Forgiveness

Have you forgiven them yet?

This question was asked by someone in the audience after a dear woman shared her story about how her daughter was raped and murdered by two men.

“Have you forgiven them yet? ”

The question seemed ridiculously insensitive.  It made me angry that anyone could ask this grieving mother such a question.  It sounded as if she needed to grow up or be more of a true Christian or something.

I was amazed at this woman’s strength in telling her story in the first place.

Now I was further impressed by her poise and grace in answering this question.

“Sir,” she began, “I’m not sure you really understand what forgiveness is.”

“You see,” she continued, “ It is impossible for me to forgive them.”

“I don’t have the authority to do that; I can’t forgive them.  Only God can truly forgive.”

What she was saying was so profound!

We can’t remove anyone’s guilt by ‘letting them off the hook.’

In God’s judgment, they will be accountable.  We can’t take that away.  They will answer to Him inevitably.  They will reap what they have sown.  They will have this on their conscience and have to put up some pretty strong denial defenses to drown out the voice of accusation that is ringing in their ears.  Not only that, but there will also be consequences that fall on them for what they have done.  We can’t remove their guilt or free them from the awful evils they have set in motion.

So what do we mean when we forgive others as God, in Christ, has forgiven us?

For one thing, let me point out the Jewish Old Testament word for forgiveness which is nawsaw, meaning ‘to bear or to carry.’  Isn’t it interesting that the suffering Messiah would carry our sins on Himself on the cross in order to forgive us.  He took the load that was due to fall upon us.  If we receive Him as God’s merciful substitute, then his death counts in place of ours and instead, we receive His very life.  That life within will entirely re-shape us into His image or character.  Because we have been forgiven of all, we can forgive others.

This is still not quite the same as what Christ did for us, because since He was without sin, he could die in our place.  We would have to die for ourselves, for our own sins, so how could we stand in for anybody else?  What then can we do, humanly weak as we are, that God would call forgiveness?

I think it means that we release the offending person from having to satisfy any debt to us.  We leave them to God alone to be judged by Him or to be forgiven by Him if they turn to Him for that.  We let go.  To release another from the obligation they might have toward us.  As though it were a financial debt, we would say, ‘You don’t owe me anymore; as far as I’m concerned, the debt is paid in full.’  The fact that the other person cheated us still remains true.  But now we have disconnected ourselves from the crime.  It is still on them but we are somehow free from the weight of it that we have been carrying.  The intrusive thoughts that plague us when we remember when and how they did what they did, those thoughts that renewed the old pain, are now quieted.

The mother of the victim of unspeakable criminal violence continued her story:

“You see, for me to entertain the anger or bitterness toward these two men would make me a second victim of their crime.  They would now have ruined two lives.  I would be letting them kill me slowly the rest of my life.”

She went on to say that she had actually written them letters in prison, that she had prayed for them often, that they would get themselves right with God.  She told them that they shouldn’t think of her as someone on the outside who hated them, wished them evil or would like to get her hands on them.  They were released to account for themselves to God alone.  She was done.  She would move on.

Don’t imagine for a even a fleeting second that this mother who lost her daughter did not suffer.  She grieved tremendously the tragic loss of her precious girl.  There was a wound there that would only heal with time and rest.  But the poison, the festering disease of hatred was not complicating matters any longer.  She could gradually be restored to health and live the rest of her life.

To forgive, we must carry the offense to God and let it go, trusting Him to deal with the offender as He chooses.  In so doing, we honor Him who gave His only Son to take our own guilt on Himself.  As we trust Him to give us all we truly need, we begin to hope and we rest in Him while He completes the work that we could never accomplish no matter how much striving we might do.  We release the matter to Him.  It isn’t simplistic and it doesn’t minimize the gravity of the offense at all.  It just leaves it in the right hands.  We let it go.

This takes a conscious act on our part.  It may also involve giving a message to the offender if that is possible, much like this mother did in writing her daughter’s murderers in prison.  It may not be possible to send such a message or perhaps the other person will not “receive” the message even if we can send it.  Possibly, the only one who knows the real power of the forgiveness will be the one who knows the relief of release, of letting go.  After all, that is the true goal of forgiveness, to be free of hatred, anger and bitterness.

