Tue, Sep 30th - 11:59PM
You know, I have been thinking about this for so long and from so many different angles, I am unsure where to start. For that reason, I simply will start spilling it. (after a very short prayer)
Forgiveness, you see, is not primarily for the person being forgiven. No, it is for the person who is giving the forgiveness and the fact that it is the only way to restore a relationship. Without forgiveness, relationships are blocked. Can you not see this? Many seem to be blind to this, and I certainly was for a long time.
I am just making an observation that has been enlightening for me. The fact is, I know why I frequently sin in certain ways. Others cause pain in my life. They may be aware of it, but they are not always. From the perspective of some, these things may be sin. From the perspective of others, it may not be wrong at all. Some are in response to pain I have caused them. Some are not. The only thing is, when they cause me pain and I choose not to forgive them, that is when I will do something else that is certainly sin.
Sometimes I lash out in ungodly anger. Sin. There is not a thought of any good that it is to accomplish. Just anger. Anger is not itself sin, mind you, but unbridled rage that serves no purpose in its expression, is. What, you think all anger is bad? Even God's rage is good for those who love Him and are called by His purpose, or do you not believe in exactly what Romans 8:28 says? If not, I suggest you grasp that very fundamental promise and claim it. It is a wellspring of strength in perplexing times.
Other times I retreat into one or another pastime that is designed to give me some sort of pleasure, but is totally devoid of any real value. I retreat. I do not interact. I deny. It could be playing games. That is not in and of itself bad. However, I can delve into them in an unhealthy way. For me games are both a strength and a weakness. This is still something I turn over in my mind to decide what is the correct way to deal with it. I am still sort of just running with this, honestly, and trying to work it for good. There is absolutely no rational reason to do this. But there you have it: a character flaw in the minds of some, but something I can honestly say I do not condemn myself for endlessly! Is this my thorn?
Other behaviors, equally wrong or at least not constructive and edifying are responses that are various blends of denial, rage and hedonism. I think for each of us, the blend that appeals to our fleshly nature is different. One is strong in one area, and another weak. Our lack of understanding and compassion leads us condemn instead of heal. Just because I am mentioning three here, does not mean there are not others. Remember the concept of the Body and how we are to bear each others' burdens? We are different parts that function very differently. What is hard for me, is easy for you. You carry what you can bear. I carry what I can, regardless of just who's burden it is.
Forgiveness is sometimes a cross we have to bear. It is not always easy, but it is commanded. Why do we refuse in this? What do we do to ourselves if we do? Read Luke 6:32-38 or Psalm 65:3.
You think that because we forgive someone, that they will become a better person? Well, maybe. But to set up that as an expectation may not always be correct. You will have a better chance of keeping the lines of communication open, but that does not mean they will hear or listen. They can respond to us much the same as mankind has responded to God in the past and continues to this day. Read Isaiah 26:10. It is sad. But grasp this, and still refuse to give up. Hope! And act on that hope.
How often? Well, I read Matt 18:21&22 along with Luke 17:3-5. It is given to me to say that if my brother sins against me once every two minutes or so while I am awake, I should forgive him. Maybe he repents. Maybe he does not. There is forgiveness and there is forgiveness. One is the outward expression of forgiveness. One is the internal act of forgiveness. The former, you might not give if that is what it takes for them to get some point. But despite that, give them the latter. Be as gracious as God has been to us. Our fleshly nature will try to twist us and make us go the other way. Outwardly we pretend to forgive, while internally, we have not even come close and hold something against someone.
Let me illustrate: In 1 Corr 5:1-12, Paul is telling the church to kick a brother out. Why? Well, one reason is that there is no understanding that this is wrong. Verse 2 says they were proud about this but should not have been. And this is for the good of all. Paul talks about the yeast working through the whole batch of dough in verse 6. Meaning that the entire body can be infected if they do not condemn this act they are holding up in pride saying "See just how loving and accepting we can be?" Wrong is still wrong. Although all of this is correct, I would say that the underlying motivation is even greater. It is for the salvation of the one lost sheep. Remember the "Good Shepherd" example and the one versus the ninety nine? Ah! Verse 5 has Paul saying to do this for this one man's salvation. He commands the rebuke that is strong enough to do what is needed. Will the rebuke always need to be this strong? No. But must be willing to rebuke the ones you love, just as God certainly can rebuke us directly and even as Christ commands us to rebuke our sinning brother. (back in Luke 17)
Was that the end? I don't feel it was. If that man repented, I think he should be accepted back. In 2 Corr, Paul instructs the church to take back in someone who has repented. It could be the very same man, but that is not a point worth arguing over. Someone repented and was taken back in, even at the risk of the "yeast" some may feel he could bring with him. In all of this, where was Paul's love of himself? Nowhere! Everywhere, even in the meanest thing that was done, was Paul's love for his brothers and sisters in Christ. All was done for their good, reflecting the very nature of God I told you to grab before!
In Ephesians Chapter 2 you have the progress we are to expect in verses 8-10. We do the good works after. Not before. Now are we going to still sin? If someone says "Never" they are lying, probably even about their own failings and hiding them. I have heard Galatians 5:19-21 used to condemn people "living in sin" when they are not living in it, but have fallen into it. If they are just living that sort of life, then this scripture applies. If their acts are not their expression of their lifestyle choice, but just a weakness they need help with, you are condemning yourself by condemning them. Why? Because you will be forced to hide in darkness your own hypocritical failings to "keep up appearances". You will have a form of Godliness but will be denying its power. Am I speaking strongly enough or do you wish to refute this?
Explain James 2:12-13 then. Or try 1 John 1:8-10. More pointedly James 5:19-20 says a brother can stray and be turned back and saved. Even if they "fell away" as some so politely try to say with an air of superiority.
How about explaining this one: Proverbs 24:16. This was under Mosaic Law, and still it says a righteous man falls seven times. If falling makes one unrighteous, then he would never have the hope needed to get up. Despair would rule, and we would worse off than under the Old form of the Law. Humble yourself a little bit when you see someone trapped in sin. If it is where you are strong and have the greatest fleshly tendency to judge them, they probably need your help. You can walk to the other side of the road, like the Priest. Or just understanding who you are, you can bind their wounds and take them to the inn. If it is something you struggle with, I will not say not to help them, I will just say that someone strong in that area really needs to be involved. That is biblical, but I'll let you look that one up.
Rebuke and Forgive. Both out of love. Never condemning.