November 2011: Forgiveness

First, I want to wish each of you a very thank-full Thanksgiving during this month we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving TO GOD! here in USAmerica. I hope you’re living a daily lifestyle of thanks-living, not merely saying you’re thankful!

The Real Road To Wellville

          A few years ago Hollywood produced a movie entitled “The Road To Wellville” about a young married couple seeking to restore and save their marriage.  I’m not recommending the film to anyone because it featured some very rude, crude, and lewd scenes and dialogue.  But the movie did contain some interesting concepts about forgiveness, reconciliation, and working to make marriages stronger.  Again, I’m not recommending the film to you—just making some comments about it.  And it certainly isn’t a film for anyone under age 18 to see!  The real “road to wellville” is the Royal Road To  Forgiveness.  And, that’s what I want to teach about this month:  The true Road to Wellness!  It’s a road that helps us become well and stay well.

Forgive!

          Anything in your life you need forgiveness for?  Anyone you need to forgive?  Anything in your own life you need to forgive yourself for?  Some people don’t believe in forgiveness, feeling it’s a sign of moral and emotional weakness.  Some people feel if someone else has done something to harm them, they need to do something to hurt that person in return—certainly not forgive them.  Where do you stand on this matter of forgiveness?  Jesus said to his disciples“If you don’t forgive the sins of others—letting them go and   giving   up     your    resentment—your Father won’t forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 15)  Later, Peter came to Jesus and asked Him“Master, how many times must I forgive a fellow believer if they sin against me—as many as 7 times?” Jesus answered Peter, “No, not 7 times—but 490 times!” (Matthew 18: 20, 21)

“Jesus believers, . . . forgive one another readily and freely, as God in Jesus forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 32)

“ . . . Readily pardon one another; even as God has freely forgiven you, so must you also forgive.” (Colossians 3: 13)

          When Jesus was in the throes of agony on Calvary’s cruel cross, He cried out just before He died:  “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing!” (Luke 23: 34)  Yes, He was speaking to those people physically present at the time, but by extension, that cry to “forgive them” comes ringing down through the centuries of time and refers to us, too.  Through Jesus’ cruel, agonizing death on our behalf on that tortuous cross, the Father has already forgiven us all our sins—past, present, and future.  And it’s not cheap, lovey-dovey, sentimental forgiveness:  it cost the death of Jesus!  Jesus went to the cross to release forgiveness into all the world for all time and eternity . . . into you in the now of your life—and through you into the lives of others whom you must forgive. Only the brave know how to forgive!

Results of Unforgiveness

          Later, Paul warned us that unforgiveness results in bitterness which can destroy our lives and the lives of others  (Ephesians 4: 31, 32 and Hebrews 12: 15).  The coldness of unforgiveness and bitterness turns inward into a hate that burns and then destroys the person harboring it.  The acid of hate and bitterness destroys the container:  you—if you’re the one harboring the deadly acid!  Are you one of those Jesus believers who says, “Yes, but . . . ” to biblical references such as I’ve cited above?  “Yes, but you don’t know my situation.”  “Yes, but, you don’t know how badly that person hurt me.”  “Yes, but you don’t know what a terrible sin that person committed against me.”  “Yes, but . . .”  You must know, don’t you, that all those “Yes, buts . . . ” are just flimsy excuses for not obeying what God commands you to do in biblical references such as the above?

          The bottom line?  If you harbor unforgiveness for any length of time against another person, you’re being disobedient to God.  You’re not hurting anyone else by your unforgiveness; you’re hurting only yourself and causing bitterness to grow within you.  Simply put, forgiveness is a choice; it is not a feeling; forgiveness is an act of the will, a quality decision.  Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving;  in some instances, you probably never will feel like forgiving.  As a choice, as an act of your will, as a decision, just do it:  Forgive! Then, learn to live daily with an ongoing attitude of forgiveness for the remainder of your journey through time and into eternity.

Genuine Freedom

          It’s the only way to live in the freedom freely given us by God through Jesus; “If Jesus sets you free [from unforgiveness], you shall be free indeed!” (John 8: 36)  As Jesus-believers, when someone sins against us, that person has all the advantages.  They can sin against us up to 490 times or more and we’re supposed to keep on forgiving them!  They can hurt us in terrible ways, gossip and spread rumors about us—libel or slander us—over and over and over, and, still, Jesus instructs us to forgive them with no thoughts of getting even.  The burden is on us because we have been fully and completely forgiven by God, and God requires us to do no less.  No excuses.  It’s pretty straightforward:  God has forgiven us; we must forgive others!  Holding on to unforgiveness, resentment, and bitterness can lead to higher blood pressure, muscle tension, and depression.  The person who forgives and the person forgiven aren’t the only ones who benefit.  There’s a ripple effect.  Those who forgive are much more likely to perform volunteer work or give to their church or charity.

