Friday, April 3, 2020
Human nature makes a mess of forgiveness. We even validate how we forgive with the excuse, ”But I’m not God.” Let me explain.
We tend to drag out the stages of forgiveness. We spend time contemplating the hurt, and discovering every area of our life affected by the hurt. After a period of time, we decide we don’t want the hurt anymore, so we forgive the person who hurt us – or at least we say we do – all the while establishing boundaries to protect us from additional hurt. As time passes, we loosen the boundaries based on varying levels of trust that have been re-established. Finally, after what could be years, we feel safe in fully restoring our relationship with the person who hurt us.
I speak from experience. This is our natural process of forgiveness. We are human, and memories combine with the need for self-preservation. We choose to protect both.
Not so with Jesus. His actions are to be our model of forgiveness. His love is to be the guide for how we forgive. Look at what He did on the cross. Not only did Jesus pray for the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, He also specifically forgave one of the thieves crucified next to Him.
When the thieves were put on the cross, both of them cursed Jesus. Both of them hurt Him. But later, one of the thieves had a change of heart.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:39-42).
It was at this juncture that Jesus made His second statement from the cross.
“Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)
When Jesus forgave, He immediately restored relationship. He didn’t take time to process and evaluate and force perpetrator to earn trust. Repentance – true repentance – requires total forgiveness.
Now, many of you right now would love to remind me of human nature, and that we aren’t God. But before you do, remember Who lives in you, and Who’s love is able to motivate your thoughts and actions. We are either motivated by the need to gratify the needs of the flesh, or we are living according to the Holy Spirit so that we do not gratify the flesh.
While I understand that we all have a long way to go to approach the incredible grace displayed by Jesus, I also know that I am challenged by the Holy Spirit from His Word to “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Every time I’m hurt, do I get better at moving through the process of forgiveness to reach the conclusion of restored relationship? Or am I satisfied to respond the way I always have and deal with hurt within my comfort zones? By the power of Christ’s forgiveness for me, I can also forgive others. Not according to human standards, but in the same way He forgave me.
Maybe today will be the day we can say with Jesus, “Today, you will be with me in relationship again.”