Must there be reconciliation?  Certainly this mom never had a relationship with these perpetrators in the first place.  She didn’t need to develop some closeness with them now.  In other cases, a close relationship is severed by some offense; in those cases reconciliation may be possible, but it isn’t necessary in all cases.  Sometimes the person forgiven and released does not have the maturity or the freedom to reconcile from their end.  They won’t, or they can’t.

After all, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, yet not all will be reconciled to God.  Yet, His act of love glorified His Father in heaven. May our forgiveness of others be energized by that same power of Divine love. May His love in us release life through forgiveness of others. May our walking in His life make us truly free.

© CROSSwalk People Helpers – www.peoplehelpers.org

Marilyn Was Healthy!

Some years ago now, I was called out to serve Communion to a church member who was unable to attend services at the church I served.  She had bone cancer; her name was Marilyn.  After we discussed her grave condition and enjoyed the fellowship over the elements of Communion she made this remark:  “Pastor Mike, I feel sorry for people who don’t have what I have!”

“Yes,” I said, “You have hope in knowing Christ and others don’t know Him.”

“No, that’s not what I mean; it’s the cancer.  I know how much I need Jesus every day; others don’t know how much they really do need Him.”

I left that day, stricken by her bold and brave words.  Soon, I’ll be doing Marilyn’s funeral and I will share that amazing insight at her memorial services.  I wrote them down and kept them by my phone, waiting for the call that she had passed away.  Weeks later, I visited her at a low budget rehab facility where she was nursing a broken leg, the one with the cancer.  She had been at the hospital, stopped for lunch in their McDonald’s and caught her wheelchair in a floor drain, throwing her out on the floor.  That broken leg on top of everything else seemed cruel.

Marilyn’s remark was: “Wasn’t that a blessing, Pastor, that I broke my leg right there; I was already at the hospital!

More time and more visits and Marilyn each time was so caring and encouraging to me and to all those in the nursing facility.  She asked about my wife and children and grandchildren, then said: “Does my head look terrible up here where they took out part of my skull a few weeks ago?”  Her hair had grown in to cover the scars already . . . “I have a steel plate in there now.”  Marilyn was radiant, full of joy and peace as usual though nearing her departure from this world and her reception in Heaven.

Each time I went to see her, I shared how much her example meant to those who heard me tell her story.  One winter night I told her story to a weary missionary near the China border in Kazakhstan.  It inspired hope in everyone who could grasp the meaning of Marilyn’s insight and perspective.

After a couple of years of joy through suffering, Marilyn did pass away and I did her services and I shared her story with those who attended.  I have also shared her story with you to encourage you to be healthy like Marilyn was.  Do we realize how much we really do need Jesus in our lives?

Love

easter_There is no greater love than that a Man did lay down His life for his friends.

That’s YOU and ME!  And we are on the guest list for the big wedding reception dinner party.  RSVP!

If that doesn’t stretch your wildest imagination, He refers to us as His beloved, that is His bride!  Will you accept His proposal?

Christmas

Merry Christmas!

ChristmasChristmasChristmasChristmasThe best news ever: “unto you a Child is born”!

The simple, humble, needy and despicable could hear it.

The busy, the independent, the self righteousness didn’t notice.Christmas

Be wise; seek Him.

Listen for Him to speak His peace on earth and goodwill to men.

In the midst of perversion, abuse, greed, war, hatred etc. we have such a pure hope, such a gift of pure love, such a God and Savior!

Enjoy Him!  Draw near Him!  .  .  .  . and KNOW Him!

 

That Look from Jesus

IN EVIL LONG I TOOK DELIGHTour Savior

In evil long I took delight, Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight, And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree, In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me, As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never to my latest breath, Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death, Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt, And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt, And helped to nail Him there.

A second look He gave, which said, “I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid; I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace, It seals my pardon too.

by John Newton, best known as author of Amazing Grace, less known as devoted sinner and slave trader whose mother’s prayers finally effected his return to the God of his boyhood.  Beautiful tune to this; look it up, hear it on the ‘net.

