Tag Archives: Matthew West

Forgiveness (part 1)

Life would be so much easier if it weren’t for all of us human beings.  We really make things complicated, don’t we?  We want to be right, we want to be in control and we want to do what we want to do.  And in the process we step on each other and somebody gets hurt.  And the hurts don’t just go away.  They build up.  And if it’s true that “hurt people hurt other people”, the problem multiplies.

If we have any hope of surviving as a human race, we desperately need to forgive one another.  And not just one time, but over and over and over again.  This isn’t just “I’m sorry” and move on.  “I’m sorry” feels a lot more like “I’m sorry I have to say this” or “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry you think I hurt you.”  I’m sorry, that’s not forgiveness.

Forgiveness starts with recognizing that we hurt someone and taking responsibility for it.  The scary part about asking for forgiveness is that the ball is in their court.  They can choose to forgive or to withhold forgiveness.  That’s probably why we’d rather say, “I’m sorry”, hoping that they’ll say, “It’s okay” and move on.  But it’s not okay.  The proverbial “toothpaste” is out of the tube and we can’t put it back in.

But it might be a lot worse than just hurtful words.  They might decide that we’re not a “safe” person.  They might forgive us, but they may choose to sever the relationship.  Reconciliation is not the same thing as forgiveness.  Reconciliation requires that both parties agree to go forward with the relationship.

And what if the shoe is on the other foot?  What if we’re the one who’s been hurt and we’ve been withholding forgiveness from someone?  We might think that, by not forgiving them, we’re taking revenge against them, hurting them like they’ve hurt us.  But what if they don’t even know that we’ve been hurt?  What if they’re oblivious to the whole thing?  St Augustine said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”  We’re the one being poisoned by the unforgiveness we’re holding onto.

On the flip side, Lewis B Smedes said in his book Forgive and Forget, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”  There may never be reconciliation of the relationship, but forgiving someone who has hurt us will actually set us free.

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

-Matthew West, “Forgiveness

Click here for Part 2

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In your anger…

So, I have a confession to make.  I have this issue.  I am easily offended.  Over and over again, all day long, I’m offended.  Because, after all, the world revolves around me, right?  Yep, it’s all about me.  And if you don’t give me the attention I think I deserve, or you respond more harshly than I thought necessary, or you didn’t memorize everything I just said, then I’m offended.  And my offense colors the rest of my day.  Kicks me right into a ditch.  And there I sit, paralyzed to do a darn thing.  And all for what?  Because I was offended.

I went to BibleGateway.com and looked up “offense”.  Over and over again, “offenses and sins” are referred to as one and the same.  And we’re told that if we repent and turn away from our offenses, we will surely live.  Could it be that, if “sin” is to miss the mark and turn away from God, “offense” could mean the same thing?  In Isaiah 44:22, God says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”  I love God’s remedy: repentance, turning around.  Simply turn back to Him.  He’s already paid the bill.

In Ephesians 4:26, the Apostle Paul says “In your anger do not sin” and continues in verse 27 with the reason why: “and do not give the devil a foothold.”  In our anger, if we turn away from God, we’re going to give the devil a foothold.  We’re going to do something destructive if we’re selfish and self-serving in our anger.  That’s the devil’s job description: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  But that same verse says that Jesus came to give us abundant life.  Only two choices: abundant life or destructive life.  When I chose offense, I was choosing the destructive life, paralyzed in that ditch.

So, why doesn’t Paul just say “don’t get angry”?  Isn’t anger itself a sin?  Nope.  We’re humans and we’re going to get angry.  Jesus got angry and he was perfect.  Anger doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  A lot of good is done because someone, somewhere, got angry.  Anger motivates.  Children are saved from human trafficking because someone got angry.  Slaves are freed because someone got angry.  The hungry are fed because someone got angry.

We live in a war zone.  This world is not the way God intended it.  I think Matthew West says it best in his song, “Do Something“:

So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

Instead of shaking our fists at Heaven, what would happen if we instead did what Jesus did when he got angry?  Jesus never sinned; he never turned away from God.  In his anger, he looked to his Father and said, “Dad, what should we do about this?”  That’s the kind of “sinless anger” that we’re called to.  Look to God and ask, “Dad, what should I do?”

Back to that issue of mine.  I am coming to believe that living in offense is living in sin, turned away from God, having my own pity party, all by myself.  I’m not looking to God saying, “Lord, I’m offended.  What should I do?”  I’m looking away from God, looking for an excuse to have that pity party.  I think that’s why we’re told over and over again to humble ourselves.  Pride is so destructive.  Like a two year old yanking away the broken toy protesting, “I do it myself.”

It takes humility to turn to God.  I don’t want to humble myself, but that’s exactly the right response.  Turn to God.  Get over myself.  Stop harboring that anger and hand my offense over to my Daddy in Heaven.  Realize how much grace I’ve been given and start handing out some of that grace.  I need to love that person the way I want to be loved.

“In your anger, do not sin”.  I believe that means, “You’re going to get angry, but don’t turn away from God.”  If in our anger we “sin” and turn away from God, taking up our own devices, really awful things can happen.  Instead, we can keep looking to God asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do with this anger?  How can we, together, transform this into something beautiful?” 

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11