The Economy of Forgiveness

Aaron’s uncle posted an article on Facebook that I will encourage every one of you to read. It can be found here: http://www.mbird.com/2015/09/from-the-magazine-the-losing-economy-of-forgiveness/ It is long and full of concepts that may be hard to understand. But it is truly a wonderful read. If you want to spare yourself some time, I will likely sum up the gist of it in this post.

The topic is forgiveness and how rarely humans truly give it. According to the Bible, forgiveness and love go hand-in-hand (Luke 7:47). That’s common knowledge and something we have heard many times. But if we truly analyze the principles that make up love, as described in the Bible, and apply those same words to forgiveness, would we be surprised?

Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13 in a beautiful way. I will take each trait of love and replace it with forgiveness. Ponder if you truly feel you can say these things are true in your life.

Forgiveness is patient, forgiveness is kind. It does not envy, boast, and is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Forgiveness does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and preserves.

Did that step on any toes? For me personally, the ones of being patient, not self-seeking, and keeping no record of wrongs really hit home.

Often times I find myself “giving” forgiveness as if I am handing out candy at Halloween. “Oh here, have some forgiveness.”     It’s certainly not that easy.

Sure, I may truly think I forgave someone, but then I find myself being frustrated by the traffic on the highway or the guy at Wendy’s who got my order wrong. I must realize that forgiving the big things will lead to forgiving the small things. If I truly haven’t forgiven my friend or family member who has wronged me, I am just harboring bitterness which will find an outlet elsewhere in my life. By extending forgiveness to those around us, we develop a different mindset. As it says in the article, “The world is no longer our own personal villain, but an unpredictable place full of people like us.” Remember that. The world is FULL of people just like us. That, in itself, deserves some grace because sweet Lord, that means there are many out there who are stretched thin, tired, pushing the envelope and a deadline.

Why then, is it so hard to forgive others? Put like that, it should be easy right?!  Forgiveness means surrendering the control we all too often pretend we have. This means the first thing I must do is ADMIT that things are beyond my control! Oh yeah, not happening.

I think this maybe one of the things in life I struggle with most. Relinquishing MY control over MY life to someone, anyone, else other than ME. In order to forgive someone, I must admit that I was not in control of their actions, thoughts, or words. I have to admit that each person has their own choice. And that means sometimes the choices they make affect me in a negative way. Obviously, if I had control of the situation or individual, they would not have done said thing that now requires forgiveness.

This also leads to the premise that much of our unforgiveness stems from a longing for and resentment at a world that doesn’t exist. Since we don’t have control over the world, it isn’t perfect in our eyes. Period. However, this doesn’t stop us from wanting that to be the case. There are millions of books sold and therapists seen in order to find the secret to creating the perfect life. It’s extremely hard for us, as individuals, to even grasp the concept that sometimes our good actions and intentions will go unwarranted to those around us.

The author brings up a valid point. In order to forgive, we must let go of our anger, which is often a hard thing to do. This is because often times we believe we benefit from our anger. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, a never-ending circle. He says, “Forgiving acknowledges the severity of the problem and surrenders its need to fix it.” It means being able to look at a person or situation that we don’t like, and accepting that fact that we don’t like it, but can’t change it. It’s tough. It’s like saying, “Even though you were an asshole, it’s not my problem; it’s your problem, and I’m not going to stay mad at you, because that’s you, not me.” WOW! If only I could view things from this perspective, life would be a lot happier place! Instead I find myself angry at the “asshole” instead of just accepting the harsh reality that someone did something I didn’t like.

How long should we continue to forgive? How many times is enough? When are we allowed to throw in the towel? The answer Christ gives us is never. Never. Ever. Our duty as his people is to constantly and unequivocally continue to forgive one another.

The biblical story of the prodigal son is known by Christians and nonbelievers alike. A son strays from his family, spending their money, tarnishing the family name, seeming to have no remorse for his actions. One day he finds himself returning home, scared of the reaction he will face when he does so. However, as a perfect example, we are told that he was forgiven.  When you think about it, it is a story of incredible restraint—all that hurt, all the wasted money, all the waiting. But none of that. There is instead only the embrace and the robe and the fatted calf. That is the kind of forgiveness we are called, mandated, to give.

The lack of forgiveness seen in our society is a large part of the reason that our country is going down the drain. I appreciate the justice system and fully understand and believe in our power as a people to exercise such rights. However, there are some things that we do that have been proven to be ineffective. Yet we continue to do so. Now if that’s not moronic, I don’t know what is. For example, how many people do each of us personally know that has been in trouble with the law because of some type of affiliation with drugs? Though some will argue the punishments for such offenders are not strong enough, other times they throw these people under the jail. I find myself asking, what good does that do?

I have a cousin who is a good guy, a loving father. He isn’t the most educated or successful business person, but he works hard. Yet he can’t seem to shake his drug habit. This causes the chemistry in his brain to react in a negative way and causes him to do things he otherwise wouldn’t do. I am not excusing his behavior in any form. However, I would think that if the system would extend him some mercy and grace and help him get clean, rather than throw him in jail with other substance users, he may be a little more likely to stay clean once he gets out.

We can lock up our enemies or try one more “tough love” measure, but not only will the measure fail us in the long run, it will eventually close off the roads to any kind of heartfelt reconciliation or hope. 

I will end this post with a thought from the article that I found most compelling.

Within the realm of grace, nothing is earned, but everything is given. 

I have received grace time and time again. I will continue to receive it every day of my life. I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. There is nothing I could do to either lose it or have more of it. I am supplied with the exact amount that I need for the day, no more, no less. If I receive such lucrative bounty from my Father in Heaven, can I not extend it to my fellow man as well? After all, we are all living together in this unpredictable place, and we are all alike in more ways than we realize.

