My Fitness

Sunday, August 9, 2015

forgive without apology

I guess this all started with a recent sermon series from Jimmy Evans (found here search for the series called Tipping Point). He was speaking on eschatology and specifically the Rapture. It really lit a fire in me and I felt like the Bible was more real than I ever had in the past, which was weird because I can't remember a time when I didn't think of the Bible as real as water and air. Somehow now it was ever more real than reality though.

Anyway, I started thinking of entering Eternity and having my Advocate speak on my behalf and entering paradise. I started thinking of everyone I know entering those same circumstances and some of you know where you will go and some of you do not. I can't speak for you and I won't pretend to do so; besides that's not the point of this post.

Specifically I thought of a couple of people who are professing Christians (professing means they claim to believe in Christ and I do not know if they are genuine or not as I do not hold the keys to the kingdom). These people are special because while they claim to be Christian they have deeply wronged me and hurt me and have never apologized for it despite having opportunity and means.

I thought that maybe they're apologetic but are perhaps too prideful to actually apologize to me. For a moment that made me feel better that perhaps they felt bad but just weren't willing to let me know. But then that just made it worse. These people who hurt me over and over could possibly know that they hurt me and would rather save their pride than to simply admit that they sinned. One of these gals even said she was no hypocrite but it seems like a professing Christian wouldn't listen to gossip from a known liar, falsely accuse me, twist Scripture to suit their unjust accusation, condescendingly offer to help me, all without even simply asking what happened. And then when the truth was revealed, no apology was offered. But she's no hypocrite.

It made me angry.

I wish I were one of those people who could just magically "let things go". But when things pile up one offense after another it gets hard. I know I'm not the only one like this. I know there are lots of people, like my husband, who just don't remember offenses.

I don't want you to think that I believe that I've never injured someone. In fact, some of you may have been on the receiving end of an apology about a decade late. Sometimes I just don't know that I've offended someone but once I find out, I apologize. I apologize because what if they're like me and think they should have done something different or that somehow this was their fault. I don't want someone staying up at night over something I did to them, even if I was not aware of the offense. So yes, I've searched for long lost associates who I have no business or contact currently to apologize. Not once has it gone poorly.

What does go poorly is when I approach someone who has accidentally or purposefully offended me and sinned against me. They get indignant and huffy and how dare I say anything to them and then they deflect with false accusations against me and say I need to get the log out of my eye before correcting this speck in theirs. Which just further shows how little they think of their own sin and how little they think of me. They don't think I deserve an apology. Obviously I have no influence over these people. Obviously they do not care about me. Obviously I am beneath them. Obviously the only One who will be able to reach them is the Holy Spirit.

So I say nothing.

I try to let it go.

I can't let it go.

It still haunts me. People will look down on me now because of my honesty here. People might say, "Well, Lauren, now that's just your problem now isn't it? You need to let it go." Well, thanks. The guilt you're piling on at my known and admitted shortcoming is not making anything easier or less hurtful. Now I'm mad at those offenders and I feel guilty that I'm still struggling with something and not perfect.

Okay, that was a long set up but something happened today. I've shared this story before about my pastor realizing that if the Spirit wasn't going to point out that someone shouldn't smoke then maybe it wasn't his place to point it out either. And that combined with the idea that we will enter eternity soon led to this thought, those who have wronged me might get away with out ever apologizing: "What if those who have wronged me die without apologizing to me? What if they have asked Christ to forgive them their sins and he doesn't hold those wrongs against them? If God isn't going to hold those wrongs against them, then I should probably not hold those sins against them either. Surely, the pain they have caused me is insignificant compared to the pain felt by Christ." And so the many verses about forgiveness flooded my memory. Colossians 3:13 stood out to me.

forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive
I used this picture with permission but I don't remember from who. 
So if you have wronged me, you should repent. You should ask my forgiveness. You already have it though. And your sins will not be bothering me any more. I am free from you.

Colossians 3 is a very interesting and contextually appropriate chapter for this post. It is not my job to go around and point out everyone's flaws and sins. That is, in fact, no one's job (well, actually, it is certain people's jobs toward certain other people, but not YOUR job to do to everyone you contact. That lacks wisdom.) If you think that is your job you are probably also the type of person that likes to medically diagnose people that you have no contact with from another country while you're not even a doctor. Perhaps you're also the type of person who thinks God tells them to go say stuff to other people and you start sentences with, "God wanted me to tell you...." or "I felt led by the Spirit to say..." You'd be stoned in Old Testament days.

(I write that last paragraph so that when you read Colossians 3 and possibly think that the ungodly traits are describing the sinful people in my story you will know that this has not escaped my attention but that I am choosing to forgive anyway. Yes, these gals should not be so hypocritical. But since I am not appointed to a place where they can hear anything I say, it's just wasted words anyway. It is my hope that someone else in a similar circumstance will be able to come to the same conclusion: forgive even though they aren't sorry. That is also why I shared the story in the first place: perhaps by reading a few details someone might be able to relate and eventually also forgive.)

Colossians 3 starts with an admonition to seek things that are above and to forget the things of this earth. Paul then encourages us that if we are in Christ we will appear with him in glory. He says we should put to death all these sinful desires including anger. Instead we should actively put on as if like clothing those traits that are godly: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. He says to forgive, and more importantly to LOVE. And this is what I've been praying since Jimmy Evans' sermons: that I would be able to love these people. That prayer has lead to me forgiving them and that forgiveness has led to me loving them. Or perhaps praying has led to loving them which has led to forgiving them? Either way this is how I now share with Paul in that peace of Christ that rules in my heart. I wish the same for those who have hurt me and I wish the same for you.

We love because Christ first loved us (I John 4:19). And they will know us by our love (John 13:35). It is that love that compelled me to pray for these people who are so hurtful to me. It took time but now I can leave the worries or the world behind me. One of those worries is justice for those who wronged me. I hope I will not receive justice for my wrongs. I have asked forgiveness from people and God and have received it. I look forward to eternity.

PS - forgiveness does not mean full restoration. My former pastor, Robert Furrow, has the analogy that if someone approaches you with a 2x4 and smacks you in the head, you can forgive them, but if you see them coming toward you with a 2x4 again, you will be on guard. So forgive, but don't be foolish. Forgiving means you forget the hurt, not the action. You can forgive a liar for lying but don't forget this person is a liar the next time they tell you something. If this is bad doctrine, let me know.

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