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Forgiving One Another

September 14th, 2017

21 Days of Prayer
Day 12: Forgiving One Another

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matt. 6:12)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)

The fourth core value that the Vision and Mission Team identified in 2008 is:

We forgive because we are forgiven.

Forgiveness is not just something that is a good idea for a community. It is also a healing act for our own souls. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die. Someone said that unforgiveness is like an acid that does more damage to what it is stored in than what it is poured on.

Forgiveness also makes an impact in our own souls. Think of that person that hurt you. Would you like to be free from that pain? Then pray through the hurt to God. Let go of the anger and the desire for revenge. Give the problem to God and let Him minister to your soul.

Forgiveness is possible because of the ministry of the Spirit of God in our hearts as His children. We forgive others not in order to be forgiven by God, but because we are already forgiven by Him. There might also be people who we have offended, to whom we should go and apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Christ said that we should forgive from our heart (Matt. 18:35), and our hearts are multi-layered. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) We need God to search our hearts to show us what is there: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). The Word of God is His tool to search us:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

And His Spirit also searches us, as He takes the Word and reveals to us what is in our hearts: “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind” (Jer. 17:10a).

Forgiveness comes in different depths in our hearts. On the surface forgiveness is just choosing not to retaliate, but there may still be residue of bitterness in our hearts. We need to go deeper with the Spirit, letting Him lead our thoughts and examine our hearts. We need to let Him go deeper with forgiveness, until we see the person who offended us through the eyes of Christ. That is liberating for us and healing in our souls.

Often, I believe, God entrusts to us difficult people so that we might see our need for His inner healing.

In dealing with a difficult person, I have found, that it reveals to me how deeply I have forgiven others. I may think to myself that I have peace with regard to a certain matter, but then God puts someone in my life who is difficult to deal with, and who reminds me of an earlier acquaintance who had hurt me. I see myself transferring my old hurts to this new person, whom I have only known a short time. Why am I so angry with them? It comes from somewhere else in my soul. It comes from old hurts that I have not truly dealt with. And it is suddenly revealed to me that I have not yet truly forgiven, in the deepest sense of the word, someone who had hurt me earlier in life.

So, rather than ask God why He gives difficult people to us to deal with, we should thank Him for showing us the inner healing we need. An awareness of our need almost always precipitates times of spiritual growth. “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). The reality of sin in us drags us down, and then the Spirit opens our eyes to see what has become of our hearts. He pulls back the covers we have hidden these thoughts beneath – trying to hide them from ourselves – and shows us the other alternative, the choice of inner healing through His grace.

So, yes, difficult people are His blessings to us to show us our need of deeper grace.

Forgiveness requires that we also be “kind and compassionate” to each other, meaning that we seek to understand one another. Forgiveness is best shared when we consider the personal hurts that the one who offended us might have. Some people carry in their lives the evidence of deep personal hurts – perhaps things that happened in childhood that they have never gotten over. C. H. Spurgeon said, “There is always something in another man’s experience about which we know nothing.”

  • Pray that forgiving others would be important for us all in the church
  • Pray for inner healing of forgiving others in those who carry lifelong hurts
  • Pray for your own need to forgive
  • Pray that God would show you if there is someone you need to apologize to
  • Pray that we may “bear with one another” in love

Blessings,

Pastor David

21 Days of Prayer 2017 ,

The Right of Self Defense

August 22nd, 2017

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV)

Christ calls us to servanthood – “whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all” (Mark 10:44). Servanthood is the willing subjection of our lives to others for their benefit. To be a servant means that we are willing to be used, taken for granted, spent out and spent up, and to do it all without ever receiving any credit or recognition. Servanthood demands unselfishness and to be focused on the needs of others.

Yet none of this means that we must or should lay aside our right to justifiable self-defense. When self-defense is taken up in the right spirit, it is not only ourselves that we defend, but also every other person on the planet. Self-defense, when done in a biblical manner, promotes fairness, justice, and is beneficial to all.

Be slow to take offense: The King James translation says: “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov. 19:11). More modern translations say something like: “it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” We should not get our feathers ruffled so easily. We need to develop a thick-skinned attitude that does not react at every possible slight or insult. In Ecclesiastes it says:

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you — for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others. (Eccl. 7:21-22 NIV)

Just as we would want people to be patient with us and not to take our words too seriously when we are angry or upset, so we should act the same way toward others. When it is possible it is good to overlook an offense.

But be clear to defend your name when necessary: One of the ten commandments, the ten moral laws of God that are beneficial and essential for human society, is the forbidding of bearing false witness against our neighbor. Every person on earth has the right to his own reputation. To carelessly and falsely say things that would damage someone’s reputation is evil.

So, just as we would not allow someone to take our lives, because that would be not only a sin against us but also a sin against society and even a sin against the perpetrator’s own character, so in the same way we should not allow someone to falsely and maliciously malign our own character. We have the right and the obligation, for the benefit of all, to defend ourselves when we are falsely accused.

I know some Christians who have not considered this fact, who have allowed this value of servanthood to become so heavy in their thinking that they cannot see any other side or any other consideration. But if we study the scripture we see that both Jesus and Paul took up this right to speak up in the face of injustice.

In John’s gospel we read this account of Jesus’s trial before the religious leaders of the Jews:

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” (John 18:19-23 ESV)

Christ maintained His integrity before His accusers and would not help them to prove their false accusations against Him. He did not allow them to intimidate Him to do their lying for them, rather He boldly and righteously maintained His innocence.

And Paul, in appearing before the same body of religious leaders, several years after Christ’s crucifixion, also spoke up to his maltreatment.

And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

In both incidents, they spoke up in righteous indignation for the benefit of all. We have that right and that obligation. The Bible says, “Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16).

Defend yourself in humility, and do not attack others: Yet we are to be humble as we defend ourselves. We should be careful to observe whether there is any truth to the accusation and be quick to repent of any wrong doing we are associated with. We should be careful to not allow any accusation to become an occasion where sin is magnified and others are tempted, for the Bible says, “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Eph. 5:12 ESV).

Neither should we seek revenge on the accusers. We should not harbor bitterness against them. We should be ready to forgive the offense. The scripture advises against needless law suits. Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)

Some have used this verse to argue against self-defense, but it is important to note exactly what Jesus said. He spoke of the one who would slap you on the right cheek. If a man is standing facing another man and he seeks to hit him, ordinarily the blow will fall on his left cheek. The slap to the right cheek is the slap of insult, not the slap of violence. So this reinforces the first principle, that we should let the manner go when it is possible. But even if it requires confrontation then we should still seek peace and forgive our accuser, even while defending our good name. (See also 1 Cor. 6:1-11 on civil cases.)

Again, the words of Jesus allow for proper self-defense:

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. (Matt. 5:25 ESV)

In summary the Bible says:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:17-19 ESV)

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