Forgiveness

One morning on the way to work I reached for a sip of coffee and my cup was tangled in my charger cord, fell to the floorboard under my feet, and spilled coffee everywhere! I said a BAD word as I grabbed up my rolling cup, thankfully without causing an accident. I was immediately deeply grieved and apologized to the Father. I prayed that I would be so full of His nature that next time I’m bumped, what pours out of me is HIM.

What we are full of is what spills out when we are knocked over. My mug spilled coffee because that is what was in it. Not water, soda, or milk. It was filled with coffee. So coffee came out.

What came out of ME?? Certainly not what I want to be filled with! How did that even get in there?! That’s not how I normally respond, not words I usually use anymore, even in my head. But they were in there. Inside me. And they sure came out! I’m sure this has happened to you, as well. Maybe you were driving to work, and someone slammed on their brakes in front of you and you cussed them out and waved your fist. Maybe you were cooking dinner and something hot splattered on your arm and you yelled a word that shocked your kids or thew the spoon. Or that time you were getting ready for church and your child spilled their drink on your just ironed dress and you snapped at them or gave them a swat. We certainly wouldn’t respond in this way if we had time to think or plan our behavior. We are surely aware as long saved church goers that our sudden outbursts are against the nature of Christ and when it escapes it grieves us. Not to mention the pain it can cause in our relationships that then have to be repaired. We normally manage our behavior better, but sometimes “it” gets out around our good behavior barriers we have carefully constructed around our actions.

But why is that anger even there to bust out when we aren’t ready? Didn’t we get rid of that when we got saved? Haven’t we learned from the Bible that it’s wrong to hurt people? I mean, we know this stuff already. We’re the ones at the front of the church to pray with people who have problems with anger, we have already learned how to manage ours! We thought we were finished with such basic problems back in our “Jesus 101” life group as a baby Christian. How is it still able to squeeze out and attack like that!?

Anger is a protective barrier we use on instinct to protect ourselves. Ephesians 4:26 indicates that letting our anger carry over from the day we are offended to the next gives an opportunity to the devil. Later verse 29 says to let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths (uh, like cussing out that car?) but let all our words build up and give grace (help or benefit) to the hearer. And a little more down from there it says to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (shouting), and slander and instead replace those things with kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness as Christ forgave us. It seems unforgiveness is the root of our hidden anger.

It happens without us even noticing. We often go about our lives, even as mature Christians, receiving slights and abuse from others, intentionally or unintentionally, and we do our best to forgive as we go, or at least overlook the jabs from those around us. We know the word says to not let the sun go down on our anger (Eph 4:26) and to reconcile ourselves before bringing our gifts to God (Matt 5:23-24). We do our best to walk in forgiveness and not let things build up between us and our fellow man. After all, we KNOW in our head, our heart, and our spirit that we must forgive from the heart in order to truly accept the forgiveness of the Father. (Matthew 18:35) Matthew’s account of the words of Jesus detail how we should love the ones that have offended and abused us, even intentionally, and we are ever trying our best to follow His example. And yet, when we are suddenly jabbed, jostled, or bumped, we find ourselves exploding with anger and sometimes a string of words we forgot we even knew how to say. How do we reconcile that dichotomy inside ourselves? Where is the secret “angry” button that gets pushed and how do we get rid of it forever? Do we have to read more scripture? Pray more? Fast? Confess to our accountability partners and ask them to pray for our willpower to be stronger in our Christian walk? Anoint ourselves, home, and car with oil and pray away the devil? While these things may indeed be helpful, they are not the answer.

We should not at all worry to become stronger. We should indeed seek to be weaker. To remember that Jesus already delivered us from anger and gave us the victory over wrath, malice, anger, yelling, and cussing by his death and resurrection. His example of teaching us about the true meaning of forgiveness is helpful and glorious, but it’s our oneness with Him that is the key to our ultimate freedom. We look to Jesus to see how we overcome.

