Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Hard is Forgiveness?

The teaching illustration of two posts back was intended as the introduction to a discussion on response to sin within a group of believers. There appears to me a gap between the instruction in Scripture and our practice.

Consider Jesus' instruction to forgive 7 x 70. He has just taught the way to address a sinning brother (show him his fault in private; if he refuses to acknowledge his fault, take another with you on a second attempt; if he refuses to acknowledge his fault, take it before all gathered together) when Peter asks, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"

Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

How many of us keep track of another's sin 490 times then on violation 491 refuse to forgive? None of us. Isn't that the point of Jesus giving us the number?

Yet, how many of us after the first or second time we are offended
think or feel something like, OK, I forgive him but I will not trust again. Or worse we enter into some degree of judgment against the other. Our feelings and related thoughts are the measure of the condition of our heart regardless of the religious spin we verbalize about ourselves. Mature faith will fully release within the heart all which is not a complete and renewed embrace of the other person. Everything!

I have watched myself and others harbor feelings other than love toward someone following some sin for which forgiveness has been requested and describe this state in "spiritual" terms such as, "He asked for forgiveness and I gave it. Now I'll wait and see whether or not he produces fruit that evidences true repentance." I could always find some "scriptural" reason for not fully trusting this person. At the very least, I would whine something to God about how hard His words were.Then one day God broke through into my hard heart: simply acknowledging how hard Jesus' instructions on the matter of forgiveness are without disciplining my internal emotional response is excuse-making. Worse, this state of non-compliance perpetuates my own spiritual immaturity.

And the "hardness" of God's expectation goes further! We should be able to move into the same release with the same brother/sister repeatedly. Up to 490 times? No, there are not limits.
Love keeps no record of wrong.

"Impossible," you say? "Unrealistic!" "I am not there, yet," followed by a friendly but rueful chuckle.

You never will be! It must and will only be accomplished as we learn to rest in the in-dwelling Presence and exchange our way for His. Oh and to make this not be hard, God allows unlimited attempts to understand abiding in Him.


Craig V. said...

Thanks for your encouraging thoughts. I wrestle in this area. Sometimes I think I have torn up the record only to find myself rehearsing it out of the blue.

This is an area where our individualism, in my view, hides our sin. We think that we can go into our private world, pray, read the Scriptures and then forgive. Forgiveness isn't done in private. It requires at least two people.

ded said...

Great point, craig v! The actual turning of the heart toward a forgiveness which is of God and not just a religious bandaid of words involves the exchange between two hearts. As the love of God moves between two people something authentically supernatural (beyond the natural experience)occurs.

Articulating the move of the supernatural is an important goal for me. For too long, I accepted scriptural words painted over my natural heart instead of scriptural truth flowing from a supernatural heart.