Saturday, June 29, 2013

Devotion for today: Forgive and forget: really?

Eph 4:26-27, 31: “In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
 John 15:5: ...For without Me you can do nothing.
 2 Pet 1:9:...For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
 Luke 6:37: Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

It is one thing to settle an argument with someone by saying “Look, I am sorry. I failed to see your point. Let’s start again and this time let us both be open-minded.” It is another to say, “Look. I am sorry I stole your project and presented it to the boss as my own and now have the position and raise you deserved. Let’s just let it go and I promise I won’t do it again.” Hmmm. I have a feeling the first situation will not only bring the forgiveness asked for, it will also be a situation easily forgotten and not impede the established friendship. I know the second situation is never going to end like that. Forgiveness is tough anyway because we cannot stand to have our pride injured. That is why it is hard to ask for it and it is hard to give it. But let’s be honest. When we feel we have been grievously wronged, and have suffered because of it, we not only have our pride to deal with, but tremendous feelings of anger and hate, and a desire to seek revenge and see the perpetrator punished by none other than God Himself. Forgiveness seems impossible. And if we are the one who committed the heinous act, we usually do one of two things: make light of it as in the example above, or refuse to ask for forgiveness at all because we know how wrong we are and to admit it is to face the wrath and anger of the one we have wronged.

The problem is really what is mentioned in the first Bible passage above. When we experience a hurt, we open a tiny hole in our armor against the devil. We cannot hold onto the virtues and defenses we have worked so hard to achieve in our spiritual lives, because to be hurt emotionally is just like being hurt physically. It is painful, and not easily forgotten. That is just what the devil needs to move in and take over our thoughts. We continually review the situation in our minds, seemingly at times against our wills. We just can’t let it go. We seethe with anger and thoughts of “How could he do this to me?” This usually leads to talking about this person behind his back to any willing and sometimes unwilling listener. Doesn’t sound too virtuous or God-like, does it? That is because it isn’t. It is the devil and he is having a field day with us. The longer we ignore the situation, the worse it will get. That is why the sun cannot go down on our anger. But that is easier said than done!

It is easier said than done, unless we turn to God. For without God, not only will we not forgive, we will never, ever be able to forget. Think back to the worst physical pain you ever experienced. The broken collar bone you got playing football, the 18 hour labor you experienced delivering your first child, the burning sensation when hot water spilled on your arm are not things easily tossed out of our minds. We don’t dwell on them, or we would never play sports, have babies, or drink tea again. Yet we don’t forget. We simply put them aside and move on. Emotional pain is much worse. We trusted someone, and he betrayed us. We loved someone, and he broke our heart. We believed someone, and he was lying all along. How do we “get over” this? We can’t, not completely unless we let God enter our hearts and help us. We must turn ourselves over to God, who is love and mercy Himself. Remember, God is a spirit and as a Spirit He can enter our hearts and stay there if we let Him, and if we let Him, He begins to dwell in us, and we in Him, and our hearts are softened and we can say to Satan, “Go to hell and stay there. I will not be consumed by hate and anger. I can and will forgive, and by the grace of God, I will in time ‘forget’ for all things are possible with God.”

It is here we remember that this very God living in our hearts forgave us our sins, over and over and over, and will do so over and over and over until we die. This is the same God who died for our sins although He had none Himself. If nothing else works, remember that. We must forgive, for we have been forgiven by God, and if we don’t forgive, then we are placing ourselves ahead of God and saying, “I worship my right to be angry more than I worship You, God.” Those are not good words to say. No, never.

So, our formula for forgiveness and forgetting goes like this: handle your anger quickly and bravely before the devil has time to harden your heart. Seek forgiveness quickly if you have harmed someone before you have enough time to thoroughly justify your misdeed. Always pray hard and long to have God, the Spirit of love and mercy, enter your heart and do what you cannot do alone: forget and move on. I am not saying enter into denial; I am saying to replace the repetition of the offense in your mind with love for the individual who harmed you. That is what God has done so many times for you. That is the high road. That is true freedom. Forgive and forget…really? Yes, really.

 Rule #2 for evangelization: Forgive everyone who has ever harmed you. Seek forgiveness from everyone you have wronged. That is being Christ to others in a most powerful way. That will bring people to God faster than any book you can recommend or any lecture you can give. And remember to smile!

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