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?


Anonymous said...

How can forgiveness be easy when it's staring you in the face every morning, all day, and every night? I know God heals all wounds, but I've been trying to rid myself of this unwanted hatred and vile feelings for many years. It's just not easy when you live with the person. I do however, believe that my prayers are what keep me from going over the edge. God speaks to me when I need peace the most, but I really need to look more into myself and try to find that focal point of forgiveness.

F. Joseph Lennon said...

Forgiveness is not easy. We think it easy for God to forgive, that is one reason people sin so much. They don't see the hurt their sin causes God. Our Father had to stand by and watch His Son's vicious, violent death. And then, He forgave the people who perpetrated this cruel act (That's us). I could make a case that unforgiveness is the unforgivable sin. I don't make that case, but I would point out that the Bible says that those who do not forgive are not forgiven.

I once ministered to a man who told me, "I don't ever think I could forgive my father, but I want to be right with God." What his father did left deep, lasting scars on him and his siblings. This man thought that forgiveness meant that he would have to forget (not a Biblical mandate) what his father had done.

Forgiveness is not denying the pain that another person has caused us (or, in some cases, the pain we have caused ourselves). Quite the opposite. Forgiveness never means that what the offending party did was ok.

I asked the man if he would allow God to walk him through the process of forgiving his father. He agreed. I asked him if he was willing to be made willing. He said he was. Forgiveness did not happen instantly. But, the man was able to get to the spot where God healed him. He found real freedom. The scars remained, but they no longer limited his growth in Christ.