Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walking In Forgiveness: Part 2 of Forgiveness Series

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV

Dear those who do not believe in Christ (yet), this is not for you. This is for those who are struggling to forgive though they call themselves Christians. While you may be struggling, too, and I have no doubt that many of you are, but first you must seek salvation. So, thank you for the click, come back on a different day or read another of my posts. Though all are aimed at encouragement for those in Christ, you may get some things from it. Or ... or ... you can read this and store it in your memory banks for later, you know, after salvation.

There is an epidemic going on. More and more people are not walking in love or forgiveness with one another, let alone, strangers. Christ warned us this would happen. In Matthew 24:12, he stated "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." So today we have a lot of hurt and blase Christians running around because family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and churches, yes churches, have hurt them. Some have walked away never to return. Some left, but came back and are still hurting. And more are still hurt but forgave them. 

I started this blog because others have helped me down this path that I wanted to do the same. I know the difficulty it is to forgive someone firsthand. I have not gone through everything you've lost, but this is just to get you thinking. To plant a seed for God's army. I have seen the bitterness when someone cannot forgive another. 

Being unable to forgive someone changes you deeply. Bitterness latches on, and you can no longer trust a soul, not even God, despite all He's done for you. And bitterness is insidious. You never know when it will come out. The person that has hurt you falls upon some misfortune, despite knowing better, you cannot help but smile. Think of a celebrity you despise. Oh, so somebody came to mind? No, you are good. Think of a politician? Gotcha! Instead of cheering that Osama bin Laden was dead, we should have been praying for Christ to be able to get a foothold in al Qaeda. 

On one of my jobs, it was several weeks into the new year, and the office manager told me to tell the Christmas decorating committee that if they did not get rid of all the Christmas decorations that day, they would not be allowed to decorate the following year. When I passed on the information, the committee gathered around the office entrance, and instead of planning, they began to bicker. They complained that it fell to them to have to take it down, and they went on and on. I told them to stop complaining and take it down. My co-worker tried to reinforce what she was saying, but she got the hand and I told her none of that mattered, take it down. She was livid. But she kept her cool. She proceeded to ignore me for a few hours. She was covering my breaks that day. Since she was older than I, I immediately recognized that I had to ask for forgiveness. But she really could not forgive me. It took her some time, and quite frankly, I am not sure if she really did. To see that firsthand was an eye-opener.

I have had several eye opening events since then, and I totally understand the need to protect your heart, so to speak. What many don't realize it is terribly freeing when you walk in forgiveness. God will forgive us our trespasses if we forgive those who have offended us. That's in the Lord's prayer, except, you know, I paraphrased. We are to be imitators of Christ, and yet we continue to hold grudges and practice schadenfreude when those who have hurt us get hurt. We do not allow God to get vengeance on our behalf, instead we slash tires, put up billboards, and rewrite everything on their facebook profile. Or even worse, we prevent them from getting a job, despite the fact it could come back to haunt you legally. 

When I was on assignment in May, I met this co-worker who was having issues dealing with no-good so-called friends. I don't know what she had gone through, but her friends' disappearing, really hurt her, despite the fact she had a lot going on for her. There was lot I wanted to say but we were there to work, so I didn't get around to it. So, I am going to say here what I wanted to say to her.

You are unbelievably strong. You did the one thing that many don't even think to do. You turned to God. And sometimes friends turning their backs on you is something we all have to go through to get us to turn to God. It's painful. I do not disagree, but why give them that much control? It's been said that he who angers you, control you, but if you forgive them and move on, you will be surprised who God brings to the table. I used to handle a department at my former church. Despite all the grownups that were sent to help, but showed up with excuses, tardiness, or just did not show up at all, I left it to God. And I soon found myself surrounded with people who were interested and wanted to learn all that I could teach them. They all just so happened to be teenagers and children. I had a few adults, but mostly teens. Sadly, or maybe not, the skills that I passed on were transferable to the real world. A few of them have careers based off what they learned from me.

Being unable to forgive can turn you into a spiteful, hate-filled creature more ready to judge someone than to help them. And heaven please help you, if you cannot even remember the offense. God forgives us so we should forgive them. How many of us are always begging God for mercy and yet, we cannot be merciful to those who have hurt us? Then we wonder why we feel persecuted and ridiculed for our beliefs.  In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul wrote: "Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace."

But really what it boils down to is what Christ said "Love your neighbor as yourself." If we practiced what we preached, we will get that back. Show mercy to someone, mercy will be given. Walk in forgiveness all the time, you will be forgiven. We need to be more like Christ. And for many of us, it takes a huge leap of faith. I came across a time, when no one could help me and I kept asking God why? I could think of hundreds of times that I had helped so many, but on this day, no help could be found. I decided I would exercise that faith of mine and said whoever you bring. I stopped calling people, and soon enough, someone asked what you need and did all they could to help me that day. I am eternally thankful to them and especially God because He is awesome. A lot of us would be mad at those who could not come through. Did you ever consider that God blocked them so you could depend on Him? But He does that so often! Well, you must not know that with God all things are possible, but first you must trust Him. For some people, it will be friends, family and other people they know who will come through. And for others, it will be who God will bring. I did not know this person who helped me. And barely knew the second person as well. But He brought them. He is awesome. And I am happy I took that leap of faith.

Streetwise AtheTypist basically breaks it down like this: Straight up, we all got those sometimin' half-steppin' friends. And let's not forget narcissistic family members and troublesome co-workers and horrible bosses. We got them. They need you for whatever it is they need you for. But when you need them, they are nowhere to be found or are trying to do whatever they can to take from you. But thank you Jesus, we have a God who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we can ask or think. He is always there, and wants you to turn to Him, before even your husband or wife! He wants you to turn to him before Mama. All this hurt and busted and disgusted feelings and holding grudges, why? God is not like the people you dealing with. You are not alone. We all have been there, and can empathize, if not sympathize, but you should turn to God, and even if you did and turned to your family and friends, and no one helped then guess what? All the more praise to God, because He came through and nobody can say it was them. 

The church of Christ should be as Peter stated "Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:8-10) When sinners see this, they will come flocking. Yes, the church is filled with people working through their own struggles, but the one thing everyone should get after being saved is walking like Christ. Remember this: if that person who hurt you asks for forgiveness to God, and God forgives them, the least you can do is forgive them, too.

"And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 

Be blessed and stay encouraged!

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