Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bold Love (offering love in the most impossible places)

Confrontation. Ugh. The very sound of the word causes the skin to crawl and the stomach to sink. Most of us would rather run and hide than confront someone who has hurt us. On the other hand, some people rather enjoy fighting back, but rarely with the goal of reconciliation. (click here for the topic of vengeance)

Before moving forward on the subject of “bold love” and some of what it entails, there must be a prerequisite here. Assuming that we have journeyed significant time through the processes of healing—honestly facing our wounds while allowing Jesus to shine the searing light of His truth on each situation; refusing to believe and accept Satan’s lies and false messages through our wounds; and finally, repenting by refusing to be dead, refusing to mistrust (not care about) others, and refusing to despise intimacy and passion.
(The latter is from The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender, Chapter 12, and we will move toward this in later topics of healing.)

Many of the processes of healing have been discussed on this blog site beginning in the December 2010 archive. Albeit a very condensed version of the process! If you cannot identify with the above, please consider it before attempting the bold love discussed next. Maturity comes through such a healing journey, and its timetable is different for each person, sometimes vastly so. “The common factor in the process is that it will lead to a freedom to love.” (The Wounded Heart, p. 240)

Hold on. Wait a minute. Depending on the person and hurt you are working to forgive, you might be thinking, no way on earth will I ever love ________!

In earlier sub-topics on forgiveness, I’ve admitted that some people and offenses are “easier” to forgive than others, depending on our relationship with the person and how deep the wound. But bold love includes forgiveness. It does not, in case you are wondering, remove righteous anger or say the hurt didn’t matter. Quite the opposite, in fact. Romans 12:9 tells us that “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Bold love in the realm of forgiveness can be defined as, “the free gift that voluntarily cancels the debt in order to free the debtor to become what he might be if he experiences the joy of restoration.”  Forgiveness can then be "defined as:  (1) a hunger for restoration, (2) bold love, and (3) revoked revenge.” Love and forgiveness, like the healing journey, have no specific formula or exact process for each person and situation. (click here to read "One Size Does Not Fit All") The heart of the lover must be free to imaginatively ponder what it means to give grace to an offender. (The Wounded Heart, pp. 239 & 242)

One of those ways includes confrontation. Confrontation involves rebuke, and rebuke opens the door to repentance. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3)

Jesus gives us specific instruction towards our brothers and sisters in the faith. (Keep in mind the timetables will vary greatly, with no exact steps or techniques for every circumstance.)
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend.”

And if he or she doesn’t listen…
“…take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church.”

And if that doesn’t work…
“…you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.”
(The Message, Matthew 18:15-17)

Whoa. This is not something we see everyday. Nor is this permission to gossip or tattletale if the offender does not listen to us. Such an act must flow from a heart aiming for redemption in another, AND be preceded by MUCH prayer.

What if the offender is not a fellow believer? Because of the love of Christ and his entire mission to save that which was lost, set captives free, and restore us to our original glory (Isaiah 61:1-3), we still offer forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. If the person does not admit their wrong or move toward redemption, we are left to simply back away and try again (for redemption) another time. (forgiveness can still happen on our part regardless of the offender's response)

To address every unique situation would be nothing short of impossible, and the full topic of forgiveness and bold love can only be contained not in one book, but several! Each of us must look at our own relationships and carefully walk with God through prayer, listening, and studying his Word (along with the wise counsel of others with experience) to find the best individual route. For me it took eight months of such before I could bring to light the past abuse of a pastor. Yet another relationship took only a month or two. Both preceded by a few years of deep healing.

If the person you are working to forgive is someone you live with, strongly consider the counsel of a wise friend, pastor, or biblically sound and godly counselor (unfortunately not all are the same!). There are so many layers to work through. I would also suggest the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (for women, or Wild At Heart by John Eldredge for men).

With God’s grace at work within us, we can boldly go where few people do—loving by way of confronting, and with the goal of restoration for another human heart.

**Note:  If you are dealing with an abuser, or past abuser, do NOT confront such a person alone. As I mentioned before, it took 8 months of specific preparation for me to confront, preceded by a few years of deep healing--even then, my husband and I went with a trusted mediator with experience, and with much counseling and help from others trained in such a confrontation.

(We offer counseling through Rally Point Ministries, and when we see that more is needed than what we can offer, we have a few recommendations for counseling. You can contact us if you need help.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

1st Five in the Forgiveness "sub-series"

Click below to read any one (or all!) of the writings on forgiveness, a sub-series in the original series on Healing. It is notable that the very topic of forgiveness is a touchy subject for some. Like many other issues, there are times it has been mishandled, misunderstood, and lorded over the hurting without compassion or understanding. As a result, in our quest for healing and freedom, we’d sometimes like to avoid the forgiveness issue. But if we are to be truly free, we must come to understand and embrace the act of forgiving.

It's Not What You May Think

Courage and Will

Who's Vengeance is it Anyway?

Layer by Layer

Are We Putting On or Are We Peeling Off?

The next writing in this sub-series will be published this week!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are We Putting On or Are We Peeling Off?

In the last post we considered the onion and how it relates to forgiveness. The onion reminds us that forgiving can be intense, and is rarely a one-time final event, even over a single issue. Layer by layer we heal, and layer by layer we forgive.

We learned that when we are hit again with hurt, sadness, or anger over a forgiven issue, it is primarily an indication that deeper healing is needed from Jesus himself. With it comes yet another opportunity to forgive. It is at that point we have a choice:  to allow another layer to be peeled off, or to put back on another layer.

Several key verses (Matt. 6:12, 14; 18:21, 35) use the word “forgive.” The Greek word is aphiemi, which means “to send away.” Furthermore in these verses it means “to let go, give up a debt, by not demanding it.” The prefix, apo, is described as “any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed.”

Our analogy of the onion fits in perfectly here:  by forgiving we give up the debt the wrongful person owes us and choose to no longer demand it from them. Instead, turning to Jesus to heal and restore us. “I [the Lord] will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25. In doing so we peel off, separate if you will, another layer, destroying the union between us and the wrongdoer.

But what happens if we don’t choose forgiveness?

A root of bitterness is conceived.

And if that root is left unattended?

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
(Hebrews 12:15)

Allowing bitterness to take root undoes the work of the Lord, and therefore puts layers back on, weighting us down once again. When bitterness gives birth, Webster’s dictionary describes it as sharp, unpleasant, disagreeable, and harsh.

I was once all of those things! And boy did it cause trouble!! Not everyone knew, as it was mostly in my home, in key relationships, and in my very own heart. Being weighted down with many layers of unforgiveness and bitterness is misery.

If this is you, I urge you to take courage, invite Jesus back in to heal and to help you peel off those weighty and undesirable layers.

“A real step of courage and will. We must forgive those who hurt us. The reason is simple:  Bitterness and unforgiveness set their hooks deep in our hearts; they are chains that hold us captive to the wounds and the messages of those wounds. Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner. Paul warns us that unforgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15). We have to let it all go.

’Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’” (Col. 3:13)
(Captivating, pp. 103-104)

In lieu of some of the comments below, click to read, Forgiveness:  It's Not What You May Think
Courage and Will 
Who's Vengeance is it Anyway?
Layer by Layer 
Bold Love: Offering Love in the Most Impossible Places
Kill 'em With...Kindness?