Anger or Mercy.

I recently took quite a few personality tests. They were all geared to find out more about myself and also with whom I would be most compatible. It was exciting to take them and discuss them, because I hadn’t in years. No one had cared to know me that well or explored who I was that deeply until this past Christmas. Most of my traits are the same as they have always been. It felt good to see personal growth, of course there’s still lots to learn.

There is no test that can prepare you or define you when the unexpected happens. Everyone has down days and times when they do something the test can’t predict.
Life has a few out of character moments that change the course you are headed. Everyone has had an embarrassing moment when they did something totally out of their comfort zone and something out of their norm that has caused harm. The one I want to talk about here is one that came about because I had a lapse in judgment and angered someone deeply.

I work in a ministry that helps people forgive and get past their anger. I am rarely on the side that causes the anger and when I do it usually breaks my heart. I am tender hearted and really do not have the capacity to mindlessly mistreat someone. I am generally thoughtful and encouraging.

The litmus test for un-forgiveness is anger.

What should the Christian do in this situation? Aaaack to be honest I hate saying this but it’s clear and simple even though what you are forgiving might be huge or minor. In order to redeem time and not become bitter we have a choice to forgive. I wanted to unpack this as I am working through it myself. I have to forgive myself for poor judgment and also have to forgive someone for hurting me even though I wronged them.

What does that look like? First you have to acknowledge you have anger and are dealing with this unresolved issue. Secondly you have to forgive and let it go. Forgiveness doesn’t mean a wrong didn’t occur or that anyone “gets away with” an injustice. We live in a world where our free will slams into another person’s life in a very damaging way sometimes. A world where people can and do whatever they see right in their own eyes. Good intentions aside this is troublesome. The same God who loves us allows these interactions and we love Him because he lets us be who we are, flaws and all. I wouldn’t want to serve a God that made me a robot although a little more brains would have been nice a couple of weeks ago. You might ask why I am angry? Well we can get angry with ourselves. We can get angry over the loss of friendship. We can get angry if we feel attacked. I want to be as genuine as I can here without saying anything that can cause further hurt.

Forgiveness is letting go of that damage or hurt. It’s a process that usually ends once we are past the grief and can have compassion on the person we are forgiving. Hoping they are healed or restored from the actions and released from the pain as you now are. It is taking them off your hook and letting them go. Sometimes you are not given the option of asking them for forgiveness. I wasn’t shown that respect either but the argument could be that I didn’t deserve it. I humbly say that! I would welcome the chance to apologize. I can forgive anyway.
When you forgive yourself, the principle is the same, you are taking yourself off your hook and hopefully learning and growing in a better way. Self-forgiveness is hardest for me because I don’t generally like to get into situations that I cause someone else pain. Forgiveness helps you remain healthy and also helps you get past the past. Anything that is in your past and still affecting you now is not healed and truthfully not in your past. Healing takes time and is harder depending on the offense.

I hope the best for people who have wronged me or who I have wronged. No one gets through this life without painful lessons. I sincerely hope people find joy and happiness in the LORD and peace with the past. I truly hope families are restored and lives are changed.

No one can love or forgive like Jesus.

He is our perfect example.

We can only imitate him by forgiving and receiving forgiveness.

I hope to be forgiven but for now I forgive. ☺

Forgiveness, I thought I knew what it was…

I thought I knew what forgiveness was….until………

I had always been taught to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Easy enough? Boy, I was ever deceived!  Forgiveness isn’t always easy or the outcome. I had never been so challenged as I was recently when I wrote a letter of repentance to someone that I had hurt and who had hurt me. We both really did in a very serious way hurt each other. I am not talking about light offenses. I did not really bring up their hurts against me and just asked them to forgive me for my sins against them.  It was a lengthy letter trying to be honest and cover everything.  I really wanted them to know how sorry I was.

Yes, when we violate or harm another person in a disrespectful way it is a sin against them and it is a sin against GOD.  I had already talked to my Father in Heaven about it and come clean with my sin.  Praise the LORD that He does forgive.

I wrote this letter asking forgiveness and I am not sure what I thought would happen but it must have been much different from what did happen.   
My prayer was that Christ in me would come through in my words to restore what I had so badly damaged. I just knew it was something I had to face and amend but I did expect a Godly response because they are a believer.   I was surprised that not only had my letter been perceived in a way that the other person placed the blame on me but also that they took no responsibility for hurting me. They wished me well at the end of their response but respond to others regarding me in a way that is not truthful and even mockery. Ouch!  

