Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From the Heart: Praying for Forgiveness

When cut to the quick by those who should have loved us, the pain hurts more than the wounds of a stranger and Jesus certainly understands this more than we. We know the Scriptural admonition to forgive--and this doesn't mean to condone or accept because wrong is wrong. However, we know we are flawed individuals, and we each have erred. And forgiveness is not an option. When we me our Father on Judgment Day we want to hear, "Well done my good and faithful servant" not "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer!"

So how do we forgive, especially when we were right--clearly and without pride? (and remember, this isn't always the case--we are human, after all).

The first step is to pray for the offender which is not easy and often our will rebels against it. However, we cannot hold the sin against the believer--whatever we forgive on earth is forgiven in heaven, and we certainly want forgiveness from God and people for ourselves. To get that, we must give it.

One trick I've found that works when I do not want to pray for something goes like this: "Lord, help me want to pray for forgiveness." Sometimes I go a step further and pray that I want to want to--because I know how to hold onto a grudge. Usually I couple those prayers with an actual petition for the offender, and I'm honest. I tell God I may not mean it now, but I want to mean it. Eventually, my prayers become sincere.

Prayers restorative. Read James 5:16 and see. Although verse 15 talks about praying for the physically ill-- it has an application beyond the physical. "...confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

For me, I want to be able to fix things--do something. However, we cannot forgive unless we lean on God our Father. This is the first step.

My next post will explore concrete steps to take.

Monday, May 2, 2011

From the Heart: Forgiveness

Matt 18:35
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

From your heart...this is not a superficial forgiveness, but a deep, no loop-hole forgiveness. It sounds good, but the Bible doesn't give us a twelve step program on how to achieve this. Perhaps because each of us is different, we need to find our own path. Although the process offers latitude, the end result doesn't. We need to forgive.

The ability to give grace from our hearts is God's gift. People have been raped, beaten, cheated and destroyed by others, and God does not absolve them from forgiving because the severity of the issue—unforgiveness condemns us. So how do we do it?

Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, represents a perfect example of God’s divine will. His position in Egypt could exact vengeance on brothers who had caused him years of misery. But what did he do? He forgave them all and gave them sanctuary. Because of Joseph’s actions, his family found salvation.

Matthew 18: 35 be says, “…forgive your brother from your heart.” We frequently mouth the words with conviction, but God wants us to go beyond words, beyond confession. He demands forgiveness from the heart.

Heartfelt forgiveness doesn’t condone, doesn’t say, “Gee, no problem.” But it does release us from pain. It does loose forgiveness from heaven. Like Joseph, it can lead our enemies to salvation.
I suppose the first step in forgiving is acting like Joseph—treating the offenders with love and respect. But I’d like to hear from others…how does one forgive when every fiber of our lives is torn? What has helped you?