Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This is an authenticating core of Christian faith and, let's live it

FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is a distinguishing hallmark of authentic Christian faith. The Bible says that when we confess/repent of our sins, we are forgiven completely (1 John 1:9; one of many places the Bible makes this clear). We can't live down the past. We can't work our way out of shame or earn our way into forgiveness. But what we could not--cannot--do, Jesus has accomplished in our behalf via his death and resurrection. Have you accepted your forgiveness? If so, you know the freedom of forgiveness. Not only is your heart set free from guilt and shame, you are free--and empowered--to forgive others.

OUR GREATEST WITNESS. We are free to forgive--to release from our need to punish or see punished--anyone who harms, hurts, offends, disparages, or shuns us. Whether petty offenses or life-scarring damages, we can forgive. We do not do this in our own strength. We pray for grace to offer others what we ourselves have received. Commit to forgive and you will be given the grace to do it. I am convinced that the commitment and grace to forgive becomes the greatest testimony to being like Jesus the world will ever witness.

FORGIVENESS IS A PROCESS. Forgiving for a significant trauma is often a painful process that ends in freedom and reconciliation. Forgiveness is the process of coming to terms with an enemy whereby s/he is held accountable for wrong but not paid back evil. It involves healing our own memory and our hearts being infused with God’s love for an enemy. Lewis B. Smedes points out the following aspects in the process of forgiveness. He writes that we forgive: (1) slowly, (2) with a little understanding, (3) often in confusion, (4) sometimes with anger left over, (5) a little at a time, (6) freely, or not at all, and (7) with a fundamental feeling.

DIFFICULT, INTENTIONAL JOURNEY. Forgiving others may be the hardest, most courageous spiritual struggle a person who has been traumatized by individuals, institutions, family, or enemies will ever confront. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that fully extricating oneself from tangles of anger and bitterness is no cake walk. Living into the grace of forgiveness is something we must earnestly desire and commit to.

THE OTHER SIDE OF FORGIVENESS. Sometimes reconciliation with the offending party is possible, sometimes it's not. Offenders may or may not recognize their offenses. They may or may not want to restore relationships. They may not be able to. But I can testify that the relief, release, and freedom from holding a grudge and harboring vengeance is more than worth it. Beyond release from bitterness, there is freedom to live forwardly and creatively as never before. The other side of forgiveness is life.

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