Flesh, pride, self, all rear their ugly head when we are mocked.  Avoid the trap of allowing another person’s disobedience to be a stumbling block to you. There will be more about that in a future  article. The bottom line is once  you have asked forgivenes and made whatever restoration you can, they are responsible to God about the matter now, and I do pray for them daily. My heart hurts for them.  There must be something going on there that needs healing deeper than my saying I am sorry. God and your offender or the one you offend will need to work through it. 

This event sparked my desire to know GOD’s heart for the matter. I was hurt by the response and subsequent mockery. After a bout with bitterness in my life which distracted me from the Lord in the past, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap.  I also wanted to be sure that I had handled asking forgiveness the right way. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to this person because I loved them regardless of all that has happened. It was very uncomfortable to face my offenses and admit to them.  The most important thing is the other person in forgiveness, but the result is you find freedom in seeing the truth of some matters and dealing with them.

That leaves us with one choice, to see what GOD says about the matter and examine our heart and die to whatever this brings up. Small order and huge task!!  Oh, my flesh wants to cry for justice, but my heart knows God’s will is that we glorify Him and that what comes into our lives is to molds us into His image even if it is those who offend us.  We can’t do that if we do not handle these issues the right way.   Lord, help me to continue to learn this. Amen.

There is an inequality in human forgiveness. We might say we have forgiven people when we really don’t.  We might ask for forgiveness just because it is the right thing to do and we are not really repentant. So what does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a supernatural response to an injustice. It is not being a doormat and does not absolve the person of God’s justice.  They are still accountable to God for their actions and reactions.  It is a choice and act of the will, not a feeling.  We offer forgiveness even if it is never received.  It is unconditional and a mandate from God who is our perfect example of forgiveness.  Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, James 4:17, Matthew 5:23-24

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
   
Matt 5:23-24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you.
  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

 Forgiveness can’t be neglected in light of the Bible, but what do you do when you are so horribly offended? 

James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin

 Well it is clear God’s desire for us is to forgive. Your heart is broken, you are sometimes confused even not sure of why the person hurt you. Do you have a right to hold that against them?  You have said you are sorry and they won’t forgive you . They misrepresent the facts and events. All of these get tangled in our  relationships and we sometimes can’t untangle them all when  another is not in agreement with us about the matter.

We can only look at the Bible and see that God’s heart for us is to be free, to worship Him in Spirit and Truth, and to not let bitterness settle into our lives as well as overcoming evil with good.  Again, tall order.

Heb 12:15 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;
        

John 4:24

        

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.

 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  

19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.

 20 BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Forgiveness is as we said in the beginning, supernatural. Being a new creature in Christ, I knew it was outside of my ability to forgive.  My flesh doesn’t naturally want to be forgiving.  This is a hard task sometimes when you have been hurt. I am not talking to you from the vantage of always getting it right. In the past I have not handled myself wisely and even now confess, I am still learning and growing. I wanted to understand my responsibility to God and those I have hurt.  Because Christ is in me, the grace needed to love and forgive and release another from any debt or repayment for their offense is also in me.  I have to understand God has forgiven me, and that the other person regardless of their repentance or restoration of the matter, has to be forgiven. My Father wants me to forgive as He does.

If that person wants restoration then you can again fellowship. Do not expect anything in return for asking forgiveness.  Being like Christ, being transformed, renewed, and restored will help you release another person’s offense for their sake as well as yours.  You don’t have to carry condemnation of another’s offense. God hates all sin, and if they sinned against you, God hates that. Just as you have been forgiven though, He is willing and ready to forgive them. That should be our prayer, to reflect Christ, and love them unconditionally. Again, I can’t do that but Christ in me can. I have to say I may never understand my situation and may never be forgiven. I just have to trust the LORD in times such as these when I can’t explain. 

 Phil 2:1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  

11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

When did revenge ever solve anything.

Revenge just the word conjures thoughts in our minds that makes us immediately say no not me. Well let’s look at the thesaurus and see some of the synonyms for revenge: retribution, settling of scores, payback, retaliation, and vindication. Oh, we are more at home with revenge than we thought. We want equality in all things and feel unfairly treated or unjustly wronged when things are not made equal. How many times have we longed for that magic day when the tables are turned and justice is served?  Longing for revenge keeps us in the flesh. It requires that we continue to look at ourselves and how we are being treated. Just like in rejection we lose focus of Colossians 3 and how we stand in Christ. Maybe by now you have noticed how hampered the Holy Spirit is by the emotions that make us focus on us. 

