May 6

Radical Forgiveness, Part 3

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Forgiveness is a foundational element in the universe, and a more significant act than we generally know. Like Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting, The Creation of Adam, we have a God who reached down and touched us. When He came to us individually, He could have come as Almighty God, King, Master, Provider, Judge, Friend, Brother, etc. He’s God and could have made His appearance in our lives in any way He chose. He chose to come as the One Who Forgives, and that is our first real contact with Him. We come to know Him when we receive His forgiveness. All true revelation of Who He is comes after meeting Him as the One Who Forgives.

If He put forgiveness at the forefront of His contact with us, as the spearhead of a real relationship with us, then we need to keep the issue of forgiveness always in the forefront of our concerns. After setting our hearts to forgive because “God in Christ forgave” us, here are a few things that may make it easier:

Realize that the folks who hurt you are people, like you. They are not monsters. Most of us have heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” If they have hurt you that much, they carry a burden, too. Either they carry around the weakness that inadvertently hurt you, or the sinful behavior that led to your hurt. Negative character traits have their own built-in punishment.

Realize that you’ve hurt people as well. That can be hard to hear when you’re in pain, but we need to realize that we’ve done damage, too.

Change your focus from the offense, the offender, and the pain, and let this One Big Truth get bigger in your mind and heart: Jesus forgave you everything! Everything! Stop rehearsing the unfairness, and stop the internal conversations that you’d have if you had the chance and the nerve. Let it all go, and put your energies into remembering His great sacrifice for you. That takes work, but remember the parable about the unforgiving servant, who had a debt of approximately $7.5 million in today’s dollars vs. a day’s wage. (Matthew 18) A day’s wage is real, and your hurt was, too. But let’s take a look at the debt we owe our God. It’s not reducing your hurt to think this way; it’s putting it in context with the greatest demonstration of forgiveness ever made.

Two last things: Long-held emotions won’t change right away. Feeling things occasionally doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. And lastly, remember that God regularly presents us with commands that can’t be accomplished in our own strength. They were never intended to be. His “impossibilities” simply force us to learn about his abundant grace and power, and compel us to get to know Him better.

His grace and strength are there. Always will be. When you’re ready to conquer RU (residual unforgiveness), remember Who called you to it, and Who will lead you through.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that it’s hard to move my heart and mind away from the hurts and betrayals sometimes. Help me to see Your sacrifice for sin for the work that it is—the greatest act of love and sacrifice set against the greatest, most unfair betrayal of all time. And thank You for reminding me of Your power to finish what You begin.

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