Forgiveness. It's a pretty easy word to say. It's pretty easy to talk about. And it's not a hard concept to teach your children. But when it comes to actually applying forgiveness (asking and giving), why is it that so many people just can't do it? Not too long ago I heard a guy on the radio talking about how there were two types of people: those who never say "I'm sorry" and those who apologize too much. We humans really have a problem with asking for forgiveness and admitting we are wrong and truly forgiving others. Yet, as Christians, forgiveness really is at the center of who we are. We are forgiven by God, and He expects us to pass that forgiveness on to others.
This seems to be a lesson that God really, really wanted me to hear not too long ago. Abigail's lesson for the week was on forgiveness and focused on Genesis 45: 1-24. This is about Joseph (you know, the favored kid whose dad made him a nifty colorful coat?) and his brothers (you know, the ones that sold Joseph to some gypsies and told their father Joseph was attacked and killed by a wild animal?). This section of scripture picks up years later when Joseph actually becomes one of the most powerful men in Egypt and he ends up in control of the fate of his brothers and the rest of the family. I love how the story talks about how he really struggled with forgiving them. He put them through some tests and made them sweat it out before he truly forgave them and then provided for them more than they could have ever expected. I love this because of how real that struggle is. It is hard for us to really admit that we are holding on to anger, seething in the desire of revenge, and we don't want to let that person forget they did us wrong. But if God can do that for us, then surely we can do that for others. Nehemiah 9 recounts how the people of God had to be constantly forgiven of putting others before God. And he does. Over and over again God forgives. In the Lord's prayer (Matthew 9-13), we are instructed to pray for forgiveness and then to, in turn, forgive those who have given us offense.
So this lesson really hit home a few days ago. As I was preparing for my Sunday School lesson for this past Sunday, God was seriously telling me to get on the ball and do some forgiving. Joe and I teach the class together, and we normally prepare together, sitting at the dinner table with our commentaries and Bibles, deciding what we are going to say, what scriptures we are going to reference, and how to make it applicable to teenagers. This past week, though, we were on opposite sides of the house, not talking to each other, and wallowing in anger from a fight we were having. We had spoken two words to each other all day and the tension was incredibly thick. As I was going over the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18: 21-35), it hit me over and over again how I was being that unforgiving servant. Here I was writing tips on how to work out a disagreement with others and to show God's love and mercy to others while my husband and I weren't even talking. It made me sick. Literally sick to my stomach. I finally had had enough and decided to talk it out, ask for forgiveness, and truly forgive my husband. Matthew 6:14-15 came up, "You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part." Ouch. As we discussed these verses in Sunday School, someone made a great point. These verses aren't telling us you can lose your salvation; it's more saying, if we are Christians and are to be Christ-like, yet cannot forgive others, then are you really a Christian? Shouldn't forgiveness be overflowing from your heart? Shouldn't we be willing to get on the right page with everyone? Yes. The answer is yes. And that is a hard lesson, but one that is really the center of who we are as Christians.
So, here are my applications I passed on to the youth and felt I needed to write and post somewhere for me to see as a daily reminder:
- Forgive, TRULY, from the heart. (Don't let it linger, simmer, and be brought back up later.)
- Talk it out so there is no misunderstanding in the future. (Arguments are usually just a simple misunderstanding)
- Let God take control. (If you forgive and have asked for forgiveness, you have to let God do the work in their hearts as well. Some times those people aren't ready yet to forgive you. Don't let that be a reason to pull yourself away or fall back into the pit of anger. Let GOD do the work, especially since he's already done it in yours.)
Yes. This will be a post I will have to go back to once a week to remind myself of how important forgiveness really is.
Bless you all this week!