But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Life can sometimes suck and we get hurt, but Jesus is full of healing! Including inner healing.
At first glance we think we can identify the source of the inner wound by naming the person who hurt us.
No matter if it was a parent, family member, spouse, children, friend, fellow minister, board member, or congregants, the closer the relationship, the deeper the hurt.
However, was it actually the person that wounded you, or what you did with the wound that caused it become so terrible?
The wife of the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoi, said concerning her spouse:
“PEOPLE WILL TELL OF HOW HE HELPED THE LABORERS CARRY BUCKETS OF WATER, BUT NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW THAT HE NEVER HELPED HIS WIFE WITH HER TOILS — OR IN 32 YEARS — GAVE HIS CHILD A DRINK OF WATER OR SPENT 5 MINUTES CLEANING UP HIS MESS BY HIS BEDSIDE TO GIVE ME A CHANCE TO REST A LITTLE FROM ALL MY LABORS.”
Depending on who you are and where you stand, I am sure that many of you can relate to Mrs. Tolstoi.
How many pastor's wives have felt the same way. Their husbands go off to help the people in the church, but did not help them.
There has been many times where I have been tempted to just not show up on Sunday. If other people can decide to just stay in bed, then why can't I?
I have been tempted to give back to others what I have perceived has been given to me. What is so wrong with that?
Well in all honesty, it would stem from a heart of unforgiveness. I would be doing so because somewhere, somehow, I had allowed a root of bitterness to be planted in my heart and soul. (Heb 12:15)
You see, we do not have control over whether offenses will come or not. We only have control over what we do with them. (Proverbs 10:12)
Seldom do we discuss the high price for unforgiveness, but consider the consequences for harboring grievances:
When we do not forgive, then we shift the blame to someone else for what is essentially our issue.
Basilea Schlink, founder of the charismatic Lutheran community of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Darmstadt, Germany, tells the story of Plumb Orchard in her book, Realities.
The Sisterhood needed the property next to their community to expand their ministry, but the owner refused to sell. The sister who tried to negotiate never made it past this woman’s front door.
One day, the woman’s great nephew met the sister at the door and let her in. In his great-aunt’s room she understood why they were having problems purchasing the property. The room was crowded with inherited furniture — enough to fill a house — and most of it was dilapidated. One room had 13 mattresses stacked one on top of another — a stepladder was required to reach the top.
As the sisters began to pray, the Lord began to deal with them about inviting Him to judge their own lives in relationship to what they saw in another’s. They had no estate to manage, but they did have secret attachments — a pretty picture postcard, a certain personal necessity, a little wooden cross. “Oh, I hope the day will never come when God will ask this of me,” each said.
But the Spirit impressed them to have a surrender week. Each one was to let loose of her secret attachment. After that week they visited the woman. She had changed her heart.
Basilea Schlink said that experience taught them the power of empathetic forgiveness, and that people cannot make progress when they blame someone else. People must deal with their own attitudes first.
There is a direct correlation between the forgiveness of sins and inner healing.
In the book of James, he talks about confessing our sins to one another so that we can be healed. (James 5:16) With the confession of sins, it is implied that forgiveness will go hand in hand.
If we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts, then our hearts cannot be healed. It blocks the hand of God because we are not willing to forgive when He was willing to forgive.
Unforgiveness has a very high cost, but how does one proceed in forgiveness?
Please let me share with you 6 things that I have learned over the last 34 years of my Christian experience. Most of these lessons I learned while going through the dreadfully painful experience of divorce. They are not easy, but they do work.
Take a moment to re-assess the situation. Now that you understand that the issue is your issue and not the person who hurt you, evaluate how things have changed.
There was a time in my life when I was planting a church in a rural Nevada community. 3 times in 5 years I had people rise up against me and try to split the church. It was a very painful experience. It taught me some very valuable lessons but one lesson that I refused to learn was that being a pastor was not worth it.
I may have felt like it at times, and Lord knows I wanted to throw in the towel more than once but I knew that just because people choose to behave in ways that are not healthy or good, does not mean all people do that, or that they do so out of nefarious motives.
Most of the time they are just reacting out of their own woundedness and I happened to hit upon the wound. When you clean the wounds of sheep, they sometimes bite.
If I had allowed myself to nurse the offense and had gone off sulking about how unfair it was to be wounded for doing my job, I would not be where I am today.
The next church I pastored, was a tremendous blessing to me and opened the doors into ministry that I never thought was possible.
When you re-evaluate the situation and re-assess what is really going on, you will realize that the circumstances are not always what they seem and that they have more than likely changed.
Re-evaluation, however, must be ongoing in the journey of life. If the apostle Paul had not re-evaluated John Mark, we would not have the second Gospel.
Clarence Macartney told this story about Leonardo da Vinci. The story itself may not be true, but it well illustrates a point.
Just before da Vinci began work on his famous fresco, The Last Supper, he quarreled violently with a fellow painter. Da Vinci was so enraged and bitter he determined that when he painted Judas, he would model Judas’ face after the face of his enemy. He would get revenge as future generations looked on Judas’ face with scorn and infamy. The face of Judas was one of the first he finished, and everyone easily recognized it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarreled.
The last face da Vinci needed to paint was that of Christ; however, he made no progress. Something baffled him, held him back, and frustrated his best efforts.
He concluded that the one thing that hindered him was the fact he had used his enemy’s face when painting Judas. He took his brush and gave Judas a new face. With ease, he then finished the face of Christ.
A Christian cannot paint the features of Christ into his own life while painting the face of another with colors of enmity and hatred.
