Part 2 of 5. We are going to explore a spiritual formation practice through my blog. Last week, I explored basic information about the topic of forgiveness. This week, we actually begin the spiritual practices.
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to quiet our hearts and minds and bring to mind one individual or group of people who has offended or hurt you.
God’s Spirit may bring to mind people from your childhood, people who are no longer alive, or people or groups you dislike because of their looks, their habits, their beliefs, or their lifestyles.
If no person or group came to mind, try again tomorrow. Sometimes it takes more than one time of quiet prayer for the Holy Spirit to unearth the people you need to forgive.
If a person or group did come to mind, let’s do the steps together now.
Talk about Step 1: Determine in your heart that you want to fully forgive this person or group.
- Forgiveness begins with a decision of the will which has implications for the thoughts/feelings of the mind/heart. The first step is an invitation to make the decision to forgive. In time, the emotions, especially negative emotions like anger and bitterness will follow the lead of the will – the decision to forgive. Most people say, “When I no longer feel anger or hurt, I will forgive.” This is allowing the emotion to determine the direction of our lives. Rarely, does this work. In fact, more often than not, it creates for stronger negative emotions. Time may take the “edge” off of our emotions but time does not heal. Only God can heal the brokenness of our lives. But, God expects us to co-operate with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives so together, we experience the abundance of healing grace.
- I can forgive others because God has first forgiven me of so much more. I forgive others, I offer grace to others, I love others, because God has first forgiven me, offered grace to me, loved me.
- In the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), we often confuse Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. This is a classic example of where translating the Greek/Aramaic into English creates for potential misunderstand and misuse of Jesus’ ethic on how to live in the Kingdom of God on earth, not just in heaven. Jesus, the master psychologist names “how” the soul works. We forgive to the extent we know we are forgiven. We cannot forgive unless we know that God in Christ has forgiven us. Whatever is unresolved in our lives get worked out “on” others. i.e. Whatever we have done for which we do not feel forgiven, is the very sin we go after in someone else.
- The parable in Matthew 18 also teaches that my ability to forgive is grounded in God’s forgiveness given to me through the work of Jesus Christ. As in the parable, in failing to forgive I create a “prison” for myself—shackles of resentment, bitterness, and hatred that keep me from enjoying life to the fullest.
- This does not mean that forgiveness is easy—throwing off the shackles of bitterness, resentment, and hatred may not even be possible in our own human strength. But the apostle Paul reminds us that “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
- Jesus also teaches that forgiveness is to be given regardless of how often or how deeply someone has hurt or offended me. When Peter asks about the limits of forgiveness, Jesus answers in a way that says there should be no limits (Matthew 18:21-22).
- Jesus confirms the boundlessness of forgiveness through his own actions on the cross, when he looks at all those who have betrayed, ridiculed, tortured, and crucified him, and speaks only words of forgiveness.
- Christ always calls us to forgive. In Mark 11:25, he is very clear—I am to forgive ALL people of ANYTHING they have done to hurt or offend me. He uses all-encompassing language that I cannot avoid or squirm my way out of. Forgiveness in the Kingdom is not optional, but God is patient with us because God knows us and how we function as human beings. Remember…in the Kingdom of God, there is always room for “can’t,” but never any room for “won’t.”
Let’s do Step 1—determine in your heart that you want to fully forgive this person or group.
Once you are ready to make the decision – to engage the will – give yourself time and space to live with your decision and see what happens emotionally and spiritually.