Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Little More on Forgiveness

A question arose for me this morning, about our role as a forgiven people. Being forgiven people, as I wrote in my previous post, offers to us the possibility of forgiving others. But what does this forgiveness look like? Are we to forgive without the reckoning of the debt? Or do we, like the lord, approach our offender with the offense, making the action of forgiveness and reconciliation an interpersonal event?

The answer to this is easy to say, but very difficult to do. While I do not recommend approaching anyone with the threat of torture - notice that in the parable the one who owed the steward did not punish the steward for the steward's lack of mercy, but the lord did - the gospel of Matthew is clear that we do approach those who sin against us.

This is difficult, not just because it is hard to approach someone close to you with something hurtful, but because we know that they may not be able to hear it. This action might very well end up in a broken relationship. But this kind of interpersonal event can be difficult in unexpected ways. While we might approach someone and say "you hurt me in this way," there is a distinct possibility that we might hear that we ourselves were the cause of the offense. We might hear "I did that because you hurt me first."

This only underlines the need for all of us to be practiced in repentance, as Matthew is also clear about. And this is how we ought to read Jesus' saying about the plank in our own eye, not that only the perfect may approach the sinner, but that only the repentant ought to ask for repentance from others. And as I wrote the other day, repentance begins with asking the Lord our God for the forgiveness of our sins against Him, a forgiveness that makes possible our forgieveness of others. And in this way, if our own planks in our own eyes are revealed in our own approach of the one who hurt us, we can take the time to say "it looks like I am at fault too. Forgive me, even though I have asked you for your repentance." We can repent, along with the original offender, because we are already practiced in the discipline of repentance.

And by this we are not only reconciled with God, but become a reconciled and reconciling people, and through this reconciliation a true witness to the world of God's mercy and forgiveness.


Blogger Ruth said...

As you say, easy to say difficult to do. I have a very hard time forgiving myself. There is repenting and asking for forgiveness from the lord, but then there's coming to terms with it and forgiving yourself... I suppose that's like step two of repentance...
Weird that it would be hard to accept forgiveness.
I'll have to think on this more. Thanks.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:15:00 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Amazingly (well maybe not so amazing), I was reconciled to God (after a self-inflicted rift) via the teachings of forgiveness.

I attended a Vineyard in Framingham, Mass in the mid-eighties. Kenn Gulliksen was the pastor, and the author of a number of books regarding "inner healing". (I tried to find a link on line, but couldn't really get one. There are references to his work, but he doesn't have a website). Another title we used for this series was "the steps of forgiveness".

To make a long story short (is that possible for me?), I was at the time utterly distraught over an abortion, unchurched, and convinced I was unforgiveable. In addition, bitterness was rampant in me due to my own unforgiveness toward others.

To greatly simplify Kenn's message, we were told (with biblical reference) that the steps included 1. Forgive (out of obedience i.e. whether you feel like it or not) 2. Ask God to forgive (to release the debtor from your unforgiveness) 3. Ask God to forgive you for the record of wrongs you have kept against whomever 4. Ask God to Bless the offender 5. ask God to bless you.

I know there was a lot more to it than this, but I have kept this simplified version with me all these years. I pray through these steps every day for someone or another. I am amazed how God transforms me everyday, and how much more joy I have in my life when I remember to forgive (myself and others).

Thanks for letting me use so much space. Great series :).

Thursday, September 15, 2005 9:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Preston - Kenn Gulliksen here; I fell upon your post and was really overwhelmed that some teaching so long ago on how to forgive was deposited in your heart. I'm incredibly grateful God used it in your journey!

Saturday, February 03, 2007 10:41:00 PM  

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