Forgiveness and Hebrews 9:22

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Forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

By making and keeping these promises, you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs. This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 209.

 

Food for Thought

Do you sometimes find yourself breaking (or tempted to break) one or more of the Four Promises of Forgiveness sometime after you make them? That’s a very normal experience–and, believe it or not, it’s an invitation from God to draw closer to him. The key is remembering and applying Hebrews 9:22. That verse tells us that in the universe there is only one source of durable forgiveness: the Cross of Christ. “Without the shedding of blood,” the verse says, “there is no forgiveness.”

For a time, we may be able to forgive someone out of our own willpower or our human desire for reconciliation, but eventually even our best efforts will buckle (yes, even when they’re buoyed up by the Four Promises). If we want our forgiveness of others to “stick”, we ourselves need to “stick” continually–to the Cross. So when you sense a long-buried hatchet rising to the surface, don’t dwell on those thoughts. Instead, dwell on Christ’s forgiveness of your own sin. The more real that becomes for you, the less real temptations toward unforgiveness will be.

What Forgiveness is NOT

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To understand what forgiveness is, we must first see what it is not. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Forgiveness involves a series of decisions, the first of which is to call on God to change our hearts. As he gives us grace, we must then decide (with our will) not to think or talk about what someone has done to hurt us. God calls us to make these decisions regardless of our feelings–but these decisions can lead to remarkable changes in our feelings.

Second, forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting is a passive process in which a matter fades from memory merely with the passing of time. Forgiving is an active process; it involves a conscious choice and a deliberate course of action. To put it another way, when God says that he “remembers your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25), he is not saying that he cannot remember our sins. Rather, he is promising that he will not remember them. When he forgives us, he chooses not to mention, recount, or think about our sins ever again. Similarly, when we forgive, we must draw on God’s grace and consciously decide not to think or talk about what others have done to hurt us. This may require a lot of effort, especially when an offense is still fresh in mind. Fortunately, when we decide to forgive someone and stop dwelling on an offense, painful memories usually begin to fade.

Finally, forgiveness is not excusing. Excusing says, “That’s okay,” and implies, “What you did wasn’t really wrong,” or “You couldn’t help it.” Forgiveness is the opposite of excusing. The very fact that forgiveness is needed and granted indicates that what someone did was wrong and inexcusable. Forgiveness says, “We both know that what you did was wrong and without excuse. But since God has forgiven me, I forgive you.” Because forgiveness deals honestly with sin, it brings a freedom that no amount of excusing could ever hope to provide.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 206-207

 

Food for Thought

 

Praise God for his gracious gift of forgiveness to us! The Scripture says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32, emphasis added) You will probably have an opportunity to extend forgiveness this week. When you do, try to remember what forgiveness is not, and fix your eyes on the full and gracious forgiveness that God has given you in Jesus Christ.

Staying Grounded

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God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble. James 4:6

 

When you need to show others their faults, do not talk down to them as though you are faultless and they are inferior to you. Instead, talk with them as though you are standing side by side at the foot of the cross. Acknowledge your present, ongoing need for the Savior. Admit ways that you have wrestled with the same or other sins or weaknesses, and give hope by describing how God has forgiven you and is currently working in you to help you change… When people see this kind of humility and common bond, they will be less inclined to react to correction with pride and defensiveness.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 172

 

Food for Thought

 

Count the words you and your in the paragraph above.

How many did you count? Nine? If there had been one or two uses of the words you and your, it probably wouldn’t have drawn any attention. But nine? That’s enough where we need to stop, look, and listen. Ken is wisely sharing a beneficial approach to use when we need to show others their faults: talk about your own.

From our peers in the office to aging parents to the children at play in the backyard, nobody likes to be talked down to–nobody! Talking down usually invites a defensiveness that’s hard to overcome. Side by side talking, however, lays a common ground that you and the other person can stand on. Interestingly enough, the root word for humility is humus, from which we get our word for ground. Being grounded, or humble, in our approach to these situations provides protection from the lightning bolts of pride and defensiveness.

Living Out Matthew 18

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When Christians think about talking to someone else about a conflict, one of the first verses that comes to mind is Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” If this verse is read in isolation, it seems to teach that we must always use direct confrontation to force others to admit they have sinned. If the verse is read in context, however, we see that Jesus had something much more flexible and beneficial in mind than simply standing toe to toe with others and describing their sins.

Just before this passage, we find Jesus’ wonderful metaphor of a loving shepherd who goes to look for a wandering sheep and then rejoices when it is found (Matt. 18:12-14). Thus, Matthew 18:15 is introduced with a theme of restoration, not condemnation. Jesus repeats this theme just after telling us to “go and show him his fault” by adding, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” And then he hits the restoration theme a third time in verses 21-35, where he uses the parable of the unmerciful servant to remind us to be as merciful and forgiving to others as God is to us (Matt. 18:21-35).

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 144

 

Food for Thought

 

Jesus is clearly calling for something much more loving and redemptive than simply confronting others with a list of their wrongs. He wants us to remember and imitate his shepherd love for us–seeking after others, helping them turn from sin, and helping them be restored to God and those they have offended. Have you ever heard others in a conflict say, “We followed the Matthew 18 process”? Have you said it yourself? Read all of Matthew 18 and ask the Lord to give you the heart of a shepherd who seeks and gently restores the lost sheep.

Gentle Correction

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Last week’s issue of PeaceMeal focused on relying on God’s grace when you need to make a confession in the midst of conflict. If it is difficult for you to identify and confess your wrongs, there are two things you can do. First, ask God to help you see your sin clearly and repent of it, regardless of what others may do (Ps. 139:23-24). Then prayerfully study his Word and ask him to show you where your ways have not lined up with his ways (Heb. 4:12). Second, ask a spiritually mature friend to counsel and correct you (Prov. 12:15; 19:20).

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120

 

Food for Thought

 

For some of you, it may feel more difficult to follow the second piece of the advice above. If so, reflect on this additional quote from The Peacemaker:

“The older I get, the less I trust myself to be objective when I am involved in a conflict. Time after time I have been blessed by asking a friend to candidly critique my role in a conflict. I have not always liked what my friends have said, but as I have humbled myself and submitted to their correction, I have always seen things more clearly.”

May the Lord show you someone in your life who loves you enough to gently correct you.