Rich Wells who is involved in ministry at Soma Church Community wrote a blog post a while back about the topic of forgiveness. This post is designed to capture the post and I plan to use it to make some points about forgiveness.
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 40:8 NIV
Approaching San Francisco from the south 405.
This is a post that I am going to use to make some points about evangelical Christians and issues with forgiveness. I wanted to preserve this for future discussion.
What if there was a cure to a serious cause of your physical well-being that is within your control but you are ignoring it. Would you want to know? Would you be willing to take action?
If you are experiencing irritability, stress, anxiety, depression, shame, headaches, digestive issues, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), or high blood pressure your physical well-being may be at risk!! Ya think.
Health professionals will tell us that “prolonged anger and unforgiveness results in the faltering of body functions, causing us to age faster and bringing disease.” As a result, “those harboring grudges experience increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.” Additionally, “this can cause alteration in the pattern of chemicals and electricity in your body disrupting the harmony of the brain waves, making you less able to think clearly and to make good decisions.”
But we know that when we are angry or hold a grudge we feel bad. We also know Jesus said in Matt 6:14-15 as He was finishing His teaching on what is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” And thirdly we know from Col 3:12-13 the Apostle Paul told us to “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.” If we know all this then why don’t we forgive?
C.S. Lewis observed “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Our Growth Group (small group) was discussing unforgiveness one evening when two people offered the following thoughts:
- It is like drinking poison and hoping the other person would die, or
- It is like putting on a choke collar and allowing the other person to pull you around.
So then we don’t forgive because we have been hurt deeply and there are some who have been hurt in a manner that no one should have been hurt. It is not my intent to minimize those. The principles of forgiveness are consistent but the grieving is definitely different. We also long for justice. However as one author put it, we have forgotten the extent of our forgiveness by God.
As we forgive we are not pretending something never happened, nor should we gloss over the offense. We are not saying what happened was good or right.
Our forgiveness must be unconditional, often unilateral, and is a choice we make hoping eventually for reconciliation.
Forgiveness is NOT a process it is a choice (decision) we make at a point in time. The process is learning to live with the decision we made. Over time it gets easier.
Jesus in His parable in Matt. 18 warned about unforgiveness and the need to have mercy. The wicked servant who did not was delivered to the jailers (a more precise translation would be the torturers.) That is exactly what happens when we have unforgiveness in our hearts… we are delivered to be tortured.
ARE YOU WILLING TO TAKE ACTION?
First, in obedience to God’s commands we must ask God’s forgiveness for the grudge or unforgiveness we are holding. Our own forgiveness requires it and it is the best thing for us.
When we refuse to forgive the bitterness grows and it eats away at us, causing stress, illness and loss of joy. In reality we are being hurt twice: first when we were sinned against, and second because we are missing God’s forgiveness.
We need to stop the pain and forgive. God will give us freedom as we are obedient. Don’t continue with the choke collar.
As we pray for God’s forgiveness, we say “God I confess my unforgiveness to (name(s)) for (identify the specific offense) and I chose to forgive them unconditionally.” This needs to be spelled out specifically stating exactly what you are forgiving. You cannot say “if I sinned, please forgive.” That is meaningless. Sometimes it will require several statements to be complete.
Forgiving does not mean we condone or accept what was done to us. One thing we can do to help us after choosing to forgive would be to pray blessings for that person(s). It helps us to remember what God has done for us with His forgiveness and we would be blessed if that person’s life was transformed for good.
Is there someone who you need to forgive?
Is there someone who you haven’t talked to in a long time because of what they did?
Is there someone who you refuse to trust because of what they did?
Is there someone who you avoid like the plague?
Is there someone who you are waiting for a confession from before you offer forgiveness?
You must forgive them. Your own forgiveness depends on it.
In case you are still in doubt, you might consider this additional medical information about the stress to your body that comes from not having a forgiving spirit.
“Unforgiveness distresses your muscular-skeletal system by increasing forehead muscle tension, thereby producing headaches, and by also producing other symptoms: stomach aches, muscle tension, joint pain/aches, dizziness and tiredness. For example, your muscles may tighten, causing imbalances or pain in your neck, back and limbs. There is decreased blood flow to the joint surfaces. This makes it more difficult for the blood to remove wastes from the tissues. It reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. This increases chances of delayed or inadequate repair during sleep, impairing recovery from injury, arthritis, etc. It can cause your teeth to clench at night contributing to problems with your teeth and jaw joints. Injury through inattention, accident, or violence is more likely. The peptide and hormonal chemical “messengers” are altered in every system of the body. The blood flow to your heart is constricted. Your digestion is impaired. “And while forgiveness may not be the sole cause of all of these, it increases your vulnerability to them. It can set the scene for them, and it can delay or even prevent your recovery. The effects when you are unforgiving to yourself can include depression; low self-esteem; depriving yourself of the good opportunities that life offers you; punishing yourself through activities or relationships that work out to harm yourself; addictions and so on. The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment. People who refuse to forgive hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. They can’t sleep. Ulcers line their stomach. They see the negative in every situation because their life is filled with these feelings of resentment and anger. People who are unwilling to forgive may feel they are punishing the other person but the only person paying the price is themselves.”
The following webstie has a very complete discussion: www.whatyourfutureholds.com