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“Yesterday I wondered what was in store for September. It’s day 2 and I’m already amazed. “The Forgiveness of God” by Mart Dehaan, was just the medicine I needed before entering the new season of my journey. I was led to various Scriptures. St. Luke 17: 1-10 was one of those Scriptures. I read and meditated on verses 3 and 4. Those verses aren’t new to me but God lifted them off the pages today for me to focus my thoughts on. As I meditated on those verses I received the confirmation I needed to help me move forward. The Holy Spirit opened my understanding and as the past hurt and pain of leadership neglect/abuse surfaced--passing my mind’s view, like carriages of a train, I felt the weight of resentment, guilt and condemnation lifting. I feel so free right now, I could fly…” -- Diary entry 2nd September 2013--
I have encountered so many people in the church who have been hurt or have hurt others. They are struggling with giving and receiving of forgiveness that it affects the image of the church. Those who are on the outside, looking in, finds the thought of being part of the family unappealing. They would rather go it alone than to be part of what they see as an ineffective model of Christianity. Those who are on the inside are ‘dragging their heels’ not wanting to attend because of the unhealthy environment in which they find themselves (their place of fellowship). Sad, but true!
My prayer is that God will open our eyes to see the need to have balanced teaching on this subject. Whether we teach from the pulpit, through ministry groups, through one-2-one consultations or via writing, it is necessary for teachers of the Word to educate the body on the need to acknowledge when we have done wrong, repent of our sins, go to those whom we have hurt and apologise so that they get the opportunity to say, "I forgive you" and restoration can take place. It is important for those who have been hurt to recognise that we are living in a broken world and offense will come. Therefore, when others sin against us we must rebuke them and not allow them to continue harming us. Then if they repent, forgive them.
“But what if they don’t repent?” I hear you say. Ah! Well, that takes us into another discussion which I would like to look at separately. However, for the purpose of responding, briefly, within this article, I’d like to quote from Mart Dehaan (Discovery series booklet, “The Forgiveness of God") who says: “Our forgiveness of one another is to be patterned after the way God forgives us. From His example, we learn that while our love for others needs to be unconditional, there is a place for conditional forgiveness. Whether or not we consider an offense a “dead issue” will be determined by whether the offending party is willing to own up to the wrong. Christlike love makes it necessary sometimes to withhold forgiveness until the one who has done the harm admits responsibility for it (lk. 17:1-10).”
This is where many of the struggles stemmed from within the church. This is where my struggle with the unbalanced teaching of forgiveness began. It is the very reason I began to dig even further into the Scriptures for answer. I am praying that God will continue to teach me in this area so that I can teach others using simple methods that will help to bring healing to those who are hurting and cause the perpetrators to make a U-turn in their behaviour. I pray that as you read the Scripture references and any further articles on this subject (as the Lord allows me to share) that it will bring you a step closer to healing if you are the hurting one. If, however, you are the perpetrator, I pray that you too will recognise where you are going wrong, repent of your sins and seek forgiveness.
We long for our places of fellowship to be more welcoming! We want to see the light of Christ shining through vessels of honour, where humility reigns over pride, compassion replaces condemnation and love covers all. For this to be evident in our places of fellowship we must embrace forgiveness. That means that we must practise giving and receiving forgiveness so that we will have more rejoicing taking place from seeing the unfolding of restoration among us.
It is Scriptural. Jesus said it! Therefore, it is a command. Clearly, from this scripture we can see that forgiveness is not one-sided, where the hurting is obligated to forgive and the one who does the hurting does nothing. It is a two-way process. Let’s personalise it now: If you hurt me, it is your Christian duty/responsibility to apologise to me. In return, it is my Christian duty/responsibility to accept your apology, forgive you and release you from the bondage of guilt and shame. If I hurt you, then the tables turn and I expect you to extend the same grace towards me. It’s that simple! Why then has it become such a struggle?
- Could it be that we do not practise what we preach?
- Could it be that we just haven’t had balanced teaching on the matter and so we have this concept of the hurting must forgive and so the perpetrator never thinks about the part that they play and their responsibility?
Whatever the reason, this is an opportunity to make a change. The Bible is there to guide us. Let us dig deeper into the Word of God and live! Let us look within and make that necessary change. Change begins with me.
Your sister in Christ,
(Encouraging you towards a better relationship with God and your fellow-man)
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