About Forgiveness

October 7th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

inspirational quote sayings

“You  must do the things you think you cannot do.”– Eleanor Roosevelt

    What is it about forgiveness that makes it so complex, so contradictory to our typical human nature?

    I always felt that because forgiveness was the hardest thing to do in our lives , especially if an offense was overwhelming, that it was something that we must learn to do.  I find this especially true when faced with the example of Jesus, who even forgave the people who wanted his death and those who actually killed him.

    But how is this even possible:  to forgive someone who has taken the life of your daughter?

    In 1993, Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar, was in South Africa to help its people to prepare for the the country’s first-ever multiracial elections in 1994.  Caught in a mob of  antiapartheid protesters, she was smashed with a brick and then brutally stabbed.

    Her family was contacted by the State Department and calls from the media started pouring in.  Amy’s mother, Linda, decided that, “We’re going to celebrate Amy’s life.”  Two months later, on a 10-day trip to Cape Town, the Biehls were struck by the expressions of grief offered by many black South Africans.  Learning more about the country, it’s lack of education, extreme poverty and hunger, Linda began to understand the rage that killed her daughter.  The family decided to keep Amy’s dreams of a better South Africa alive.  They created The Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, which included a self-sustaining bakery (employing 30 people) called “Amy’s Bread – The Bread of Hope and Peace”, also, after-school projects in the black township of Guguletu, and a driving range intended to keep kids off the street.   In addition, the Trust also operated an education project aimed at eradicating AIDS.

    After four years, two of the men (Nofemela and Peni) who had helped kill Amy, had gotten out of prison and asked to meet the Biehls.  They had deeply changed in prison and felt that they need to say “sorry” to Amy’s parents.  Peni said, “She convinced us that this was not the end of our lives.”  Nofemela, who’d had a baby daughter after prison said, “Amy Biehl should have children.  When I think about that, I cry with pain.”

    …….And Jesus said to her, “Neither will I condemn thee.  Go and sin no more.”–John 8:11

    Linda saw the good in each of the young men’s hearts:  “I don’t see them as evil people.  They have taken responsibility for their actions and asked for forgiveness.”  In response to that request,  and in an act of remarkable forgiveness, Linda hired the two men to help with the bakery and after-school projects.

    Linda Biehl pointed out that forgiveness of such a tragic act of violence did not happen overnight.   But with the passage of time, a bond developed between two different worlds and cultures, and it became possible.  The forgiveness of overwhelming loss started first with understanding, progressed to reflection, remorse, the request by the perpetrators to forgive them their sins, and in the end, it culminated with the compassion that teaches us how to forgive someone, anyone, everyone.

    The most important and surprising thing about forgiveness, as  difficult as it is, is that it can still be learned and then given:  freeing both those doing the forgiving as well as the forgiven.

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Jesus Christ Praying At Gethsemane Picture Art Print Poster (16×20)


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  1. Chuck…yep, Chuck
    February 5th, 2010 at 03:52 | #1

    Forgiveness is such a tremendous trial for us as human being because it requres of us that we violate two basic instincts: Our right to be right and, at tims, be a victim as a result and the contraindication of being right, humility.

    The latter seems, at first glance easier to handle because we can just decide to “be humble”. There is a time when our humility can, in fact, be defined or identified as “Prideful Humility,” in the sense that we gain satisfaction from the very fact that we have stooped to humble ourselves when we didn’t nave to. Humm? …doesn’t sound so humble does it? The issue with humility, true Godly humility, is the decision…and it is a decision…to set aside that to which we have a right…we are in the bounds of Christian freedom…that God would be Glorified and we would be diminished in the light of His Glory. We would choose, per Paul’s comment in Romans 12:1-2, “…Therefore, my dear brothers, in view of God’s mercy, I urge you to submit your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God – this is your act of spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will…”

    That’s a mouth full but Paul doesn’t stop there nor does Jesus. We aee told to put others before ourselves, consider others better than ourselves, to submit to those in authority over us, to die unto our wives as Christ Jesus died for the Church, his Holy Bride…and it goes on. The fact that we/I hold on to my ‘rights’…maybe because I’ve been injured…maybe I do have a right to be less than humble because of the circumstances placed before me…is a place of great power. Great and grave power for the evil one! Power for him in that it is in that sense of pride, even in humility, where our idol resides…that old idol that we have long ago dispensed of.

