Monday, October 17, 2005

A look at forgiveness

Forgiveness is so central to the Gospel, but how do we really practice it?
Yesterday I was reminded of a time when bitterness nearly consumed me, because I did not forgive.

I had been wronged by a close friend and brother in the Lord. I won't give any specifics, but many people would think I was justified in the anger I felt. Anger is not always sinful-
"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." (Ephesians 4:25-7)

The problem is we usually sin in our anger, and we let the sun go down on our anger.

A few verse later Paul continues to address anger-
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-2)

I had ignored the last sentence-"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

But it was not Ephesians 4 that God used to convict me. I thought I was over the anger, but it kept popping back. It was actually a very poorly written article on forgiveness in a magazine I won't name that convicted me.

Looking back I believe I was trying to avoid dealing with the anger, and so I read something that would allow me to feel good, and not have to deal with anything difficult. I didn't want to be challenged. But the Holy Spirit seemed to have other plans. As I contemplated what was wrong with the article I had to deal with forgiveness. I realized I was still angry because I had not forgiven my brother, and I had not asked for his forgiveness either. The anger didn't instantly vanish, but it did subside. I was able to deal with it, through God's grace.

There is still some sadness when I think about that time. The forgiveness was not returned, and the relationship was not restored. I still have hope it will be one day, and I pray for that restoration.

Since that time I have read well written articles and books on forgiveness. I have heard it preached well. I have read about it in the Bible with a new depth.

Let me encourage you to consider forgiveness. Do you need to forgive anybody? Do you need to ask anyone for their forgiveness? Have you prayed to God, and asked His forgiveness?

(One book on forgiveness I highly recommend is John MacArthur's The Freedom And Power of Forgiveness. Sooner or later I will review it here as well. There are others as well-but it is a great place to start.)


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