by Pastor Tim Burt
How long has it been since something happened to you that made you mad and upset? We all face conflicts of some kind and they are never a pleasant experience. We may or may not handle them well at the time. We most often reenact them over and over again in our mind reviewing the replays to find justification in how we handled the encounter. It's as though we have this digital recorder playing the same picture or scene over and over again as we try to think it through.
Jesus knew we would come to those "instant replay" moments. This is why He gave instructions to forgive so many times in a day. We see this in Matthew 18:21-22 "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
It isn't too often that we are going to find ourselves being offended 490 times in one day. Jesus knew that. So why did He say 490 times? Because He knew that we could easily run the same offense over and over in our mind. When the evening comes and it's quiet and there is nothing else going on, that mental digital recorder seems to play an even more vivid picture and it will play all night – 490 times if you let it go on.
We're instructed to keep forgiving and so we try. We try to forgive someone in our minds but yet sometimes still experience those awkward and negative feelings when we get around the person. When we do, what does that mean? It might mean we haven't really forgiven them. Even if we do say we forgive someone, we have to work toward some kind of resolve. We haven't forgiven until the negative feelings are gone. That's serious and shouldn't be treated lightly because the Bible teaches that unforgiveness hinders answer to prayer and puts one's relationship with God on hold in regard to answered prayer until forgiveness has happened.
Unforgiveness leads to bitterness and that left undealt with often leads to sickness and disease and even deception. The deception being that you can go on with life and with God as though everything was okay. Unforgiveness is never okay with God. Fellowship with God is interrupted until forgiveness is given. Mark 11:25-26 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Mat 5:23-25 says, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. "Settle matters quickly…” Why do we have to forgive? The entire reason Jesus came to the earth to die and pay the price for our sins was because He was willing to forgive you and I.
Whenever possible, it is important to make the effort to try and talk with the person whom you are feeling unforgiveness toward with the focus to work through it. If it’s just a small petty offence, overlook it. Don’t make mountains out of molehills and don’t remember small offenses. Offenses happen accidentally and often. Forgive and forget. Forget that which isn’t important but try to work through those that are. But when something is bugging you, try to talk through it calmly and rationally, discussing with focus only the offense and what you desire as a resolve. Rabbit trails and mountains of past offensives will destroy your efforts and make things worse.
Forgiveness is often an act of faith. It needs to be accompanied by corresponding words and actions. If we forgive others understanding God’s love and willingness to forgive us, it makes our attempts easier. The cool thing is, as we do forgive by faith and then act on it, our emotions will soon follow. Soon we will begin to “feel” the forgiveness that might only start out as an act of faith.
As a married man I can tell you there have been times that Renee and I have both been mad or upset with each other – plenty of times were we didn’t FEEL like forgiving each other. One time we were standing in the front yard having a squabble. She got so mad she took off her wedding ring and threw it at me. It took us three hours on our hands and knees before we found it. During the process, I said to her, “We need to work this out and forgive each other or we will never have God’s help finding this ring.” We stopped, apologized to each other and forgave each other. Why did we? Because God taught us it wasn’t an option and we really wanted to do what He says. Why else did we forgive? Because He has forgiven us so very many times. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Part way through the search we started laughing about how foolish we could be sometimes. A short time later we found the ring.
What about those times when abuse is repeated over and over again and it seems impossible to continue to forgive? We are still required to forgive. We aren’t always required to stay in a situation or relationship. Romans 12:18 says, “If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.” Whether we choose to stay in a relationship or not, forgiveness is not an option. There will be some instances where you will feel the need to put distance or space between each other for healing to happen. If that is what it takes, love from a distance. The rest, forgive and learn to love with God’s love up close.
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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