Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Unforgiving Forgiven.

Can you be forgiven if you are unforgiving? I think about this sometimes. Christ thought it was a good idea to forgive others.
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matthew 6:14
However, from one professional grudge holder to the other, this seems a lot to ask. So you are telling me, Lord, that I must forgive everyone...but what about that guy? You know that guy. The guy who totally ripped my heart out in high school for a prettier model? Or that other guy that I've heard about...the guy who has been accused of everything from child molestation to abandoning his own family and drowning a litter of puppies in the process?

What about that porn addict?
What about that murderer?
What about that jerk who daily cheated on his wife then left her?
What about that lady who won't say anything nice to save her life?
What about that man who killed thousands?
What about that "dad" who abused his baby girl?
What about the lady who gossips about my best friends, myself and my family but acts like my best friend at church?

Do I have to forgive those people? Do I? HONESTLY?

What about the people who hate you, Jesus? Do I forgive them?

Mark Sishel a writer for Psychology today had this to say in his article Find Freedom in Forgiveness.
"Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting and hoping that the other guy get sick. Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or angers us. We don't replay a cool litany of "facts" in a resentment; we re-experience and relive them in ways that adversely affect us mentally, emotionally, physiologically and spiritually. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing close relationships."
I have a history of making stupid analogies that make complete sense to me, but not to anyone else. My husband routinely teases me for these ridiculous analogies. Today, I will share one with you and you can laugh from afar and I won't hear you...

Forgiveness reminds me of the hungry lion at the zoo. If you get too close to that cage that hungry lion will instinctively snatch your child and eat him. You'll be sad, of course, but you'll forgive that lion because he was hungry and acting on instinct. But what you won't ever do is walk too close to that cage with your other kid. Actually, what I would do is call for the lion's painful demise while I watch...but that is getting away from the analogy. Generally it is at this point my husband rolls his eyes and reminds me I should never try to create analogies in the first place.

Unfortunately, I often use my amazing memory of the lions in my life as an means to never really forgive. You see while God does expect me to forgive, it's the forgetting that often gets in the way. I really like to tell myself and everyone else that I've forgiven those that have hurt me, and then because I place a high priority on self-preservation I hang on to every detail of the pain and hurt that was inflicted refusing to trust the perpetrator or anyone remotely like them ever again. Often I recount the details of the wounding, just to remind myself of the injustice. You see, I love justice. I would like to avenge so many wrongs in the world. However, I am not the avenger. God is. And my ever growing memory (that eventually will inspire hatred by the way) will merely create more sin...but this time I carry the burden of sin not that guy, that guy that hurt me in the first place, that guy who in realty is likely already forgiven by God.

The unfortunate aspect of being a self-proclaimed-justice-loving avenger is that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where all have sinned. Yes, some definitely do a better job of it than others. Some appear more despicable in our eyes. Sin, my friends, is sin, and it all requires forgiveness. A good look in the mirror reminds me that forgiveness is needed right here at home. I feel that grudge holders exist because when your focus is on the sins of others it is easier to ignore your own.

Here's the point: When we refuse to forgive we breath venom that wounds masses all based on our search for justice. We hurt those around us and we give the real perpetrator in our spiritual walk control over our lives. When we refuse to forgive we defy Christ. We become the perpetrator and make ourselves out to be the infallible judge and jury. The rub is: we are all soooooo fallible. We all need forgiveness.

In my quest to offer forgiveness to those who have disappointed me, to those who have hurt me time and again, to those who have lost my trust, I hope I never give up the journey toward reconciliation and forgiveness. A man hung on a cross for me when I didn't deserve it. I owe Him the attempt at love for the underserving. I hope that I am offering others what I expect and hope God to daily offer me.

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