All throughout Ephesians 1 and 2 Paul tells us we are “in Christ”. When we decided to follow Jesus and gave ourselves up to Him, we were joined with Him spiritually. He in us and us in Him. Because we came to believe and trust in Him we were made free, not because we were able to be perfect. Ephesians 2:8 tells us we were saved because of our faith, not because of what we have done, but because it was a gift of God, not a result of our hard work and no one can brag that they can do it on their own. (definitely paraphrasing!) And look at Ephesians 4:21-24 where Paul is telling us that the truth is in Jesus and we can put off our old self (ways, thinking, behaviors) and He will renew our minds as we put on the new self- Jesus- that is true right thinking, behavior, and purity. Ya’ll! THAT’S the trick! The secret trap door to be rid of our pesky hidden angry button! To PUT ON Jesus! Which we have already done! When we put our trust in Him, when we surrendered and became a follower of the Jesus of the Bible, HE DID THAT for us! Right then! We cannot be perfect. We tried! We failed…we tried harder! We read more! We prayed more! We got better at changing our actions and making sure our behavior was worthy of our professed faith. But it’s not about how we try harder at watching our mouth or being nice when someone else is mean or abusive to us. It’s about the heart of Jesus IN US. He, himself, does the work for us, in us. When we realize He does the changing of our heart, not our concentrated effort, we can safely give up. Give it to Him and as we focus on HIM, and His ways, His ways become our ways. He can and work through us. We CAN truly forgive from the heart, because we have HIS heart within us to strengthen our spirit as we allow Him space in there to work.

The Bible gives us tools to help us let Jesus defeat unforgiveness in us so we can be totally free. If you have a problem with anger sneaking out and attacking strangers, loved ones, or rolling coffee mugs, you have a problem with unforgiveness. Somewhere. Let the Holy Spirit root it out for good with these tools from our handy dandy handbook He gave us called the Bible. Looking at the parable Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18:23-35 we can learn His path for forgiveness freedom. The earthly king takes account of the debts owed to him. Forgiveness requires taking an account. Hidden unforgiveness could be lurking beneath the surface because we never acknowledged the offense and instead buried it. Take it back out, look at it, see it. Show it to the Lord and give it to Him. In order to forgive, we have to admit there was something done to us.

Next, we learn that the servant could never ever repay what he owes the king. We can apply this to us by knowing that we cannot look to our offender to restore, compensate, or correct the wound. We will only experience more pain if we have that expectation.The king is angry! Anger is an expected and acceptable response to the enormity of the debt owed. We too will experience anger at injustice but we, like the king in the story, must release it before we are able to forgive.

The sincere apology and sense of indebtedness of the offender is not necessary for forgiveness, The servant prostrated himself and begged for patience so he could pay. But he couldn’t pay, it was an enormous and impossible debt he would never in a hundred lifetimes be able to repay. Nice thought, but it was a lie he spoke to save himself. The king knew it was impossible and chose to release the servant and forgive his debt. Our offender may never be truly repentant. We can choose to forgive anyway.

The king feels compassion. So should we. Compassion moved the king to forgive the unpayable debt. We must find compassion in order to truly forgive. The only way we can do that is to follow our pain all the way to the heart of Jesus and see His truth. From there, we can let the pain of the offense go and receive peace and compassion from the Spirit of God inside us.

Forgiveness releases us emotionally from the debt that is owed to us, but it may have no effect on the one forgiven. The king forgave the servant his debt, but the wicked servant then was unmerciful to his fellow servant over a much smaller debt. He had no sense of gratitude or compassion as a result of the forgiveness he had received. His heart was hard, and he was unchanged.

Jesus is telling Peter to forgive seventy times seven. Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be reconciliation or restitution. Forgiveness frees the giver. The giver is now transformed and free. The offenses of the forgiven will often continue, and we are not to keep count, as God does not keep count of ours. Seventy times seven means “too many to count” so don’t try, just forgive it. Build the habit of seeing the offense and choosing compassion to enable you to keep no lists of wrongs by releasing offenses as they happen. Let Jesus handle them. Don’t stuff them. Don’t pretend they don’t hurt. See them, give them to Jesus. And do not forget the offender that is responsible for the largest portion of our unresolved unforgiveness….ourselves. You must forgive you. Acknowledge your mistakes and offenses and bring them to Jesus too. Take note that some of those offenses are perceived offenses, better known as lies. We think we aren’t good enough at parenting, marriage, work performance, friendship, or being a Christ follower. Anything that doesn’t line up with what God says about you is a lie. He will never berate or condemn you. Even when He corrects, He restores in the same motion. He has already forgiven you. Forgiveness is a commandment and we do it out of obedience. That includes forgiving yourself.

When we walk in forgiveness, eyes focused on Jesus, trusting that He made us, saved us, loves us, and dwells within us, we are full of His Presence, and we cannot hold it in! It spills out of us even when we are not bumped!

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