Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I should have seen it coming. You have to practice what you preach. I have been touting forgiveness to my teenager for a week. So why be surprised when I am faced with a situation that requires forgiving someone who is not sorry. Of course, I would be presented with a large portion of crow. Shocked and dismayed…I know in that moment the enemy chuckled. I have to make a choice. One I do not want to make…will I choose to be angry with this person who has offended me so or will I quickly forgive and move on. As I stumble over my flesh realizing that I am not as far in the race of faith as I once thought, I begin to recite all the scripture I know about forgiveness. It is a command not a suggestion. It is beneficial and crucial yet critical to my pride and fatal to my flesh. How can I just let this go? It is wrong. It is hateful. It is mean spirited. It is judgmental. Tears of frustration fill my eyes as I am sitting on the outside while standing on the inside. I must forgive the person as though my life depends upon it or risk becoming who they are in this moment sitting in the same bitterness, caught up in the past, held captive in hatred, and imprisoned by the wrath so wrapped up in their heart. What do you do when you just can’t get over it?
I am “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love.” Oh my goodness, this is so hard sometimes. People are people. We are imperfect yet called by a perfect Savior and flawless God to walk in His Image and live by His Example which is love, mercy and grace in all things towards all people. I would love to fall back on the fact that I am not God or selfless like Jesus but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Jesus lives inside of me. He is my new nature. His Spirit works to nurture, develop, and cultivate good fruit in the barrenness that once possessed me. I want to bear His Fruit. To be a good steward. To be a vessel from which a good harvest overflows…but my heart is angry and emotions all stirred up. I find that the fertile and broken heart is not always void of rocks and hard spots that need my attention. I am called to longsuffering but would like nothing more than to make someone suffer by my harsh words, mad retort, or not so gentle rebuffing. The Spirit of God says, “Let it go!” My flesh says, “Not so fast…” The inner turmoil begins.
Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
How low can you go? It’s not a limbo term anymore but a question for my inner person. The one who wants to be like Christ but struggles with human weakness. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Love them. I do love them or maybe I should say in this moment of anger that I did. Friends can become enemies quickly in the shadow of hurt, harsh words, betrayal or even a simple misunderstanding. I tell my kids to ignore the offenses of others as I trip over my own tongue today. “Don’t make none and there won’t be none” has been my mantra that now hangs like a heavy mantle around my neck as it tightens into a noose.
2 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NKJV) For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Are you harboring unforgiveness in a fugitive heart today? Caught up in anger that is burning into hatred? Do you feel that an injustice has been done and you deserve retribution? Vengeance is mind says the Lord but is your flesh rallying to take the upper hand? Did you know that the enemy of our soul uses such a weapon to take advantage of us because we are ignorant of his devices? Satan wants to trick you into not forgiving so he can steal something from you today. He wants to get you caught up in words or tangled in lies so he can rob you of the love, joy and peace so heavily invested in you by Christ. Is it working?
“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.” It doesn’t matter how wrong the other person was or how right you are, you become an enemy of their soul by choosing unforgiveness over longsuffering. The Light that shines within us grows slightly dimmer until it is snuffed out by our unwillingness to let a trespass go in the same sea of forgetfulness that our sin drifted away on. The Salt of our spirit becomes tasteless and useless when our season brings about hardness in the mine called our heart. I must forgive others simply because I am forgiven. What I bind on the earth is bound in heaven and that which I loose is free to go. (Matthew 18:18) When I shackle someone in their trespass, I am no different than Saul who persecuted Christians and murdered them for their belief. Lord, I must forgive. Teach me to be longsuffering. Help me to remain free and loose others from the expectation I have placed on them.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
There may be a more significant meaning to seventy times seven which many commentaries can elaborate on but for this particular instance let’s say it means 490 times. Can you think of anyone you have forgiven that many times consistently without throwing the towel in or walking away? Truly forgiveness but become an infinite quality in our Christian character be reflect the grace of God given to us. But how do we continually forgive other people and not become a human doormat? That’s the fear isn’t it? The idea of losing our identity in the giving of our life to others. Maybe that is exactly what becoming like Christ is all about? Giving up our identity to be a true reflection of who He is and what He has done for us. I know that Jesus has forgiven me more than 490 times and the count is steadily rising. Forgiveness is a commitment to love others more than ourselves. Jesus say that there is no greater love than to lay our life down for a friend. I don’t think that the Lord intended for us to have any enemies but one. The Kingdom is built of men and women bound together in unity and love. The enemy seeks to destroy the Kingdom beginning with the bitter root marked unforgiveness.
Luke 7:46-48 (NKJV) You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
As my heart softens in the Lord today, I am reminded of the woman who entered a room to face the judgmental glares of the Sanhedrin because she wanted to anoint Jesus with oil. Jesus forgave her of her sins and named her an example of one who has been forgiven much. To whom little is forgiven the same loves little. I have been forgiven much and sometimes I forget that when faced with an offense. I choose to be offended or hurt and throw up a wall around my heart. But that only limits me, I have been given unconditional and abounding love and grace by Jesus. I can live in it, walk in it and rejoice because of it even when others do not meet my expectation or hurt me because I have taken my expectation from others and placed it fully in Jesus Christ. Those times when unforgiveness rears its ugly head is only a reminder of how much more I need Him than the day before.
It has been established that it is easier to say, “Arise and walk” then “your sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness crucifies pride and moves us to our rightful position behind Jesus and others. Isn’t that what they say true joy is all about Jesus, others and you? I have to be reminded sometimes that it is not all about me and maybe just maybe if I choose to love rather than convict – it may make a difference in others. I am called to be Light in this dark world. Of course, the enemy will try to put that light out at every given opportunity. I choose today to forgive. I will have to remind myself of this very thing throughout the day when offered bitterness and anger toward the person who hurt me. I must choose love and grace because that is where I live and breathe. I will walk in freedom and work to keep the other person free not by binding them in my judgment or condemnation but continually praying for their blessing and freedom in Christ. Ugh! It’s a hard one. It’s a choice. It is not about me but my commitment to Christ so I will forgive.
Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”