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Starting With Forgiveness

2245880137_b7dc95bcc6_oIn the world, forgiveness is the end of a process. In the church, it is the beginning of a process.  ~Dr. George Grant 

Investigators picking through the wreckage of broken homes more often than not conclude that an unwillingness to forgive is the usual suspect.  Like a smoke detector that “looks” like it is in perfect working order but is as broken as a shattered mirror, a forgiveness that is in working order means a great deal more than saying “I forgive you.” 

Genuine forgiveness means extending a mercy that is neither earned nor easy to give.  It means starving your ego and putting your pointed finger in your pocket.  It means rolling out the red carpet for a scoundrel instead of jerking it out from underneath of a dirty rotten nobody.  It means letting the guilty get off scot-free as far as it concerns you.  Forgiving anyone, especially someone close to you, can be quite excruciating actually, and even humiliating when you really forgive.  But the joy found in forgiving a guilty party far and above outweighs the embarrassment you might suffer in offering it.

If you have practiced any semblance of the kind of  forgiveness God extends to those who trust in his mercy, you know exactly what I am talking about!

When the imperative step of forgiveness is skipped when it is necessary, disaster is close around the next corner for any relationship.  Forgiveness is so vital that doctors have dedicated endless hours to the study of what effects it has on a person when they fail to forgive.  George Grant, who I quote above, walked a very treacherous stretch of road with me, a road I veered off a number of times.  At a time I couldn’t barely lift my head high enough to see above the rim of the emotional dumpster I felt trapped in, George was a constant voice for grace.  When all I felt like doing was cursing, George would remind me that, although not forgiving was an option, it was not an option if I was going to follow Jesus. 

At one point in the middle of a disastrous divorce that had me feeling as though a very possible option might be ending it all, George calmly told me, Ken, there is always the gospel.  You see, the message of the gospel is soaked in forgiveness if it is anything—a forgiveness from God towards us, and a forgiveness extended from us towards others.  Seeing that God has forgiven us for punishable crimes against his holiness, we have no right not to forgive our brother, our sister, our neighbor, our landlord—or even our sworn enemy.  No matter the offense, you and I have no claims on holding a grudge towards anyone.  Bitter pill to swallow I know—and do I know.    

God extends no clauses in scripture about any prerogatives on our part to harbor unforgiveness.  

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously (Jesus, Luke 6:27-30, The Message).

I think I will write in the coming days about the journey of forgiveness God has been taking me through.

See  Relationship Glue” over at Nullus Extra Cruem for more.

Whenever we refuse to forgive we can plan on a broken relationship every time.  The road to forgiveness inevitably begins with forgiveness.

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  1. Perspectively Simplex
    February 9, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Ken, this is so true. I find myself in situations where it’s a matter of forgiving over and over again. Forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, but I believe it is vital for true happiness.

  2. Lori
    February 9, 2009 at 6:25 am

    I understand this very well. I find it harder to forget then forgive. I like the way your writing always makes me think of things in a new light.

  3. kenstoll
    February 9, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Lori, I’d like to think my writing does that, so the reminder is nice. Thanks.

  4. MB
    February 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    I am in this situation as I write this. This person in my life is a friend, but then accuses me over and over of things because she is overly sensitive. It’s not that I’m not in a forgiving mood, but sometimes I wonder where you draw the line. Should this person still remain my friend? Should I have her in my life? Should I keep on taking the abuse of someone who simply needs to grow up and realize that we aren’t all out to get her? I suppose I am still a little agitated with it all. I simply told her that i needed my space and that I love her, but I can’t keep having the same arguments with her once a month. She basically blames me for it all saying I’m a conflict causer. We both have pasts that lead us to be non-trusting of people in general. Anyway, all of that to say…I get totally confused about forgiveness. I know it is something I need to do, but that doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be doormats does it? Do we keep letting the same people abuse us? Or am I just buying too much into what society is telling me “stand up for yourself”, “no one is going to get you down” type of teachings? I know Jesus was VERY forgiving, but he was also VERY firm with people. He didn’t disown them, but He spoke firmly about what it was they did that wasn’t right. Anyway, I feel like I’m unable to handle conflict the way Jesus did…without hurt feelings, without getting upset. I’m just not that perfect yet.

  5. kenstoll
    February 17, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    …appreciate your honesty here Michelle. Many people never get there.

    I know what you are talking about. I think the only one who will know what you should do is you, as you ask God to show you what to do next. Forgiveness is easier said than done, you sound willing to forgive but not quite sure about what that looks like.

    It is an uncomfortable but huge part of our Christian experience, Philip Yancey says that “the gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness.” Strong words there. I have spent the last day or so scratching about 8-10 posts on the topic and will be posting them over at a another blog I do over the course of the next couple weeks (Nullus Extra Cruem)—several of the readers I converse with have the same struggles as you and I.

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