Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Forgive You. Now What?

I have a friend who is one of those critical thinkers you wish you could emulate. Especially when it comes to matters of faith, he routinely challenges my thinking.

He had a recent post about Forgiveness which caused a stir in my thinking. Perhaps it was because my approach to the holidays was so different from his. Who knows what kind of craziness goes through my head. In any case, the thing that struck me so heavily was the last line:

I do understand that you don’t put an alcoholic in a bar during the first week of AA but is that what God does with us?
-- Thoughts on Forgiveness

Now I don't think I have any more to forgive than anyone else, if anything it’s the other way around, but this is something I struggle with like anyone. And usually I think I tend to be okay in how I handle these things in my life. And then the holidays hit. That whole "I'm okay"-thing goes right out the window.

I was struggling with bitterness, self-doubt, and resentment. These things were eating me away and worming their disgusting way into my thoughts almost daily. For someone who works hard at being deliberate and in control of my thoughts, that's a hard thing to realize.

So as I do in times like that when it dawns on me how far in over my head I am, I went back to The Word. (If you can't tell that happens a lot.) In this case I was really only looking for how I was supposed to be handling things?. If I'm failing at handling these issues myself, surely there could be found some better instruction in His Word. And without fail I stumbled into more than I thought I needed. The first was in Hebrews:

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness. I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.
-- Hebrews 8:12

Here it was, the first step towards letting go my bitterness. It wasn't just another example of how I don't measure up to the grace of my Savior. This illustrated the direct tie between mercy and forgiveness. The forgiveness was one thing, but then to show them mercy by remembering the sins no more. This I could latch on to. It seemed so unnatural, so impossible to just forgive and move on. But when I realized that the moving on is an act of mercy it began to be palatable. After all, I'm no stranger to mercy (everything I need a lot of I tend to learn a lot about!).

Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.
-- Luke 6:36

So that clearly spoke to the issue Heitz raised. Our transgressions are in fact gone and that is forgiveness. But we don't just get forgiveness, we get mercy too. It's a package deal. The gift that keeps on giving.

The next couple verses in Romans are all about other aspects of forgiveness and how to forgive, but that was all I needed and more. I needed to recognize, acknowledge and be deliberate in my actions after offering forgiveness. Recognizing its relationship to mercy gave me keys to keep my Walk straight.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
-- Romans 12:18

Even with what I was struggling through, I still was seeking ways to make this true in my life. Inside I think I knew that most of my hang up was this feeling that I wasn't living at peace. It's like I knew I had forgiven but I didn't know what was next. And I just knew it wasn't right. It wasn't enough. It was never enough. Until I realized I also had to offer mercy. When you add mercy, it's enough. He is merciful, and He is always enough.

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