The word repent means to change your mind. We were told to repent by John The Baptist, Jesus, The 12 Apostles, Jesus again after His resurrection, Peter and Paul. It is a command given to us everywhere in the N.T. It is unilateral. That means that it does not wait for somebody else to repent first. We are to do it regardless of what other people do.
Repentance has nothing to do with one’s feelings. It involves a mindset change that brings different behavior.
Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount how we are to treat our enemy: We are to bless him, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, pray for him, and forgive him. None of these actions require our enemy to do a single thing. All address our behavior.
Once again it has nothing to do with the one who wronged you but has everything to do with yourself.
When I went through divorce, I had to deal with my own issues. Although I felt that I had been wronged by my former spouse and by God for allowing it to happen, I still had to deal with myself.
It takes two to make a marriage work and it takes two to break a marriage no matter if you have been cheated on or not. So I had to repent, (change my thinking) concerning the offense and why it happened.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
The word ministry means to serve.
Think of it this way. When you go to a restaurant you are being ministered to by a waiter or waitress. They serve you your food. Now they can either serve you the wrong food, or even poisoned food or they can give you what you order.
We have been given a task by God to serve up reconciliation. We have the choice of whether or not we do so, but that is our commission.
So after you change your mind, then choose to serve reconciliation rather than revenge or payback. Choose to no longer count people's sins against them.
Think about it. Did Jesus tell everyone on the cross that He was going to get them back for what they did? I don't think so. His words were "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
The same thing happened when Stephen was stoned for doing nothing more than telling people about Jesus. Here are his words.
HE FELL TO HIS KNEES, SHOUTING, “LORD, DON’T CHARGE THEM WITH THIS SIN!” AND WITH THAT, HE DIED.
This act of Stephen who served reconciliation to the end, led to the conversion of Saul, who later was known as the Apostle Paul.
Instead of letting the wound infect you, let your forgiveness and mercy infect others. You will be well on your way to inner healing.
Keep doing the first 3 until you no longer are controlled by unforgiveness and bitterness.
Jesus made a very powerful point when asked by Peter how many times we should forgive. Jesus told us to forgive 70 times 7 times. (Matthew 18:22)
Now there have been times when I wanted to keep track of how many times I had forgiven somebody for the same thing they had sinned against me before, but never has it reached the 491st time.
The point is that we are to forgive and forgive again. That since we have received unlimited forgiveness from God, we are to give unlimited forgiveness to our fellow servants.
Jesus said Christians might need to repeatedly forgive someone. This does not mean we become a doormat and allow someone to abuse us.
Forgiveness does not grant someone permission to keep hurting us.
Spatial distance may be required, but our hearts can remain tender.
When we forgive, we may not forget the past. To continually dredge it up, however, is not beneficial.
BUT HE GIVES MORE GRACE. THEREFORE HE SAYS: "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."
I have a dear friend of mine that explained to me the concept of forgiveness when I was struggling to forgive something that somebody did to me.
He likened forgiveness to a bank loan. When you have no way to repay the debt, even though you are financially obligated to do so, then the bank can forgive the loan. It is called being charged off.
Jesus paid the debt for us. He not only paid the bank for us, but then told us we did not have to repay Him.
When you forgive, you are charging off the loan. It may be owed to you, but you are choosing not to collect.
The way to be empowered to do this is through humility.
You know that you have been forgiven much more than you could ever be owed by one person. You remember that you are a recipient of grace, and thus you are going to extend grace.
You are going to extend favor to someone whom you feel does not deserve it.
A forgiving person is stronger than the one who did the wrong because it takes more strength to forgive than it does to injure.
People have criticized Billy Graham because he associated with Christians who did not adhere to every element of doctrine important to his critics. He recited this poem as a response.
HE DREW A CIRCLE THAT SHUT ME OUT,
REBEL, HERETIC, A THING TO FLOUT.
BUT LOVE AND I HAD THE WIT TO WIN,
WE DREW A CIRCLE THAT TOOK HIM IN.
To join in Christ’s work of reconciliation, we must be persons of grace.
There are two examples of forgiveness that I would like to share with you. One is from the life of King David and one is from the parable of the prodigal son.
In second Samuel chapters 13-18 we have the story of David and Absalom. Absalom’s brother, Amnon, raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar. Absalom then killed Amnon and fled. After 3 years, David brought his son back to Jerusalem but refused to see him for 2 years.
David made the mistake of incomplete forgiveness. He was not completely healed on the inside.
Compare that with the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) That father ran to his son, embraced him, kissed him, clothed him, killed the fatted calf, enjoyed him, through a party for him and defended him.
This is the example of the Father's love and forgiveness towards us. It is complete forgiveness. So which type of forgiveness are you going to choose?
Corrie ten Boom closes The Hiding Place with the story of speaking at a church in Munich after World War II. A German SS man who had guarded the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp was in the service.
When ten Boom saw him, she suddenly remembered the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, and her sister Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came to ten Boom as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “Fraulein,” he said, “to think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away.”
He thrust out his hand to shake hers; but ten Boom, who had spoken to others concerning the need to forgive, kept her hand at her side. As she fought with her anger, she prayed, Lord, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
She tried to smile and struggled to raise her hand, but could not.
Again, she prayed, Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. She writes,
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the power.”
As you go your way today, think on these words by the Apostle Paul.
INSTEAD, BE KIND TO EACH OTHER, TENDERHEARTED, FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER, JUST AS GOD THROUGH CHRIST HAS FORGIVEN YOU.
As you do, you will be transformed and receive inner healing.
Pastor Duke Taber is the Senior Pastor at The Vineyard Church in San Carlos Ca. He is an alumnus from Life Pacific College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
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