 There are two common threads as we look at  the negative emotions. Those are, first our own heart is deceitful and will lie to us, second, we let these emotions get a stronghold when we look at ourselves and become the victim instead of the victor. We have to keep our eyes on who our God is not what He is doing and HE must be the center of our world.

 It is a fact that if you take some large species of ocean fish, some that normally grow to over 6 ft and put them in a normal desktop aquarium, they will only grow big enough to suit their environment. Although I am sure many are thankful for this fact it represents a sad larger truth. This world system (Satan)  wants to shape your thinking and the course of your life and keep you in that aquarium instead of seeing you thrive and be the new creature in Christ you are meant to be. Every time you give in to the trappings of this world, you jump back in that aquarium and are controlled by those around you instead of the GOD of the universe who has wonderful plans for your life.

 Luke 9:51-55

51And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

 52And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

 53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

 54And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

 55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

The disciples wanted to wipe out those who had rejected the advance preparation of Jesus ministry in the Samaritans village. I really chuckle thinking how I would abuse that fire power if I were a disciple. It would be zap city.

 We have to look at what Jesus did when they responded this vindictive way to rejection? He questioned them to examine thier identity in Him. He said they had lost their focus on the task for the emotion of being rejected basically.

Jesus had to remind them don’t you know who you are? He rebuked them for thinking they should destroy people over trivial things. Rejection doesn’t end your life it only verifies that someone doesn’t accept you or your ideas. We don’t get our confidence from men so man’s opinion shouldn’t have life shattering affect on us. I like what happened after Jesus scolded them and refocused them on their mission. They went on to another village. WOW! If only we could just move on past things we can’t change or lessen the stronghold in our lives.

 Romans 12:17-21 

 17Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

 18If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

 20Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

 21Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Once again when a sentence begins with a verb, the understood subject is you. We are warned to repay evil with good.  The phrase :as much as lieth in you” means to depend on Christ in you and do your very best to keep peace.  

Now these are hard words to swallow. Anyone divorced, or whose child has been killed by a drunk driver, or who lost a job due to someone lying, almost any violation you can think of seems to ignite a vengeful spirit in us. “I’ll get you for that!”  We can also have vengeful thinking “your day is coming.”  Do you know what this kind of thinking means in our lives? It means that we aren’t letting go of what was done and giving it residence by dwelling on it. It violates God’s best for us when he said to think on things that are lovely and of a good report.  What does God say to do with our need for revenge, allow him to exact it.

 Here’s a news flash, God knows exactly what circumstances and judgment to meet out on that individual that will punish them but in a way more like His mercy, lead them to His waiting arms.  That is what we should want for those who have harmed us. Their spiritual condition is more important than a relationship with us. 

This is where we all raise our hands and say. It’s hard to let go!

 I think God has a sense of humor, because knowing all things, He gives us a way to really get under the skin of those who wrong us. Read vs 20 and 21. He even indicates this will have an affect on them. 

I Thessalonians 5:

 14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

 15See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

 16Rejoice evermore.

 17Pray without ceasing.

 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

 19Quench not the Spirit.

 20Despise not prophesyings.

 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

 22Abstain from all appearance of evil.

 23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

 

I like this verse because it tells us something Christians too often forget. We are to never give evil to those who are not saved and just as important those who are the part of the body of believers. We are to trust Christ with the entire matter knowing that God loves that person and is working in their life. Be faithful stay the course. Expect to be misunderstood.

 

I Peter 2:23-25

 

 

So many times over my years of teaching, there were times I could have really blasted a kid caught in an offense. Yet my patience and kindness, even bearing their obnoxious attitude, always won them over. I don’t know how many in my life have later told me that they knew I loved them by my actions. I am not talking about letting someone violate you. I am talking about picking your battles with this thought in mind. How will this best glorify God and represent my Lord when I handle this situation.  This leads us to the next point. How do we handle matters that offend us.

 

I Corinthians 6:1-8

 

We have to be careful that the world doesn’t set the tone for how we handle matters with others. We live in a dog eat dog culture. The name of the Lord gets dragged through the mud every time anyone claiming anything to do with God fails to be careful in their dealings with others. How many times do we hear in the news that so and so was this or that in the church.

 

One of the first things a Christian needs to do is stop the score keeping. You will never be able to even the score by getting another person to act as you think you should. As a matter of fact this often backfires. Proverbs 26:27. Revenge really belongs in the hands of  GOD who knows mans heart and can justly give due recompense of reward. Proverbs 20:22.  Let God be your righteousness-dikaiosune.

Dear One, I love you and pray for you daily.