    I can hear the cries as I write…but, Chuck! I have a right to be hurt! I have a right to my anger! I have a right to my indignation against another who has so interjected themselves into my life and destroyed its fabric. Here is a question to ponder for a moment…it does not, nor should it diminish the pain of the moment or circumstance since that is an entirely different issue than humility…Is God, in fact, Sovereign? The answer is either yes or no. If not, he isn’t God and our Faith is in vein. If yes, there is a second question. Did God know from the foundations of the universe the trials and tribulations that I would invariably face in my life? The burdens and the extent of the burden such that I would not be burdened beyond what I could bear…from the foundations of the universe? Again, teh answer is either yes or no. If no, he was surprised by our comings and goings and is, therefore, not Sovereign and, hence, not God. If yes, then while we are either in tremendous travail because of our pain or we are in the place of having to deal with the awesome consequences of our own sin…all of which is equally repugnant to the Holy of Holies, we still have room for humility given what Christ did for us.

    In a sermon on Romans 1:18-32, I began to consider all of the failures of those folks who have rejected God… Why they neither acknowledged him as God nor gave thanks… Those fools…to think that in their wisdom they would do something as daunting to their fate as exchange the truth of God for a lie or exchange the image of Immortal God for images made to look like mortal men, bird, animals and reptiles…how repugnant is that? In their wisdom, they are Godless, faithless, gossips… Now wait just one minute…as I paused in my sermon…have I always focused my full attention on God as Holy, Just, Right and Pure? Have I always given thanks for the things that he is currently doing in my Christian life… Oh, that was all for my prior life before my regenerate heart?! Really?! Be honest, now. Have I not, at some point in time, chosen to hold the idol of my job, my hatred, my rights, my pride, my needs…why we’ve uncovered another triune god, the god of “I, me and my” And what about some of those other sins that Paul ascribes to the wise…to the wicked? Am I not still covetous at times? Am I not still tempted by lust?

    So, now, when I begin to appraise myself against the standard requirement…and necessary requirement of a Holy God…anything less than Holy means he isn’t God…the cesspool of sin applied to Christ on my behalf that I might find favor with God through Justification which comes through faith and faith alone…that ought bring me to a place of humility at the foot of that very same cross I visited the night I came to Christ the first time. But does it? To the extent that it doesn’t, I am stuck with a foot in the fowler’s snare because he, the prince of darkness, has his hands in a stronghold in my life.

    The question we/I must ask myself is: Is this where I want to be in my life?

    The other side of humility is this concept of forgiveness. Often the toughest question to be addressed is whether someone deserves forgiveness? Well, let’s challenge that. Consider the most heinous sin that could have been committed… What would that be? In your experience, what would it be? Murder, I hear someone cry out from the back of the room…adultery…with my wife…Comes another cry! Cries of righteous indignation against something that either affected them personally and directly or secondarily in terms of their sensibilities.

    I was once in a discussion with someone about sin and, in particular, the sin of passion. The remark made was that the act of adultery is so much greater a sin than Jesus’ comments on the Sermon on the Mount would espouse. Again, we must place a spiritual dividing rod between the grievousness of sin before a fully and awesome Holy God and the consequences of sin, the act of carnal man. It’s a very important spiritual rod that must be held. In the face of God, sin is sin is sin is sin. All sin is corrupt and all corruption begets only further corruption. In the eyes of God, sin is and must be utterly sinful so that the word of God would be utterly true regarding man. In light of my sin, even the most heinous sin, there is nothing but thin air between me and the pit of burning Sulfur save for the spilt blood of my Redeemer and Lord. Having said that, what about sin that isn’t quite so heinous… Again, let’s go back to Romans 1-3, or how about 1 Corinthians 6:9-12. While the lists in both cases are not exhaustive, they speak of such things as gossip, slander, covetousness…you’ve never wanted something that belonged to someone else? Me? And, then, Jesus adds to the laundry list of sin, the context of the spirit and the truth of the Law.

    You see there is this interesting principle: We are either slaves to the law of Sin and Death…hence, slaves to the prince of the air, or we are slaves to righteousness, those who would, as all Israel, wrestle with God. There is but one or the other…nothing in between…as much as we’d like there to be a middle ground. Again, there is that dividing rod between the sin and its consequence. There is also the dividing rod of the consequences on this side of heaven and the other side of heaven. So, while I may think that it is Ok to hold indignation in my heart against a brother in Christ, since no one will know it is alright. Not so! Indignation against a brother is sin! The consequence of sin is what? Death! Why? Because God, alone, is Holy! “…Therefore, be Holy even as I am Holy…” says the Lord. There’s no wiggle room here because of who God is, what his righteous right requirements are, and who we are as carnal men.

