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Forgive? Are you kidding me!?

Why forgive

“Well you have to forgive…”, “you really need to forgive…”, “just forgive…”. We have all heard these sayings and always said or thought; “I do”, “I have”, “I know,” or “I’m working on it”, “I’ve tried”.

The Bible talks about forgiveness and we believe that we are forgiven by Jesus for our sins. Let’s go a bit deeper. Why should we forgive? How do we know when we have forgiven? How do we practically walk out the actual steps it takes to forgive? This is a subject I have puzzled on and struggled with for a long time. I believe now that there are reasons to forgive, steps to take in the process of forgiveness and signs that show us we have forgiven those who have hurt us.

Hurts come in all forms and from all kinds of people and relationship. Most often the deeper the connection the deeper the wound. The trauma of abuse and assault causes some of the very deepest wounds even if it was from a stranger. Abandonment and neglect cause us to live in a protective bubble attempting to avoid all other hurt.

In fact one sign that we need to work on forgivenesses toward someone IS that we have built up protective barriers to emotional, physical and social connection. We tend to run from anything that comes anywhere near that wound. Over time we develop fear towards any possible stimulant that would trigger a response to that wound.

A few people I know refuse to eat at restaurants because they are terrified of being seen eating. Others say that’s irrational, while they drive the long way to avoid bridges, tunnels, or rely on grocery delivery to stay away from other stimuli. Dogs, police, elevators, spiders, swimming pools, germs; the list stretches on because everyone deals with some fear that another would consider irrational.

Fear IS another sign of a need to forgive. 1 John 4:18 is the litmus test for searching your heart for unforgiveness as far as I’m concerned. It ties together with Matthew 18 and the story of the unforgiving servant. There is no fear in love! Fear has torment; torment by the thought of facing what we fear. If you need convincing throw a tiny spider in a person’s path and you will see the effects of fear. Fear also accompanies thoughts of past hurts in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks.

The servant in Matthew 18 was forgiven a debt that in todays standards would have been in the 6 0r 7 digits. When his master forgave that immense debt the servant walked away from the master’s presence and immediately began choking the life out of someone who owed his a measly hundred bucks. When the master heard, he threw the unforgiving servant in prison where he would be tormented until he paid his debt. 2 Corinthians 2 talks about forgiveness. Verse 11 equates holding grudges to our giving satan’s schemes an advantage to destroy us.

In our day and age we look everywhere for justice. We scream ME TOO! We demand a fair compensation for our wound, our hurt, our abuse at the hands of others. But the solution to hurt is NOT justice. It cannot be when we are sinners also.

I struggled with torment, flashbacks, nightmares, fear of dozens of things, panic and dissociation from past abuse. I repeatedly ran up against 1 John 4: 18 and was convicted over and over by Matthew 18 until I screamed at the heavens for clarity and direction. I spent more than a decade in intense trauma therapy. I came to a point where I needed to decide what to do with all of what I had been through.

Justice was unreachable, no amount of money or apologies could undo the damage at the hands of those who hurt me. The statute of limitations for a legal redress was long past. I considered the fact that they had gone on and lived their lives and I was the stuck one. I knew from prayer, teaching and counsel that whatever response I gave was for my benefit not theirs.

I dreamed one night that I stood at the foot of the cross where Jesus hung dying for me and you. In that moment I knew that he also died for what those abusers had done to me. I looked to left and right and saw a line of the people who had hurt me standing with me, shoulder to shoulder. I was not better then them because I hadn’t done the horrible things they did. They were not worse than me because they did perpetrate abuse. Sin is sin. Take all your sin and theirs and put it in a bag. You can’t tell which is which. The bag is full of garbage, sin. When I woke up from this dream I cried out oh Jesus! Inside I knew that I wanted God;s grace to be poured out on them as it has been on me!

The antidote to fear is PERFECT LOVE! Perfect love comes through Grace. Grace for you and grace for them. Now it is not an easy remedy but it is worth the steps you take and the effort you give perfect love. It requires brutal honesty with yourself, honest counsel from others, prayer and humbling yourself before our God and making a commitment to allowing the Holy Spirit to love you, convince you, wash you and apply grace to your wounds.

Forgiveness requires us to see ourselves as inadequate without Jesus. When we understand our place at his feet and accept the fact that EVERYONE is at the same level at his feet then we can begin to desire God’s grace for those who have hurt us and THAT is the sign that we are being made perfect in love.

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