29 August 2012

Forgiveness - Love's True Test 2


“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (Isaiah 43:25) Recently my attention was riveted by the phrase, “for my own sake” How does forgiveness affect the forgiver? God made this statement in between listing Israel's sins. What's going on here? This isn't the nice little verse I thought it was.

 I am a bloody mess but I know Christ fulfilled the conditions for me to become a child of God — Christ was the one who actually met all the conditions of faith without sinning, even as he lived his life through all the commonest, timeless temptations. But here’s the fine print: even though I am forgiven because of Christ, it doesn’t mean I am unattached. Now, I've become part of something bigger and better than I can even dream of.

Part of being accepted in the family of God is the obligation, not to feed the dog or do the dishes, but to love. There was a relationship formed between God and me when I was born anew. Being a new creation in Christ is never clearly understood at the outset: it's only through struggles (believe it or not) we gain spiritual growth.

When a woman bears a child, she’s discharged her duty: she’s gone through the months of pregnancy, discomfort and pain of labor and delivery. This is only the beginning for the mother and the child: not the end. There is no terminus to this relationship (not a healthy one). Once the child is born, she may be no longer carrying her/him but is now invisibly tied to the child through the bond that love brings.

One of the biggest struggles anyone faces is hatred—and deep and bitter unforgiveness may be its worst form. Having been wronged is deeply hurtful and it is our instinct to react in anger immediately, without thought, and often without control. But taking on the nature of God by forgiving, through His strength, is divine. For a lover of God, forgiving in this manner produces not only the great growth, but it also creates in us a bigger heart.

“I can’t forgive.” is the most often repeated phrases in my decades of mentoring people. It may be a sincere, but it's sad because the person never can grow. It's also inaccurate as it’s more truly stated as, “I don’t want to forgive, and I don’t want to even think about forgiving.” Yet, one of the things that God will do for certain is to give you the power to begin to ask for help to pray for forgiveness.
It means you need to grow up for it is the Forgiver who always carries the Forgiven, as the mother always carries the child. In life, when the forgiver forgives completely (though that is the only true forgiveness) he, in a sense, carries the forgiven one. In the carrying of him or her, becomes the stronger of the two.

There is after all, only one path back from sin / bad choices and that path must be built by two people. One party offers genuine contrition for his behaviors and attitudes, and the other offers full-bodied forgiveness. After this, the bond between them is strengthened. If not, if one party fails or is insincere, then the bridge cannot be completed on one side, and love cannot grow (but it can diminish).

After all, we don’t love because someone he/she is perfect (if that were true, we’d never love). We love because someone loves us, and that someone loves us for that intangible, mysterious reason: for who we are.

“Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? ... Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: "The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them." Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself." (Galatians 3, portions, The Message)
"... use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom." (Galatians 5, The Message)