 

Advertisements

Manna is Mercy

In John 6:31 Jesus equates himself to manna to the crowd. Manna is the bread that was given from God when the people of Israel were complaining of hunger. Though the Lord provided this bread for the people, it only lasted one day. After 24 hours, the manna would spoil and was no longer edible.

                At first you might think, why would God only give them bread to last for one day? What’s the use in that? The purpose was so that the Israelites were made to trust God each day for food. They fully relied on God. There was no use trying to save some manna for later. They were forced to divide it up and devour it in a single day.

How does this correlate with modern times?

                Christians receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God. These things are given freely. All we have to do is ask. His forgiveness is not finite. Each day, if we repent our sins of the day, they are automatically forgiven. It doesn’t matter the size, big or small sin is the same in the eyes of The Lord.

                Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

                As humans, sometimes we default to trying to stockpile our mercy and forgiveness. We think it would be best to save it for a rainy day; a day when we might be extra sinful. We may need all the mercy and forgiveness that we can get.

                Because of this, we find it hard and sometimes even refuse to give that mercy and forgiveness away to others. This is not how it should be. If our Lord’s mercies are new each morning, we should give away each bit of it that we have for today. We can trust that more will come when we wake.

                As Christians, we serve the one true God. The one who selflessly sent his ONLY son to die. For you, me, and each individual that you are reluctant to give forgiveness and mercy to. He could have kept his son on his rightful place of the throne. But instead he sent him down to earth to live as a human, a man who would work with his hands for a living. A man who would receive the worst treatment imaginable, only for telling the truth and trying to help those in the world.

                Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Our God gave it all. Christ gave it all.

                There is no other religion that I know of that can say such a thing. To have a leader so selfless and giving of himself. What a blessing that is.

                And all we are asked to do is to love the people we love, and the ones we don’t. Respect the people we already do, and those we don’t. Educate ourselves in His Word, and tell others so that they may receive the same gift we have.

We have it easy. So very easy. All we have to do is want it. The gift is there for the taking.

God never moves. He remains a constant help and presence within our lives. If you find yourself drifting away from God, or not as close as you should be, it is not because he moved. You need to bring yourself back to where you belong in your Father’s arms.

If you think your life is hard, when you have a bad day, when you know you have been treated unfairly and gotten the short end of the stick…think of Jesus. Think of all he went through. As unbareable and unimaginable as it is. He did it for you. And me. He did it for those who whipped him, beat him, spat on him. In his final breaths he forgave them.

When you think you can’t forgive, when you are holding a powerful grudge…remember Philippians 4:13 and know that Christ’s power is in you. You have the ability to forgive and show mercy. You may not want to think you do. You may deny them because they don’t deserve it. But remember, neither did you. You have the strength of Christ that allows you to forgive, just as he did. Therefore you must exercise that strength.                        

Sweet Time

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roOP29KVaAo

It seems that recently I have been in tune with the purpose of my life. I don’t know how much I believe in irony, but I know that my Lord has a sense of humor. And he has started to humor me on the daily. Today this realization came through the words of a song.

This song is me. Me being narcissistic. Me being egotistical. Me being controlling. Me being independent.

See, our society tells us that being independent is a good thing. Being able to do things on our own is admirable. But I am here to tell you that that is not the way we were intended to be. Shortly after Adam’s first breaths, he gained a companion. You see, we aren’t meant to go at this alone. Alone is a lonely place. There is a nice saying, and I am not sure by who that says “I don’t want to be alone, I want to be left alone.” How true. Loneliness is a choice.

However, with relationships of any kind comes chaos. And for a lot of people, that chaos is uncomfortable. We are always looking for that balance. We just want things to be “normal”. Angela Thomas says that we have an “illusion of balance”. You see, the happiness found in this balance and control doesn’t exist. 

As for the chaos that comes with these other people…that is something else that is hard to handle. However, as humans we do have a bit of a choice. We can choose to live our lives in solidarity and hope that chaos and stress will leave us be. Or we can love our neighbor, our friend, and our family and be guaranteed to be bombarded and overwhelmed at times. As for me, I would choose my loves every time. Every single time. I couldn’t imagine going a day alone. Without my mama or daddy, Aaron, Huck or Pearlie; as well as countless others. What kind of life would that be?! As Angela Thomas says, “When you are called to love lavishly and give generously, there isn’t going to be any external balance on this earth.” In other words, make a choice and live with it!

I encourage you to click the link and listen, but if you didn’t, the gist of the song I posted is that we tell the Lord to take his sweet time, but yet in the same breath are giving Him criterion that must be met in order for us to be happy. This just reminded me how sweet my Father’s timing is. Everything, and I mean Every Thing, happens for a reason, according to the plan, and on time. It may not be according to MY timing, which may mean that it comes as a shock to me. But I can assure you that it does not shock my God. He has a plan for me and my life. A plan in which I am the main character. My course is mapped out. If I am stubborn and constantly wanting my way instead of God’s way, of course my plans will be ruined!

I can’t put stipulations on my God. It doesn’t work. I can’t make someone stay in my life just like I can’t force them to leave. At all times I must learn to say “Thy will be done”. I don’t have to constantly be on the lookout for anyone or anything. I need only focus on one thing and that is the glorification of God. If I do that, he will take care of the rest. He is my daddy. And he WILL take care of me. There is no need for me to tell my Father what my perfect friend, relative, or significant other will “look” like. HE knows. He made them. For me. And all I have to do is wait. Wait on for His sweet time. I can rest in that thought.