Friday, February 15, 2013
* THE BRIDGE
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV 1984) "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
In a world with such heartache, it is unreasonable to consider we can go through life unscathed. People are mean. Hurtful words pierce like a dagger. Indifference replaces love. Friends betray confidence. Disagreements remain unsettled. Families forsake each other.
When our hearts are trampled and our inner core is ripped apart, we have a decision to make. If not properly handled, anger and bitterness will creep their way into our life like a cracked water line in a home, producing detrimental damage.
We have a bridge to face. Crossing this bridge is vital and nearly necessary each day. Small things. Big things. Even, enormous things. The choice is ours. What awaits us one side of the bridge is life-changing because it welcomes healing, restoration, peace, grace and love. But, naively lurking on the other side is guilt, hurt, anger, bitterness, and disappointment.
This life transforming bridge is forgiveness. To forgive is to pardon someone of an offense. Forgiveness can repair and restore us while we release the control and desire to get even or settle the score with another individual.
There are two positions to forgiveness: giving and receiving. To give forgiveness means we extend it to those who hurt us. It doesn't make the wrong right or get the other person off the hook. Forgiving actually frees us from being held in bondage to hostility and resentment. To receive forgiveness is to accept the acquittal of whom we hurt. When we wrong another it is only necessary to seek forgiveness in hope of mending to the relationship.
Awhile ago I was challenged to cancel the debt of another. The wound ran deep and the malice I grasped, spiritually and emotionally plagued me. These burdens attached themselves to my heart like a backpack. For years I never knew how to unload them. I failed to realize the paralyzing side effects of unforgiveness. This harbored anger was completely justified, so I thought. Because the offense was wrong, you know, dead wrong.
My life crumbled. Needed intervention was an understatement. Through the guidance of another and the power of God, I was capable to release the offender. Being able to truly forgive cut the chords of my captivity. Forgiveness didn't make the wrong right, but it did make my heart right.
The key verse from Matthew 18:21-22 preludes the parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23-35. Based on our own sinfulness and inability to pay our debt, Jesus is point blank in how we are to mercifully treat others when they hurt us. We too, must forgive their debt, no matter how many times they wound us.
In verse 21 Peter asks how many times he is required to forgive when a brother sins against him. Notice he says, "brother." A fellow teammate, one perhaps you wouldn't expect pain from. Common teaching among Jews only required forgiveness three times. Peter more than doubled his mercy by suggesting seven times. When Jesus responds with seventy-seven times, He is blowing Peter's notion out of the water.
The sacrifice of Jesus offers us hope. Christ was innocent yet He was mocked, ridiculed, spat on, beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross. He was killed so we might receive and experience the greatest forgiveness of all. His example reveals the seed of forgiveness being love. Love covers over a multitude of wrongs. When we acknowledge the forgiveness we receive from the Lord, it is easier to extend it others, even the really big grievances. Walls of impossibility are destroyed as we allow Christ's love to embrace our pain. Then, we can extend one foot in front of the other to cross this bridge.
Forgiveness is not easy, but essential, to maintain healthy relationships with others and with God. Transforming power is released when we grant it to others and are forgiven by another. Remember, forgiveness doesn't make the wrong right, it makes the heart right. Restoration replaces rivalry. Peace replaces pain. Healing replaces hurt. Grace replaces grudge. Will you cross this bridge?
Do you recognize the gracious and abundant forgiveness you have received from the Lord? He couldn't give you this forgiveness without the cost of His life. Ask the Lord for the strength to cross the bridge.
Who do you need to forgive?
How have you allowed not forgiving someone to create distance in your relationship? How can you move forward in the process of healing and restoration? What step will you take this week?
Heart Transforming Word:
Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Luke 6:37b "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
1 Peter 4:8 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.