptable and significant ways of serving the one who harmed us in the first place. This, as least, is forgiveness following the pattern of Jesus."
Sometimes we forget that forgiveness (in Christian circles) is defined by what Jesus did on the cross. And since it is, forgiveness means "paying for another the debt they deserve for their sins against us." That's what Jesus did to purchase and secure our forgiveness -- He paid the penalty for our offenses against God (which, as those who believe in the Trinity, means sins committed against Himself). He freed us from the penalty we deserve for our willful, and intentional, as well as unintentional, offenses against Him. That's what forgiveness is: Choosing, like Jesus, to pay the debt of sin, or cancel the debt of sins, which someone has committed against us -- hard as that always seems to be.
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Then Huggett moves on to what may be an equally difficult thing for us to do -- fully embrace and accept the complete forgiveness Christ purchased and secured on the cross for all who would ever place their faith and trust for salvation in Him.
"Introverts are good at confessing and bad at receiving forgiveness, particularly if they come from an evangelical background. I am an introvert, and an evangelical, and these words of Thomas Merton never cease to amaze me.
'We are not permitted to nurse a sense of guilt. We must fully and completely accept
and embrace His forgiveness and love. Guilt feeling and inferiority feeling before God
are expressions of selfishness, of self-centeredness. We give greater importance to
our little sinful self than to His immense and never-ending love. We must surrender
our guilt and our inferiority to Him. His goodness is greater than our badness. We
must accept His joy in loving and forgiving us (Heb. 12:2). It is healing grace to
surrender our sinfulness to His mercy.' "
With you in the battle to forgive and fully accept forgiveness