What forgiveness is

Back in January a young college student and her boyfriend were brutally tortured, murdered, burned and dismembered. Anyone who talks of it is trying to figure it out. Why. why. why. The incident to the best of my understanding was random insofar as to the choice of victims. They were in the wrong place. Though the perpetrators were black and the victims white, race does not seem to be an issue. This morning on the radio the word “frenzy” was used. Is that possible? Does a desire to hurt escalate into horror? Is the initial choice to cause harm so pleasurable to the doer that he needs more and more to satisfy him? Does race then become part of the escalation – black on white, white on Asian, whatever on whomever? Is drugs part of that particular equation?

The parents are reeling. The girl’s father speaks of his pure hatred. He sits in the courtroom rocking on the edge of his chair, his white knuckled hands in a death grip. I do not recommend anyone walk up to him and read him this 10 point blog. That does not mean that these 10 points do not apply to him. Forgiving in this case is definitely not a pardon and release.

I mention this to make a point. The system and definition of forgiveness applies to him and everyone all the way down to the child who is pushed unjustly on the playground. Timing is everything. Learning in small chunks is necessary.

This father has much to go through. He will need to be ministered to eventually. When he cries out, God will provide. Timing.

As you read these points, you will want to drag out your box of Yabbuts. Keep them in the context of everyday offenses. But know also that the parents of the murdered child and everyone else in between them and us, in order to be one with each other in the Kingdom, will have to employ all of them at some point in time.

1. Being aware of what someone has done and still forgiving. It is no spiritual victory to think we are forgiving people when we are ignoring the deed. When we know what they did, and accept that they will be blessed, most times without consequence, we cross over into a supernatural realm. We become a little more like Jesus.

2. Choosing to keep no record of wrong. Forgetting is not the operative word as much as is “drop it.” I’m disappointed. I can still remember wrongdoing from 1973 that I want to keep around just in case I need it to prove a point. (Dang)

3. Refusing to punish by our own hand. Punishment may occur if God allows it. This one means we need to give up the everything including the desire for personal retribution and turn it over to God. No daydreaming about the look on that person’s sorry face for what he did.

4. Not telling what they did. We all need a support friend. Ask yourself if you are sharing your pain with the purpose of hurting your enemy’s reputation. That’s a form of punishment. That is taking God’s control away from Him. If you must share, make sure your heart is right, the friend is trustworthy, that it’s for your therapy, not your enemy’s exposure. What’s your attitude and motive?

5. Being merciful. Matt.5:7 Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Luke 6:36 says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Grace is getting what we don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what we do deserve. When we are merciful, we are witholding justice from those who have injured us.

6. Graciousness. Gentleness. Forbearance. Tolerance. This concept is threatening to those of us who don’t easily tolerate those we perceive to be fools, who feel that being inflexible for the truth is the ultimate virtue. Ouch. Next!……

7. It is an inner condition. This is the toughest one so far. In my mind, it does not mean that when I feel no more negative emotion, I forgive. The feelings are last. The decision to obey all the points so far can create this inner sincerety while you are still licking your wound. From the cross Jesus asked the Father to forgive his torturers on the basis that they were clueless.

8. Absence of bitterness, which is excessive desire for vengeance that comes from deep resentment. The absence of bitterness allows the Holy Spirit to be Himself in us. Bitterness is gone when there is no desire to get even, hurt his reputation or future and when you truly wish him well in all he seeks to do. Bless you enemies as instructed in scripture.

9. Forgiving God. He allowed this bad thing to happen. Why didn’t He step in? the answer is the same as why as a parent you don’t keep your child in a bubble. I’ve often wished I could when I saw my kids crying over some other kid’s rudeness and cruelty. I might have to take a deep breath and thank God for the preparation for something bigger, or the experience needed to help another through the same process.

10. Forgiving ourselves. I don’t know about you, but my name tag reads “Stupid Idiot”, subtitled “you knew better, what were you thinking?” What does it profit you or anyone you know if you continuously berate yourself, hang your head and drag your chains of guilt. We want to hold grudges against ourselves. Somehow that cloud of guilt tells our listeners we are humble and contrite and gives us the satisfaction of penance. That too is taking God’s glory away from Him. Instead we have to allow Jesus’ sacrifice to work in us so that we manifest joy and love with abandon, demonstrating His power to forgive. If you insist on doing it yourself like a toddler wanting to dress himself badly, after a while, you will actually be proud of your humility. Tilt, tilt! “Oh, don’t worry about little old me. I’ll just slink into the corner where I should be … oh, woe is me…”

Get over it.

As for the father grieving over his only daughter and the pain and fear she suffered, I give him mercy, I pray for his release from this overwhelming agony. May God have mercy on him and send him relief, may He help these parents find joy again.

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