    Will the consequence of sin be different under different circumstances? Yes…and rightly so. Particularly as we are humbled by those circumstances as David was when he committed both murder and adultery as the shepherd King for the people of Israel. Why is it that David was considered the “Apple of the eye of God”? His righteousness? No. Rather, because as we learn in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “…all Scripture is God Breathed and useful for teaching, for correction, for rebuke, for training in righteousness so that the man of God is thoroughly equipped to do every good work…” Again, we come back to that same set of questions asked earlier. Is God surprised by our sin? By our particular sin? By our particular sin in our particular circumstance? By our particular sin in our particular circumstance with its particular implications on the lives of others? No, He cannot! The question that then gets asked is “where is Justice?” Justice hung on a Tree on Calvary’s Hill for you…for me…for all who would put their faith in Christ. Does the punishment for sin fit the crime of the sin? Humanly speaking, because it often leaves us in tremendous agony having to live with the consequences of the sin…either ours or someone else’s…no. There is always this sense that more justice needs to be served.

    I was once on a Elder Board that had to deal with the rather tumultuous issues associated with sexual sin in a marriage…that of pornography. We first needed to address the issue of whether this particular sin constituted pornea. It didn’t take me too much time, Biblically, to work through that question. The issue that took so much time is that since that sin was the cause of a divorce, is it acceptable that the partaker in the sin would be free to remarry? The decree is that, except for adultery, a man is bound to his wife and vice versa. Upon the adulterous relationship there is a breaking of the marriage bed such that the innocent party is free to remarry. The guilty party remains in their sin. But what happens if the guilty party repents of their sin and finds reconciliation with the former spouse…apart from re-marriage. Are they free to re-marry? The issue here is that one of the Elders wanted to impose a standard that the Scriptures themselves don’t apply because it didn’t seem reasonable that someone could go out, purchase a porn book, get divorced, repent and then be free to remarry after destroying relationships all the way along their path. So, here is the larger question…which deals with both forgiveness and humility on this side of heaven…who is the One who Will, in fact, Judge the Heart of Man and do it rightly? Second, is it sufficient to know that the God of all Creation who knows from eternity past that such would occur and that His Glory would be shown somehow in and through the circumstance is the one who Will, in fact, Judge Rightly and Righteously? Thirdly, in humility and through forgiveness, is it just possible that God would be Glorified? And lastly, is it just possible that through both the subject of both my being humble and showing forgiveness might be, as clay in the potter’s hands, molded into one who would truly come to know the Glorious Goodness of God and repent?

    Just something off the top of my head as I struggle to prepare to go home utterly exhausted at 4:30 am after a grueling evening of work. I’ve been writing until my body gets its second wind, so to speak and my eyes stop burning from being so tired. Hence, pardon the ramblings and misspellings.

  2. admin
    February 7th, 2010 at 02:49 | #2

    @Chuck…yep, Chuck
    Chuck, I just had to smile when I came to the end of your comment, when you stated that it was “just something off the top of my head.”…….It was in fact, thoughtful, and in-depth, and because you have given sermons before, I can see that these thoughts/words are part of your avocation.

    I see that your ideas point to giving up our need to be right and justified in order to humble ourselves as God would want us to do. At that point we can truly forgive.

    I also see that an act of forgiveness is helped along when someone, who’s deeply repentant (as in the story above about Amy and Linda Biehl) asks for that forgiveness from us. It’s then that I think our compassion (hopefully) kicks in and encourages us to do the right thing: freeing ourselves from the burden of carrying so much hate or anger or pain while freeing the transgressor from the guilt and pain that they are carrying, too.

    In addition, I realize that if someone feels no remorse, nor even asks for forgiveness, nor even feels that they need it, as in the case of those who wanted Jesus’ death; then it’s the most difficult kind of forgiveness to give. And not only did Jesus give it, but he asked God the Father to forgive them, too.

    A recent example of this kind of forgiveness (where no one asks for it), concerns the story of Eva Kor. She and her 10-yr old twin sister were kept at the concentration camp at Auschwitz and subjected to medical experimentation by Dr. Josef Mengele.

    She chose to forgive those who abused her and killed her family members. She never said it was easy, but she explained that she didn’t do it for their benefit. She said she did it for herself because she deserved it. Once she made the choice to forgive, a weight was lifted and her nightmares about the events ceased. She also said she did it because she made a conscious decision to no longer be a victim.

    Again, thank you for your welcome thoughts delivered at 4:30 AM!

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