Thursday, September 13, 2012

What It's All About

I don’t want to!  I shouldn’t have to!  She doesn’t deserve it!  Not yet!  I don’t feel like it!  He didn’t even say he was sorry!  Oh, how many times we have repeated these words to ourselves to justify our inaction…the inaction that should cause us to stop and examine our hearts.  This is the hardest part about being a Christ follower (in my opinion) and sometimes, it’s the LEAST fun part!  But when I actually do it right (more often than not, I botch this up BIG), I’m amazed at how wonderful it is and how much good can come from it.  So, what am I talking about?  It’s the dreaded word -- forgiveness*groan*

Last time I posted, I talked about the first layer of God’s clothing that we should be wearing, which was compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  As if that isn’t hard enough, we’re told that there is another layer.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  And it’s even harder!  Take a look…

"Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Colossians 3:13

 That’s one really short verse that packs a pretty mighty punch.  In short, God is telling me – If someone does something wrong towards you, you are to forgive him immediately.  Not only that but I’m to bear with other people – what does that mean?  And, oh by the way Melissa, if you don’t forgive others – remember that the Lord has forgiven you and you didn’t deserve it.  Ouch!  Like I said, it’s not easy.

So, what does it mean to “bear with one another”?  Another word could be to endure with one another or to put up with one another.  No, that doesn’t mean rolling your eyes every time that bothersome person looks away or telling every one what a royal loser that person is and how messed up she is.  To put up with another in love means to endure the sins of another, realizing the sins that you have as well.  You know, it can be really hard for me to be around an annoying person. It’s hard to act like I care – very wrong of me. When I’m tempted to do the “eye roll” or the sigh (you know what I’m talking about), I should really think about how many times I, Melissa, am the annoying one that is hard to “bear with”.  That gives me something to think about.  Ouch, again…

The next part says to “forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”  Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff...and the hard part.  Let me clarify.  This does NOT mean that I can wait to forgive a person once they realize that they are sorry for what they’ve done.  This does NOT mean saying, “I forgive you,” and then continuing to treat that person as though you haven’t forgiven them – because you really haven’t, if you’re still treating them that way.  By the way, if you struggle with this one (I do), then the sin is on you – not the other person.  Ouch, three times!  This does NOT mean holding every little speck of wrong done against you close to your heart and waiting for that person to repent of those sins.

So, what does it mean?  Forgiving one another means to realize that we are also in need of forgiveness.  Typical Bible answer but think about it.  How many times have you been mad at someone for all the many things they have done to you?  Me personally, I find it really easy to look at that person and judge and condemn and make them inferior in my mind because after all – How could they?  How could they do that to ME?  So, how many times have you done that – only to find out later that you have been just as guilty in the situation as they are, maybe more? 

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten upset at Shawn for not doing something – only to find out that I had dropped the ball BIG TIME in other ways that same day!  Sometimes, I am such a hypocrite!  Now, my sweet, loving husband always apologizes to me for what he’s done and I start to feel pretty superior.  After all, I’ve shown him his wrong and now he’s so sorry he’s done that to me.  I’m a good person because I’ve forgiven him.  (Or have I?)  I need a pat on the back!  *Even as I write this, I’m ashamed to think that I do this sometimes.*  After Shawn apologizes to me, I often later realize the wrong that I have also committed that he NEVER confronted me about – and I find myself shamefully crawling into the other room to tell him I’m sorry. 

So, moral of the story:  Don’t withhold forgiveness from someone because you think they don’t deserve it.  I GUARANTEE that if you look closely, you’ll also be in need of forgiveness!  Actually, I can almost promise that…especially if this unforgiveness has been hanging around for awhile. Just the "unforgiveness factor" is in need of forgiveness – does that make sense?  Believe me, if you struggle with this – you are NOT alone.  There is at least one more person who struggles with this…and that would be me.  So, don’t beat yourself up.  Pray about it and be more ready to forgive!

The verse ends by saying, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  The end.  It’s that simple!  It doesn’t matter if that person doesn’t deserve forgiveness, in your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if that person isn’t sorry.  It doesn’t matter if that person has wronged you 500 times, in the same way.  It doesn’t matter – period.  Because we have to remember that WE don’t deserve forgiveness, WE don’t act sorry, and WE have wronged Christ many more than 500 times – and WE ARE STILL FORGIVEN!!!  Let me repeat that – We are still forgiven and we don’t deserve it at all!  Thank God that He doesn’t look at my actions and treat me the same way that I treat others!

You know, Shawn and I were talking about forgiveness the other day.  I’m pretty sure it was after one of those times that I came crawling into the room. I was honest and told him that I really struggle with this, especially towards people close to me - why is that always the case?  He said, “I know you do and I’ve been praying for you.”  Wow…here I am, treating him as though he’s inferior to me and I’m the one that’s been the subject of prayer.  Ouch, four times!  Anyway, we were talking about this and I asked Shawn to keep praying for me.  He said, “I will, honey.”  Later in the conversation, he said something that has been etched into my mind.  He said, “Forgiveness is really what Christianity is all about.  If you can't forgive others, then you're missing one of the most important parts of Christianity.  This is so true. This is what sets apart a Christ follower from another who does not love the Lord.  I doubt that I will ever be perfect, especially not at forgiving others.  But, I don’t EVER want someone to look at me and question my faith or my witness of my Savior because of my unforgiving heart.

So, if you struggle with this – don’t hang your head.  Rather, lift it up to the One who can heal your unforgiving heart.  I promise you won’t be the only one saying that prayer.  *smile*

"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord.  "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."  Isaiah 1:18

Happy Forgiving!

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