Start Forgiving Today

I watch a lot of YouTube videos about woodturning, knife restoration, and other such crafting projects.  Hey, some guys watch videos about women folding towels, so I think I’m doing okay.  Yesterday, YouTube recommended I watch this video.

As I gave this video a quick glance, I misread it.  I thought it said “Start Forgiving Today” rather that “Start Forging Today”.  It is an easy mistake, I suppose; when I took a closer look of the video to double-check what I thought I saw, I realized there are only two letters’ difference between forging and forgiving.

It was also an easy mistake, though, because I’ve been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately.  Forgiveness is mentioned many times in the Scriptures, of course, including the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul.  I also encountered forgiveness in the Freedom Session 12-step program I walked through.  And my wife and I recently attended a seminar on forgiveness put on by Forgiveness Ministries.

I’ve noticed, though, that I still have difficulty forgiving some people for some things.  While I talk a lot about forgiveness, I still fail to forgive some people for the things they have done to me.  Not only so, but I’ve noticed that other people not only fail to forgive but seemingly refuse to forgive.  I have suggested forgiveness to quite a few people recently only for them to tell me that the people who have hurt them don’t deserve to be forgiven.

It was these realities that popped into my mind when I saw that video and misread it as “Start Forgiving Today”.  Following those realities, a few truths about forgiveness also came to mind.  I don’t know that there is any structure or cohesion to these truths; they may be rather scattered.  But I want to share them with you anyway.

Forgiveness is for you, not for the person who sinned against you.  I understand when people tell me that the ones who sinned against them don’t deserve to be forgiven (or haven’t repented or are dead or whatever).  There is certainly some truths to that caveat.  However, the greater truth is that forgiveness as Jesus and Paul command it is not intended so much to be a blessing to the other person (though it can be that) but a blessing for you.  When you forgive, you heal.  When you forgive, you stop hurting.  When you forgive, you stop replaying that moment which caused you/is still causing you so much pain.  So don’t do it for the other person.  Do it for you.

Forgiveness of others allows us to understand God’s forgiveness of us.  One of Jesus’ most notable teaching on forgiveness comes during the Model Prayer of Matthew 6.  As you know, one of the petitions Jesus makes in this prayer is “Forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (or our debtors).”  Jesus even takes this petition further in the verses following the Model Prayer:

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I can’t say I understand everything Jesus is saying here (will God literally not forgive us/condemn us for not forgiving?).  But I do wonder if one of the things Jesus might be saying is that forgiveness is the way or flow of God and we will thus never understand God/never fully appreciate our relationship with or how we relate to God if we don’t have that same way/flow, if we don’t forgive others as easily as He forgives us.  It is that small word as that makes me think this (forgive as we forgive), and I think there is something to us.

Forgiveness is a practice.  It is not something you feel as much as something you do.  Sometimes it is something you must do over and over, every time you feel the anger of a transgression committed against you.  One of the ways to do this practice is what I call “the forgiveness prayers”.  I learned a prayer for forgiving others from Freedom Session and I learned another from Forgiveness Ministries.  I combined them together, following the basic structure of the Forgiveness Ministries prayer but adding in some of the Freedom Session ideas.

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The Forgiveness Ministries prayer.

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The Freedom Session prayer.

In other words, I go through the six steps of the Forgiveness Ministries prayer but add in the Freedom Session ideas of releasing bitterness and thoughts of revenge and asking God to lead me away from my old ways of trying to protect my heart through anger. Sometimes this prayer works first time; I never feel any animosity toward others for their sins again.  Other times this prayer must be prayed over and over, every time that animosity resurfaces.  Whether it is one time or many, though, it is a disciple/practice with works.

That’s not a comprehensive discussion of forgiveness; I don’t think I’m qualified to give you that.  But it is a few thoughts about forgiveness, and those thoughts are valid.  These are reasons why we all need to start forgiving today.

 

Fore-giving

I was reading Anger Anonymous last week.  It is basically Alcoholics Anonymous for people addicted to anger.

Paperback Anger Anonymous : The Big Book on Anger Addiction Book

The book said many things that really blessed me.  One of the strangest, though, was the one at the bottom of this page:

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As you see in the last few lines, the author defines forgiveness as “to fore-give or give ahead of time”.  I resisted that definition at first.  Being the doctrinaire that I was trained to be, I said to myself, “That’s not what forgiveness is!  Forgiveness is pardoning someone from the consequences of their sins on the basis of Jesus’ blood propitiation.”

And that is indeed what forgiveness is from a technical stance.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that forgiveness can be this fore-giveness as well.  The propitiation-based pardon is what can be given ahead of time.  In fact, the more I thought about this, the more I saw it as related to what John Eldredge calls “your story told rightly”.  This, Eldredge says in his book All Things New, is what will happen at the return of Jesus.  He says that at the present our story is often told wrongly or understood wrongly; people don’t perceive us as we really are; they perceive us as something less than we really are.  At the future return of Jesus, though, the “renewal of all things”, our story will be told rightly.   We will have public indisputable vindication/validation as God tells the universe that we are His servants who have done well.

(This isn’t John Eldredge but he seems to be saying the same thing.)

I don’t think this idea of our story being told rightly is simply “correct”.  I think it is extremely important.  I think it is important that our story be told rightly in this way, that we get this public indisputable vindication/validation.  I think, in fact, that this is the reason I have such difficulty forgiving people (and, behind that, the reason I get so angry): I feel I can’t allow people to think less of me than I am, that I must make them see me as the good person I am and must punish them if they refuse to see me as the good person I am.

And I think this notion of fore-giveness relates to that.  I think fore-giving as the author describes here is related to the idea of our story being told rightly.  I think to fore-give is to react to people as you would if your story already had been told rightly.  It is treating them as you would if the public indisputable vindication/validation had already taken place.

Maybe fore-giveness is not technically accurate.  Maybe it is.  I don’t know such things (and I don’t worry about them too much anymore).  But I think there is a truth here.  My story will be told rightly one day; I will get the public indisputable vindication/validation I have desired for so long.  That being the case, I can (and should) treat people as if I had already gotten it.  I can operate on that Kingdom idea of “already but not yet” and thus “fore-give”.