After the fire came the flood!

cropped-marquee-for-KULA.pngMany of you have inquired about the office burning down and others about the flooding of three Colorado rivers and some other tributaries and the general excess of water when we got more than 6 months of rainfall in three days.  I did miss one day of work due to the fire and then First Christian Church in Loveland gave me a space until such time as I could find a new place.  I stayed in their offices three days and then was given a very nice office suite, complete with nice furniture.  It was not much more than inconvenient when the floods cut off many of our roads for awhile.  Some roads, like Highway 34 to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, will be years in the rebuilding.  Many were less fortunate and had considerable or even total loss of property and yet others were affected by the death of neighbors and family members.  I volunteered with the Red Cross and the Larimer County Disaster Response Team where I got to meet many of the displaced persons and the emergency responders who were assisting with evacuations, rescues and public safety.  To God be the glory for seeing us through.  We should always be most grateful that He is simply with us.  Never ever will He leave us or forsake us, through the fire and the flood, literally.

My Office Burned Up Yesterday!

office fireHow do you handle adversity?

Surprises, tragedies, changes and losses really test us.  After all, it is only when we can’t figure things out that we can even try to use our faith.

In what ways are you trusting God for what you cannot see or figure out?

I walked a mile with pleasure; she chattered all the way!

Leaving me none the wiser for all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow; and never a word said she.

But, OH! the things I learned from her, when sorrow walked with me.

 

Emotional Intelligence Self-Evaluation

white owl‘What you need now is emotional intelligence,’ was what China’s new president told a graduating class last month at their top tech school.
Now Bloomberg’s Businessweek tells us that Yale’s school of management has added a test of emotional intelligence to its admissions requirements.
And how’s your emotional intelligence?
Just as for IQ, there are several theoretical models of emotional intelligence, each supported by its own set of research findings. The one I’ve proposed — which has fared well in predicting actual business performance — looks at a spectrum of EI-based leadership competencies that each helps a leader be more effective.
Here are some questions that will help you reflect on your own mix of strengths and limits in EI. This is not a “test” of EI, but a “taste” to get you thinking about your own competencies:
1) Are you usually aware of your feelings and why you feel that way?
2) Are you aware of your limitations, as well as your personal strengths, as a leader?
3) Can you manage your distressing emotions well – e.g., recover quickly when you get upset or stressed?
4) Can you adapt smoothly to changing realities?
5) Do you keep your focus on your main goals, and know the steps it takes to get there?
6) Can you usually sense the feelings of the people you interact with and understand their way of seeing things?
7) Do you have a knack for persuasion and using your influence effectively?
8) Can you guide a negotiation to a satisfactory agreement, and help settle conflicts?
9) Do you work well on a team, or prefer to work on your own?
And the good news: emotional intelligence competencies can be upgraded.
Adapted from Dan Goleman, emotional intelligence researcher

Father’s Day

no sweat

This little guy is wondering just how much trouble he might be in once his dad realizes why his neck and back are feeling so warm.

It reminds me just how disgusting and offensive our sin is and yet how God loves us so much as to carry it for us.

Happy Father’s Day to you all and especially to our God and Father of us all.

Heavenly Father, I love You and I’m so blessed to be born into Your family.

Peace, Peace . . . when there is no peace.

Martin Richard Boston 41913Martin Richard asked for “No More Hurting People” on his Peace Poster.  Ironically, we have his photo with the poster as a memory of the tragic Boston Marathon murders and mayhem from April of 2013.

This blog title comes from the words of Jeremiah’s prophecy (chapters 6 and 8).

The fatal flaw in the human condition cannot be remedied by human effort.  Given a few thousand years of repeated human misery and violence, don’t we get it?  The root is SIN, as mentioned in an earlier blog on this site.  We need God’s remedy which is the Cross of Jesus Christ as an end to human failure and the gift of new life is ours, immediately available.  This involves dying to self in order to have His new life.  If guess that is why we hesitate to accept the miracle of new birth and stay in the security of our familiar muck.

What do you think is our problem?  Why don’t we ever change?