I have been a Christian for a while. When I am talking to a new believer or an unbeliever about the concepts in Scripture that orient our faith, there are some ideas that are more difficult to swallow than others. I love to lead with how powerful God is, how much He loves us, and how He has broken the power of sin and death! There is healing available for heart issues and physical issues because of His wonderous affection and authority! All of this is easy to celebrate and embrace.
Now, faith to go and do what we don’t understand or want to do, that’s not so easy. Obedience, submission to Christ, not being in charge of your own self or your own resources, that’s a bit rough. Patience…I wonder if I will ever feel “good” with that one. Then, Scripture teaches us about patience in affliction…oh Lord! Help me!
One of the concepts that requires the most work from me personally is forgiveness. Forgiveness feels like letting people off the hook. Let me rephrase this…forgiveness IS letting people off the hook. There is something in my brain, when I quantify justice, that just can’t settle those accounts well with forgiveness on the scale. But the Lord’s ways are higher than my ways! He is the one who is actually holding accurate measurements of people’s credits and debits. When I sit and think about it, I realize that I have no idea and no right, but I do have to sit and think about it. Forgiveness, for “big” offenses has not yet become an auto response for me. It is something I do when I sit with Jesus.
Over the years, I have sat and forgiven people and organizations sometimes on repeat. It is a practice; a faith exercise for me. Sometimes it’s about as difficult as lifting a 2-pound dumbbell. Other times is feels like moving mountains. Here are a few things I’ve learned that makes forgiveness a bit easier.
I forgive more readily when I keep my own past debts in mind. As a Christian, I live set free! I praise and worship freely because I used to be in bondage in so many ways. I know that my sins could never have been repaid to earn a place in God’s kingdom. I have hurt people. I have housed malice in my heart. I have planned and acted on too many evils to count.
In comparison to some, I may seem like a good person (I don’t litter, I volunteer, I’ve never murdered anyone and I use my blinker), but by the Lord’s measurements, I fall WAY short of His perfect ways. When I keep in mind that the rule of thumb is not set by my standards, but by His, I realize that I have been forgiven much. It then makes it easier to forgive. Then, I can forgive more readily when in disagreement. I work to keep the door open.
There are times when I am not in good standing with a person, and I can feel a shift in the relationship coming. This person may move from a close friend to an acquaintance. It’s easy to feel justified to overshare about their offenses or to do something that essentially makes sure the door slams on their way out. With the Lord’s help, I seek to keep that door open. Sometimes I close it out of fear, hurt or fury. But when I take that pain to the Lord, He sends me back to the person to open the door again, even if I was the one receiving injustice. I send a note to check in, to let the person know I acknowledge their humanity and value. Sometimes, I even send an apology for my part in the break. That gesture, while not always well received, actually works on my heart. Then, if that person passes by in any setting, I know I’ve set the stage for healing, restoration, and possibility.
Lastly, forgiveness is easier when we ask for help. There are some hurts that I have needed an extra dose of God’s love in my own heart in order to heal. I could not forgive without God’s help, so I asked for it. A lot! There have been times when I had to ask for supernatural love for a person because the gap created by hurt was too large.
The amazing thing is that God can do it! He is the miracle worker and He works in us. The way to that healing was often frustrating, humiliating, and certainly not my way. But, if I follow His lead, I get there. He doesn’t force us into hard places without Him.
Lord, help us to forgive well today. Help us to see ourselves honestly and to know where there are still roots of bitterness in our own hearts. Give us a great love for Your creation, even those who have failed us. In Jesus name!
Candace Cortez is Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-582-1528.