Sunday, April 24, 2005

Forgiveness

There are times when I have a hard time forgiving someone -or when I am not really sure how I should or can do such a thing. I realize I can be very judgmental, and it bothers me to see it. A few things, obvious things, have come to mind as of late regarding this subject.

First, I am more judgmental and less forgiving when I cannot see myself essentially being the same way as that person I am condemning or refusing to forgive. I am, at that moment, blind to how truly sinful I am, and often in the same manner that I am finding so much fault with in this other person. I may say, "oh, and I know I do the same thing", but until I really grasp that I actually do the same thing or think the same way then I will not forgive that person. Indeed, I will not be able to. While the Spirit tells me that I ought to, because it is good, my flesh insists upon not for reasons of self-justification. My flesh likes to play God and determine who deserves mercy and who does not and for what reason. When we do not impute sins to our neighbor, it only comes as a result of a heart that is free of any alleged righteousness in self. Of course, after saying all this, we could just read Jesus' words about the speck in our brother's eye versus the plank in our own eye. I don't think Jesus meant, "well... before you go condemn your brother, make sure you are clear so they can't condemn you back." No, I know for a fact He means that we should look at ourselves first, with true Spirit-driven honesty, and we will be much more gracious toward our brothers and sisters.

Second, forgiveness must be free. I know the typical line of thought goes one of two ways: a) you forgive them when they have turned to you in contrition, or b) you forgive them apart from their experience for your benefit alone... so that you will not have it hanging over you. I think both of those really smack of human pride. Why should we forgive and why does any man truly forgive the way God forgives in the first place? Because they see how God has freely forgiven them.

This is one of the really practical implications of Reformed soteriology -or even Reformation theology. We see that God doesn't forgive us because we did something first. He isn't gracious to us because we turned to Him or sought Him out. He is gracious to us freely. The very reason we do seek Him out is because He has first sought us out and now draws us to Himself. Realizing this is one of the most humbling and freeing things. Imagine... grace with no strings attached. Imagine, husbands, being gracious to your wife for no reason that exists within her. Wives, imagine doing the same for your husband, without any regard to how they have treated you recently. Let us all pray for humility and love so that we may forgive and be gracious, long-suffering, patient, and gentle with others.

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