Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day Thirty-One: Forgiveness

The WORD of the Day:

"Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." 

--Psalm 51:10

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Through this study we have talked a lot about redemption, renewal, and moving forward. I saved for last what might be the hardest, and yet most critical, keys to all of those things: forgiveness. The giving (and receiving) of forgiveness is what purifies our hearts. It helps us partake in the limitlessness of God's love and charity. And it gives us access to God's grace.

There's no denying it sounds amazing. But it is HARD. Sometimes, we think it is IMPOSSIBLE.  Yet we know it is necessary to forgive because the Bible tells us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. Jesus said:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Okay, forgiveness is a must, but how do we do it? C.S. Lewis (one of my favorites, as you know) wrote an essay on forgiveness that I have found very helpful.  You can read the whole thing here, but let me convey the gist. 

1. There is a difference between excusable and forgivable. It seems like semantics, but it's really and important distinction. Excusable means saying "based on these circumstances, what you did was not wrong." Forgivable means saying "what you did was wrong, but I forgive you." 

Often we conflate the two by saying "It's okay, I forgive you." But really that sentence makes no sense. If "it's okay" then there is nothing to forgive. If "I forgive you," it's not okay, but I forgive you anyway.

2. We are not called to excuse wrongs, we are called to forgive them. Some things that people do to us are inexcusable. Some things we do to other people are as well. But God is not asking us to say "it's okay" as though a wrong never occurred where it actually did.  

This is important to understand for two reasons. First, recognizing the distinction means we can identify when someone actually wronged us versus when we are simply unhappy with the circumstances. Something actually excusable does not need forgiveness, and if we hold grudges about such things, we are the ones in the wrong.

Second, it is important to understand what God asks of us, because often a misguided sense of justice is what prevents us from forgiving. We say to ourselves: 'I can't say everything is okay! I can't just act like nothing happened!' But such outrage misses the point: it's not okay. It did happened. That's why forgiveness is needed, and it is what we are called to do.  

3. Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of God's love, and that is why we must forgive. C.S. Lewis said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We know this is true. Jesus, blameless, died for us so that we could be forgiven. No, that is not totally correct. More accurately, we crucified Christ by our sin, yet He forgives us and wipes those sins away. If we are forgiven all of that, with God's help, nothing on this earth is unforgivable.

4. God calls us to forgive for our own good. Refusing to forgive someone really only hurts the person holding the grudge. It makes us angry and bitter, and prevents us from the kind of love and joy that God wants for us to experience in our lives.  The truth is, we are the greatest benefactors of the forgiveness we bestow on others; if you can't forgive someone for their sake, forgive them for your own. 

Often real, genuine forgiveness requires God's help. He knew that would be true for us, and has given us the tools to do so through Him. When we forgive, when He forgives us, that is when He makes our hearts clean. 

Give it a Listen: A Very Special Treat

Today's song is really special (as the title would suggest). Matthew West has been writing and performing Christian music for many years. For his latest album, he decided he wanted to do a biography, of sorts, made of stories of real people and their real walks with God. He asked his fans to write in and tell him their stories. The song "Forgiveness" comes from one of those stories.  

Trying to tell you about this myself really would not do it justice. Instead, I'll let you watch this brief video by Matt about the incredible woman whose story inspired the song.

Doesn't that blow you away? I still get chills and I've heard the song many times.  My favorite line: "let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace. The prisoner that it really frees is you--forgiveness." Here is the song:

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