Wednesday, April 9, 2008

devotional - Forgive

Someone in my life is angry at me right now. Out of frustration, I said some things last week that offended her. I didn't think my words were that big a deal, but, well, obviously they were.

The problem is that this person didn't let me know they were angry. They just cut off communication with me. And it has been such a busy week for me that I didn't even clue in that they were angry for days. We were in a little “spat”, and I didn’t even know it!

This morning I was griping in my head about it. That silent treatment business is so passive aggressive, so childish. Just tell me I offended you. Give me a chance to apologize so we can move on. Right then I heard a voice in my head say, You're doing the exact same thing.

Oh no, it's true!

Someone else has offended me. For a good couple of weeks now, I have harbored a grudge. I have responded in the exact same way - silence. I have ignored her phone calls and emails, or only answered in a very cursory way. I have been passive aggressive one. I have been giving the petulant silent treatment. I am just like that other person whom I offended!

But God! I cry out. I don't know how else to handle it! This has happened in the past with her and it has never turned out well. Confrontation, whether angry or loving, only makes things much, much worse. She is never going to change. So what am I supposed to do when she offends me over and over? I don't know what to do!

Forgive her, the Lord says. Forgive.

And then the Holy Spirit tells me this:
Good sense makes one slow to anger,

and it is his (her) glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11

and this
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

and this
Above all, love each other deeply,

because love covers over a multitude of sins.

I Peter 4:8

Forgive. Love. Just overlook the offense. Get over it. Move on.

Forgive.

God has "gotten over" all my offenses. He has "moved on". When he looks at me, he does not see all the times I have hurt others with my words, or neglected to forgive others, or any of my billion other sins. He only sees me pure and unblemished, redeemed by the blood of the lamb. I loved by God, and he proves that love for me by his forgiveness.

That forgiveness was bought with a price - the price was the absolutely excruciating crucifixion on the cross. But God is not asking me to do that in order to forgive the one who wronged me. He is only asking me to crucify my ego, and crucify my pride, and crucify my sense of entitlement that makes me think that everyone should put me and my feelings first.

And that is, frankly, just excruciating for me to do.

Ecxruciating, and impossible to do alone. I can try as hard as I can to be holy, to be sweet and forgiving, but all my efforts will be filthy rags. As Paul says in Romans 7:18-19, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

If I rely on myself to forgive others, and lean on my own countenance to overlook offenses, then I will always fail.

But that same Lord who was crucified for the very fact that I am unforgiving sends me the Holy Spirit to enable me to be what I am not. He’ll show me the way, and give me the heart to obey. He’s just waiting for me to ask.

Lord, send your Spirit to break my proud and hardened heart. Teach me to overlook offenses, as you constantly overlook my own. Teach me what it means to love by forgiving. