Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unloading The Bus

In the previous blog, judgment was talked about. Now, it’s time to focus on mercy and forgiveness. (Ahhhhh, much better!!).

Beth Moore uses the parable of the unmerciful servant in order to address the topic of forgiveness. Of course, we all probably know the story (which is found in Matthew 18:15-35). A servant was forgiven a tremendous debt that he couldn’t pay (which would equal millions of dollars in today’s currency). The king had mercy on him and forgave the debt. Yet, the servant went out and found a fellow servant that only owed him a few dollars and demanded payment. He refused to have mercy and patience with him; even though his plea was identical to his own plea that had just been honored by the king. He had the servant imprisoned, but also ended up being imprisoned as well (and tortured) when the king heard of his merciless behavior!

Beth Moore says about the parable: “The parable of the merciless servant is about forgiveness…a forgiveness prompted by patience, and a patience perfected by mercy. If we neglect the necessity of forgiveness, we fail to complete the portrait of biblical patience. Patience is the vessel through which God pours His mercy. Mercy is fueled by forgiveness.”

So, WHAT exactly is forgiveness? Beth explains it well: “The Greek word most often used in the New Testament for forgive is aphiemi. It means ‘to let go from one’s power, possession, to let go free, let escape.’ In essence, the intent of biblical forgiveness is to cut someone loose. The word picture drawn by the Greek terms for unforgiveness is one in which the ‘unforgiven’ is roped to the back of the unforgiving. How ironic. Unforgiveness is the means by which we securely bind ourselves to that which we hate most. Therefore, the Greek meaning of forgiveness might best be demonstrated as the practice of cutting loose the person roped to your back.”

Can you imagine “cutting loose” whatever person (or persons) are tied to your back? My gosh, why wouldn’t you want to?! That gets awfully burdensome and heavy!! Why hold onto that which you detest? How much sense does that make to torture yourself? Cutting loose will benefit YOU more than it benefits them!

Jesus tells us to forgive EVERYONE (Luke 11:4). And, in Mark 11:25, He reminds us to forgive others so God can forgive us. Yes, it’s difficult and sometimes even painful, but it’s a must if we expect to receive any mercy for ourselves (and also to set ourselves free).

Of course, there are those that have been offended greatly and for them, forgiveness is virtually unthinkable! Beth reminds us that “God desires to pour His patience through those with every right to avenge…every right to be merciless…every right to be angry and bitter…those to whom perhaps no earthly mercy has ever been shown.” Even in your “right” to be mad or vengeful, God wants to work out His patience, mercy, and forgiveness through you! “God wants to reveal Himself in us--not our rights or weaknesses.”

Maybe that’s not convincing enough for some. There are many offenses that just seem too monumental to forgive. However, Beth talks about several reasons why it’s so important to let go and forgive. We know that God COMMANDS it (and for good reason!). God wouldn’t issue a command if it weren’t for our benefit; after all, it’s His will that everything work out for good (Romans 8:28).

I like how Beth beautifully illustrates just how burdensome it is to carry unforgiveness in our hearts: “Frankly, it's difficult to live an effective Christian life with a body roped to your back. Can you imagine how many of us are walking around roped to a corpse? Some of us are harboring unforgiveness against someone who has long been in the grave. Is there anything heavier than 'dead weight'? Well, as a matter of fact, there is: a group roped to your back. Unforgiveness is extremely habit forming. Unchecked, it spreads from on person to another. Before you know it, you have a school-bus load of people roped to your back! You cannot be free to keep step with the Spirit when you are encumbered by the load of unforgiveness.”

Well said!! She also states that “the one who will not forgive always suffers more than the one not forgiven.” As in the case of the parable of the servants, both were imprisoned, but the merciless one was the servant that was tortured. To illustrate the point further, Beth tells of her own experience (which brought tears to my eyes): “After suffering a serious degree of childhood trauma, God continually confronted me to forgive my perpetrator. I refused for many years. Would you like to know why? I was absolutely certain that my forgiveness would ‘make it all right,’ and it wasn’t all right. I feared that if I forgave, he would be off the hook. I had suffered painful repercussions. I didn’t realize that my failure to forgive was causing me more pain than the original offense.”

I imagine that is how a lot of us feel. We feel the person needs punished and that if we forgive, that will be like excusing the behavior. But, that is not so! Beth said: “Finally, God wore me down until I was forced to listen to His gentle whisper to my heart. ‘Beth forgiving won’t make the offense all right; it will make YOU all right.’ He demanded that I forgive for my own sake…so that I would not be tortured by it for the rest of my life!” She said that once she forgave, it was the “most wonderful thing” that God ever gave her the ability to do! She says: “I am free. Not free from all memories-but free from all torture. Yes, He is faithful.”

Beth also reminds us that we must forgive so that Satan won’t have the opportunity to take advantage of us. “Few things exist in life that Stan can take advantage of more effectively than unforgiveness” she said. Just think of how he uses that one thing to spark a whole chain of events! He builds on that foundation to create more problems, rage, bitterness, the whole works!! Who wants or needs that?!

Beth further elaborates by affirming the fact that Satan will stop at nothing to rob God’s presence from us by using that unforgiveness to wedge itself between us and our heavenly Father. “He knows that it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit and filled with unforgiveness. Only Satan wins in the war of unforgiveness. When he sees a rope, he sees an opportunity to hang us.”

Finally, Beth says: “We must forgive because we are not the only ones bound by the rope of unforgiveness. If we refuse to forgive, we tie God’s mighty hands from ‘working all things together for good.’ He will not bring personal good to you from your pain if you do not release Him through your forgiveness. Why? Read Romans 8:28. This verse applies to those who love Him enough to be called according to His purpose. Christ has a purpose in the pain you’ve suffered or He never would have allowed it. Until you surrender to His purpose in the specific matter at hand, He cannot work it for your good. Do you know what that means? It all happened in vain--for absolutely nothing.”

In this fallen world, offenses and wrongs are a certainty. We are going to be offenders as well as the ones who get offended. There is trouble, pain, and all sorts of turmoil because of the sin nature in us all. Though, God’s promise is that He will use all of that for good if we will allow it. If not, we will have suffered for nothing if we remain bitter and cling to our pain. However, if we cut the cords, empty our bus-loads of people we need to “cut loose”, and allow God to heal us, He will be able to make the most of our misery and turn it into a ministry!!

I hope that these two blogs have been helpful to someone out there. It is a powerful subject matter, which is why I felt compelled to share it. If you need further help in learning to forgive, letting go of judgments, etc. PLEASE read “The Shack” by William P. Young. It’s one of the most helpful, inspiring, and powerful books you will ever read!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! May we all be blessed with patient, merciful, and forgiving hearts!! Amen!

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