I woke up this morning and had a good time with the Lord before focusing my attention on a challenging physical workout. By 8:15am I headed to a nice, long, luxurious bath–which always seems to be where I am still enough long enough for God to really get through to me. I heard him as clearly as if it were an audible voice (it wasn’t). Would I choose to forgive? Or will I only write about it?
In all my years, I have had the challenge of forgiving many things, but never have I been in a situation where it is likely that I would be called to continue to forgive someone(s) who would continue in their behavior without repenting or even being sorry. This is a first. (I have led a charmed existence, I realize!) Forgiving everything else–even for things that have wounded me deeply–seems mild in comparison. There is something challenging to my core about choosing to forgive something/someone(s) that is/are likely to be ongoing. And to know that Jesus calls me to forgive not 7 times, but 70 times 7 (the equivalent of an infinite number of times).
But if I am to pursue Christ, if I am to live as He calls me to, I know that I am without an option here. To choose not to forgive–even in the midst of ongoing wrong–is not only to resign myself to a life of anger and bitterness, but to deny Christ what he requires–that I forgive just as in Christ God has forgiven me.
How have I been forgiven? Constantly, repeatedly, even when I haven’t been sorry or truly repented. He paid for ALL my sin once for all. Not only that, but he has attributed righteousness to my account. This is unbelievable!
Look at these statements that come from Colossians 3:
1. I am chosen
2. I am a dearly loved child
3. I am wearing different clothing – that of compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and patience
4. The Lord forgave me
When I am aware of my identity as a chosen, dearly loved child, when I have cast off the clothing of my past with sin, shame, and vengeance, when I wear, instead, the clothing of Christ, when I am in touch with my own identity as a forgiven child myself…wow. Then I can only follow the Lord in His example and choose to forgive as well. How could I say no to him?
There is a sense where this step of forgiveness is as letting the one doing the wrong “off the hook,” but the truth is, what I am really doing is letting go of my “need” to control things. I am ultimately just prevailing upon God to take what is going on and to be God even in this. I am daring to believe that God will have his will and his way in me and in the one committing the wrong(s) and I believe, say, act: “It is well with my soul” and trust God that it will in actual FACT be “well with my soul.” (Huh…imagine that!)
The pressure is off, though. I am free from having to be clever and witty enough to convince the other of their wrong. I just let God be God in it and let His Holy Spirit move in His way, in His time. It doesn’t mean I don’t speak the truth in love, but once spoken, I allow the Spirit to be the HOLY Spirit and I step aside. Sometimes, it is all too easy to try to be the Holy Spirit for another brother or sister in Christ. I have to have to have to let go of my longing to control my world and the people in it. They are not pawns for me to do with as I please.
I don’t want to be hurt. And, certainly, there are times when godly boundaries must be established relative to repeat offenses. God alone can direct in each individual situation. Situations of physical abuse, for instance, or illegal activity–there is little question that these call for godly boundaries and quite probably getting out of the situation entirely (at least temporarily). There are still other situations in which the biblical mandate calls for bringing someone with me to lovingly confront the one sinning. If there is no repentance, then there are other steps that follow in succession, but even in these situations, we choose if we will forgive…or not.
In light of how great my sin has been and, even, continues to be today, how could I say no to the Lord when he asks me “Will you choose to forgive, child?”
Even as I stretched out against the jets in my tub this morning, the atmosphere muted by soft blue light and the sounds of nature music, with an act of my will I released my way — I said “Yes, I choose to forgive,” to the Lord…His peace descended and confirmed a thousand times over that what I chose in that moment of dying to myself was a gift–not to the one who needs forgiveness and doesn’t yet accept that–but to me. It was a gift given to me. A gift paid for by Jesus. Yes, his forgiveness OF me is a gift to me, most certainly, but I don’t think I ever realized just how much Him working in me to forgive another is a gift to me as well. I sensed shackles falling and my spirit rising. Truly, from the ashes I rise as I choose to forgive.
Practically speaking, I find myself not nearly so agitated, not wandering into the kitchen so often, not wanting something to numb my pain. Forgiveness really is the “magic bullet” for me in so many ways. I know that this process has only just begun during this season of my life, but I will choose to practice forgiveness again and again as often as I have opportunity. How could I say no?
How about you? Are you willing to let go and forgive…now?