For me, as with many writers, I suppose, it’s difficult to write about a situation without offering too many details. So I begin this post not even sure if I will actually “publish” it. Nevertheless, writing is my outlet and so this morning I will write.
I never in my entire life have witnessed such evil from people who profess to be Christians as I have the last several months in a particular situation concerning some precious family members. As Papaw shared before he passed away, “If their ‘Christianity’ was the only Christianity I had ever seen, I would want no part of it whatsoever.” This simple statement from a man who had always been leery of Christians sums up so much about how much of the world perceives us who say we are Christians. It’s no wonder the media and individuals portray and seem to expect Christians to be the opposite of what we claim to be about when they see the way we actually live conflict with the loving peacemakers we are called to be as followers of Jesus Christ.
I intentionally say “US” because I am no where near perfect in my profession of faith in Jesus. I fail daily. I have a hard time having the right attitude when I’m irritated or angry at someone’s actions or words. It’s much easier to put myself and my concerns above others if I’m not making a conscious effort to truly care for them first in my heart and then follow up with caring for them in my actions.
I’ve heard people talk about how ugly people can get when there’s a death in the family. Up until now, I’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced this. To spare all the details and preserve what dignity may remain, I’m not going to get into all the nitty gritty of what has happened; there have been wrong actions and attitudes on both sides.
When we have been wronged, it’s human nature to want those wrongs made right. It is natural for us to feel the need for those who owe us something to pay their debt to us. The funny thing about Jesus’ teachings and God’s Word is that they’re often contrary to our own natural, human nature.
The message of the cross and the wisdom of The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 have never been so real to me as they are today:
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
My prayers concerning this situation lately have begun something like this: “God, how in the world can we forgive people like this? What does that really look like in this kind of circumstance?” Thankfully, the Bible has a lot to say about this topic. In fact, it’s a major theme from beginning to end, isn’t it?
Take a look at just a few forgiveness verses:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 1 Chronicles 7:14
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'” Matthew 18:21-22
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” Luke 23:34
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15
The entire message of Jesus is wrapped up the cross. He died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Even in the midst of hurt and pain and wrong inflicted upon us from others, even Christians sometimes, the Spirit of God will teach us how to pray and forgive, just as we have been forgiven. It is his power through us, not our strength alone.
I often think my husband is a much better person than I am. I thank God for his wisdom! We were talking about this whole family situation a few days ago and he said something about the Bible saying the evil ones will dig pits to trap others and then fall into their own holes (Ps. 7:15). It’s amazing how one snippet of truth can completely change your entire perspective. Nathan went on to remind me about the principle of reaping and sowing and God being the ultimate Judge. He wasn’t saying let people walk all over us…he was saying let’s leave it in God’s hands.
The thing about forgiving someone is that it frees us, too. It’s not just about letting them off the hook. It’s about choosing to hold onto to truth and love and grace and mercy instead of that someone who has wronged us.
I’m so grateful for a husband and family who love the Lord. It’s been quite a ride lately, but I know God causes ALL things to work together for the good of those who love him. He’s really teaching us what it means to love our enemies, pray for those who despitefully use us and trust HIM in the craziest of circumstances!
Everything good in my life and in myself is only because of Him. So I’m praying that instead of holding on to unforgiveness and grudges and debts owed to us, we forgive because we have been forgiven much. I imagine we’ve all been in some sort of situation at some time or another that required us to let go of something we’d been holding onto. If you’re there right now, I encourage you to ask God to help you leave it in his hands. He will do it.
The Lord is faithful. That has been the anthem of my life up until now and it will continue to be so in my future, and yours as well, I pray.