Forgiveness: A Meditation
Before I dig into forgiveness, let me give a disclaimer, I’m not a pastor, and definitely not your pastor. I don’t stand above you or even in front of you, I stand beside you. Forgiveness is a hard subject, and I’m not perfect. At one point in life I didn’t talk to my mom for nearly two years. She missed out on the early development of two of my kids, and I lost two years with my mom I’ll never get back. So rather than use scripture as a hammer, I’ll share some stories and some advice that has helped me.
A few years ago I stood in front of a group of recovering drug addicts and homeless men at a shelter in Flint MI. I was there to deliver a message as part of their “Christian living” class. I don’t remember my message because God changed it on me. I mentioned forgiveness and noticed the tone of the entire room changed.
“Does anyone have any thoughts on forgiveness,” I asked.
A man stood up in the middle of the room,
“Six years ago a man robbed the gas station two blocks from here,” he pointed straight at the gas station as if everyone could see it through the wall. “My mom and uncle were there to pick up a few grocery items, and the robber shot and killed both of them for no reason. I lost my mom and uncle for no reason! I didn’t know how to handle the loss, I turned to drugs which wrecked my own life. Last year they caught the man and I sat across from him in the courtroom. I wanted to kill him. He took my family away, he wrecked me. But God told me I needed to forgive that man so I could move on with my life, and by the grace of God I did, it wasn’t easy but here I am in recovery”
He sat back down, another man stood up, then another, then another, each with a horrific yet powerful story. I left that shelter with a heavy heart and humbled. My definition of forgiveness radically changed by their stories, but my education didn’t stop there, a few months later a coworker shared a short message with me she delivered at her church as part of a series on forgiveness.
Here is her talk transcribed,
“In 2014 my 14 year old daughter attempted suicide for the first time. She was diagnosed with PTSD brought on by an onset of trauma at the hand of her step mother. Five days after my daughter was released from the hospital, her step mother said to her, the next time that you try to kill yourself, I hope that you succeed. Three months later, my 15 year old daughter completed suicide and wrote on a paper next to her bed, the exact words her step mother had said to her three months prior. It has been three and a half years since my daughter's death. By the Grace of God; my want to heal and God's nudging, I have forgiven this woman. And I pray for her every day.” *It's now officially been almost 5 years*
In these stories, and in my own life, the hurt of someone else’s actions follows a pattern. Trauma is followed by rumination of the offense. Life stops and lives in the moment of terror. It's a horrific trap. You can’t work, you can’t eat, you can’t enjoy life, and you can’t worship God because all of your attention is fixated on the offence.
Forgiveness too follows a pattern.
As my coworker shared in her talk “By the grace of God; my want to heal, and God’s nudging, I have forgiven this woman".
True forgiveness is rooted in grace. God knows that forgiveness isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for him to kill his innocent son on the cross that he may grant us forgiveness. It wasn’t easy for Jesus to accept the role his Father chose for him, yet for our sake he remained obedient, so that we know how much he loves the Father. Jesus even instructed his followers to ask for the ability to forgive in what Christians recite as “the Lord’s Prayer.” It’s by the grace, which God offered us forgiveness, and it’s by grace that we have the ability to truly forgive someone else.
There is a point in mourning where you hit a wall and you need to be nudged along by God. In my own life it’s where I cried out to God and said “I’m tired of hurting, please help me, I’m sick of living in this moment!” God’s response is to offer forgiveness regardless if you’ve received an apology or not. In the best circumstance, a true, deep, and heartfelt repentance or apology is made. If so, the ball is in your court to forgive. In many instances, the apology never takes place, and in both instances the instruction from God is the same. Forgive. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with the one who hurt you, but forgiveness allows you to release the burden of the offense from your mind. Forgiveness allows you to move on, not in hate, but in marvel of what God has done for you through his son Jesus. It’s only through Jesus where true healing, heart, and identity change occur for both victim and the guilty.
Forgiveness isn’t easy and it requires a deep reflection into our own faults and failures before a holy and pure God, and in light of the depths of Christ’s unending love and pardon for us, he asks us to reciprocate the same. Christ allowed himself to be stretched on a cross ridding himself of all honor, and he asks us to suffer the loss. Christ required nothing of us in effort to repay our debt to him, and he asks us to require nothing of debtors, but simply trust and rest in him.
When I talk to my coworker about her daughter, her eyes don’t dim, they light up, and she astounds me every time she says, “It’s not my story, it’s HIS story.” She has rest and peace, and tells me, like the man at the shelter, if I hadn’t forgiven her, I would still be trapped in that moment. Release yourself from the pain of your offense, and ask God to help you forgive, and he will provide! This past week when I visited the shelter again, I asked the men there, “Who is the hardest person to forgive?” They all responded, “Yourself". They’re right!
Maybe you’ve hurt someone, maybe they’ve offered forgiveness to you but you can’t accept it. This is a common theme in recovery homes and jails, but it also riddles our church pews. Know this. You have been forgiven! Not just by those you’ve hurt, but also by God. For while we were still yet sinners, in rebellion, in our mess, Christ still died on that cross. As therapist friend of mine pointed out, the inability to forgive yourself is selfish. It’s like staring at Jesus on the cross and saying in the face of God, “I know this was good enough for most people, but it’s not good enough for me.” That’s a lie from the enemy who wants you to live in your torment and pain, it’s not true. Your identity no longer rests in the offense you’ve committed, it rest in Christ as forgiven. You are not a thief, a liar, a prostitute, a murderer, an adulterer, a sinner, but rather in Christ, you are an heir of the King in a heavenly realm.
A Meditation On Forgiveness
Forgiveness demands everything of the one offering it
Forgiveness requires nothing of the one receiving it.
Forgiveness is the only agent that can scrub one's identity clean.
Forgiveness offers clarity of mind.
Forgiveness is a requirement to be a follower of Christ.
Forgiveness is the blood which pumps into the heart of “love thy neighbor as yourself.
Forgiveness is a supernatural declaration of loving God.
You are forgiven and God doesn’t know you by your sins, God knows you by your name!
Jason Duncan is an aspiring writer, lay-preacher, and co-host of Not Your Pastor's Podcast available on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and more. For more thoughts from Jason, visit www.notyourpastorspodcast.com
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