The Practice of Forgiveness Part 4

Part 4 of 5. We are going to explore a spiritual formation practice through my blog. The first week, I explored basic information about the topic of forgiveness. This past week, we actually began the spiritual practices. Each week now we will explore these themes more deeply not as a formula but as a means of grace.

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. 

Silence 

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.

Step 1:  Determine in your heart that you want to fully forgive this person or group.

Step 2:  Ask God to help you release your feelings of bitterness, resentment, or hatred.

Talk Step 3:  Acknowledge that it is God’s role, not ours, to judge this person (or group) for his or her actions.

  • Behind my rationalization for my failure to forgive is my desire to judge, which is God’s role, not mine, and God  capably and faithfully carries out that role.
  • There are many reasons why I resist forgiving someone who has hurt me.  I don’t want to minimize the hurt they’ve caused me—it is real and painful.  I don’t want to excuse or condone their behavior—their harm to me is not acceptable.  I don’t want them to get away with what they’ve done—they are guilty and deserve justice, not pardon. But the underlying assumption beneath these “reasons” is that I have the right, or even the duty, to judge what the other person has said or done. I believe that as the wounded party, it is up to me to see that there is accountability for what has happened–that justice is done.  But is this the role that God has in mind for me—the role of judge?
  • It is God’s right to judge the thoughts, words, and actions of other people, not mine—and God will carry out that judgment faithfully.
  • Though I am the one who is hurt, wounded, or offended, the Bible teaches that it is God who will see that righteousness and justice prevail in my situation: “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6)
  • Because of who God is, we can trust that God’s judgment will be unbiased, accurate, and fair: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) 
  • We can count on God to bring justice for God’s people in God’s  perfect timing, without undue delay: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8)
  • God is a just judge; that is God’s  role, not mine.  Instead, I wait for the Lord to bless me by administering justice: “For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)

Now that you’ve determined that you want to forgive this person or group, and asked God to help you release your feelings of bitterness, resentment, or hatred, do Step 3—acknowledge that it is God’s role, not yours, to judge this person (or this group) for his or her actions.

Silence

Thoughts for further reflection….What are the implications of these verses?

  1. Reflect on this statement from Sacred Scripture – Romans 12:19… New Living Translation
    Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
  2. Matthew 7:6….“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Jesus is teaching that condemnation of another person is the equivalent of giving what is holy to dogs. In other words, it is not beneficial. To throw pearls before swine…pigs will not eat pearls. It is of no benefit and is possibly harmful for them to eat pearls. Condemnation is not helpful and most certainly has potential to create great harm.
  3. Reflect on these thoughts from Dallas Willard:
    1. We condemn because we feel condemned
    2. We condemn because we think condemnation straightens people out and prevents them from doing the same sinful or hurtful thing over again.
    3. We condemn in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. This step assumes we are god and the one true God isn’t. This is self-reliance at its best. The only relief emotionally is to let God be God.

 

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