Just Do It!

          If someone has wounded you or hurt you in some manner, you are wasting your valuable time if you are sitting around waiting for them to realize what they have done to harm you and then come to you to ask for your forgiveness.  Friend, that just doesn’t happen except very, very rarely.  999 times out of 1000, the person who has hurt you will never come to you seeking forgiveness.  But you must forgive them anyway.  Forgiveness is not about them; it’s about you!  You need to forgive for your own spiritual, mental, and physical health and well-being, not for the well-being of the person who hurt you.  Give it up!  The person who hurt you is not going to come to you seeking forgiveness.  The truth is, they most likely don’t even remember, or know—or even care—if  they have done harm to you, causing them to need your forgiveness.

          I’d like you to say this OUT LOUD . . . right now, two or three times:  “I remain imprisoned within myself as long as I harbor unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness, but Jesus sets me free!”  If God was willing to totally forgive you and me for our sin, our meanness, our weakness, our stubborn self-righteousness, our foolish pride, then who do we think we are by holding those same sins against another person?!  Maybe we should concentrate more on confessing our own sins than on keeping morbid track of another person’s sins against us.  When we harbor unforgiveness toward others, often we can’t even deal with our own sins because we’re so focused on the sins of others.

           Staying angry with others is how we mistakenly think we protect ourselves from letting others hurt us more.   Refusing to forgive is not only how we feel we are “punishing” others, but it’s how we feel we can keep others from getting close enough to hurt us again.  Sometimes it seems to work, but the downside is that it leads to deep bitterness—which can really do destructive damage to our bodies, minds, and spirits.  Look closely at someone you know who is full of anger, resentment, unforgiveness, and bitterness.  See how those traits have twisted and shriveled that person inside and filled them with malice; look how it has atrophied and shrunk their insides.  Anger, all by itself is not damaging; it tells us that something we hold dear is in danger—something or someone is in danger, or our beliefs, or our physical safety.

          The Bible says it’s okay to be angry; we just shouldn’t sin while we’re angry—and get over our anger and let it go before we go to sleep at night.  Anger is sort of a flashing yellow caution light.  It’s saying “slow down and figure out what’s going on.”  If we do slow down, often we can learn from our anger.  Sometimes we can use the energy it creates to change ourselves or our relationships with others—by the inner power of the Holy Spirit Who empowers us to make such changes.  But if our anger just goes on and on without our using it to change what needs to be changed, then it is not simple anger anymore.  It has turned into bitterness and resentment and unforgiveness.  Someone has called such unresolved anger “arthritis of the soul.”  And, only our forgiveness can “cure” such arthritis!  That means there is another good reason for us to forgive—besides simply obeying what Jesus tells us to do. We owe it to ourselves, because such anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness “deforms” us and makes us dis-eased inside.

          It becomes a boomerang; we think we’re using it to protect ourselves—to hurt back before we can be hurt again—but it has a sinister way of circling right back at us so that we become the victim of our own bitterness and unforgiveness.  The bottom line?:  Our unforgiveness most often doesn’t really hurt the other person that much; sometimes they even go on completely oblivious to the harm they have caused us and of our unforgiveness of them.  But our unforgiveness does hurt us—sometimes irreparably this side of heaven.  The only antidote to sin—ours or that of others—is forgiveness.  Sometimes the challenge  is that our anger is so exciting and enlivening in a twisted sort of way that forgiveness seems like sort of a limp surrender.

We won’t admit it, but sometimes having an unforgiven “enemy” helps us feel we “look good” by comparison.  It also helps sometimes because we have someone whom we feel we can blame for our lives not turning out they way they’re “supposed to.”  To forgive, often means we give up our own misplaced feelings of “being right.”  And sometimes that’s sort of scary.  Forgiveness helps us live again, no longer bound by chains of resentment and bitterness—chains we’ve bound ourselves with.

Forgiveness is setting a “prisoner” free and then finding out the prisoner was me!

          Through Jesus, we are being forgiven by God every day of our lives.  God is continually setting us free from chains that bind us.  Forgiveness is God’s cure for the inner deformities our unforgivenesses causes us.  Every time we forgive, we stand up a little straighter and taller inside—we become a little more alive with God’s very own LIFE inside us.

          “Don’t ever forget all God’s benefits.  He forgives every one of your sins.  He heals all your diseases.  He redeems your life from destruction.  He crowns you with love and grace.  He wraps you in his goodness.” –Psalm 103: 2, paraphrased

To Think About This Month: 

                          “Many scientific studies show that, overall, there are fewer illnesses among people who are forgiving.  People who have been deeply hurt, but have forgiven those who hurt them, have better blood pressure, healthy muscle tension, better immune response, and improved cardiovascular and nervous system functioning.”

Bill Boylan
Life Enrichment Services, Inc.

leservices38@yahoo.com
Revised and Updated March 2019 

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