One of the big lessons of being a faithful follower of Jesus has been forgiveness. As a new believer one of the first lessons I learned was that the decision to seek revenge, or hold on to offenses committed was not ours, but God’s. As humans we will expeience hurts, disappointments and sometimes even deal with people that intend harmfulness. Not everyone in this life is good, nor does everyone act fairly, love justice or walk humbly with God.
Now you have to know that I come from a solid Russian stock, and one of the strong characteristics of my family has been holding on to offenses. “Sure I will forgive, but i will never forget!” was the motto. But forgiveness of my family always seemed conditional, and the next time an offense occurred you had better believe there was a lot of discussion and chatter about it. So as a young believer I had some serious reason to seek God in prayer for wisdom to change my heart, and teach me to forgive.
“If we confess our sins , he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins , and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness .” – 1 John 1:9
Yes, forgiveness begins with us on our knees, confessing our sin to God. He knows what we have done, but it is only when we humble ourselves and tell God how we have wronged him that our hearts are changed, and he wipes the slate clean. Theology tells us that Christ died once for all of the sin of the world: past, present and future. That Christ took upon himself on the cross the weight of all of our wrongs – that whispered gossip, that thought of harming someone, that act of betrayal, those wounding interactions with other people who live on this sin scarred earth.
We have Jesus’s very words on the cross while he was dying as an example:
“Then said Jesus , Father forgive them ; for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
Jesus, God in flesh, spotless, perfect, sinless. He was beaten and bruised, and tortured beyond what we can humanly stomach, and left to the agonizing death of crucifixion – slow and painful suffocation while enduring deeply painful neuro-muscular pain. If there were ever a moment to consider this profound injustice, the cross was the place…. yet Jesus was faithful to the mission, asking his father to forgive all who did this to him.
I could go on with examples from scripture that clarify the essential need for forgiveness, for compassion, for surrendering to God of the end of the matter, and trusting that in God’s hands the issue will be resolved the best possible way. That act of confession and the turning over of the offense does something inside us. It changes us a little bit each time we deny our sin nature the right to the offense. And it changes us to be a little bit more loving, a little bit more like the Lord.
All that said, I have had a few big moments in my life when the result of human interaction sent me to my knees before God, crushed by a sense of rejection, and a sin nature that wanted justice extracted now. Havent we all been there. My sin nature wants to be strong, and rise up to tell the world about the injustice. Then the still small voice of God whispers “Vengence is mine- i shall repay”. And in that still small voice I knew that the creator of the universe knows what happened, shares my pain, and wants health for my soul. Almost as if to say “Give it over to me, let it go… I will handle it. I will take care of you my child, and I will also take care of the situation. don’t be concerned for repaying the offense….because I have it in control.”. The only thing to do is confess, and forgive.
Aah, wrestling done, silently the offense, and the offender are yielded to God. It is a decision made. “One this day, and at this moment I surrender this. I choose forgiveness. I will move on, knowing this is in the capable hands of God.”. And I can remember the lifting of the weight of the sin and offense. Breathe in, slowly exhale…and let’s move on.
I decided to write about this because over the weekend I had the chance encounter with someone who hurt me so badly. It was a deep and profound wound that sent me to my prayer closet, wanting God to tell me why this would happen, and what i am to do with it. This offense actually sent me on a month long spiritual tailspin, which found me questioning my call, my faith, my life and my purpose. God is good.. and in the right time he began to reassure me of my purpose, give me more faith to believe and show me the next step of my life. He wanted health for me, and focus on him. Matthew 6:33 echoed through my soul…”keep seeking God first and all the rest will be added to you.”. In time I knew God would refine the vision and purpose in my life…for now I need to keep spending quality time with the lord…
I know I spent serious and honest time in prayer confessing and determinedly forgiving that precious believer. And a good amount of time passed… Then i ran into her…. and floods of thought came back. And all I could think of was this “You are my child, you yielded this to me, love her, and move on.” We exchanged common courtesy, and light chatter, and I knew something had changed in me. God was on the move, changing my heart. I still remain guarded to pick up the friendship, but the war of thoughts was not there. Forgiven-yes, Surrendered to Jesus-yes….
Perhaps our paths will cross again. I am thankful that I obeyed Jesus and yielded …relinquishing any right to revenge, or justice. And there days I have finally begun praying for her…that she would become all that God has designer her to be. I ask Jesus to give her wisdom, and spare her from such profound wounding capabilities. May the Lord bring her fresh peace and grace. Prayer doesnt stop there… I ask daily for the capability to continue to forgive, to find love, to seek wisdom, and to find peace in this journey to heaven.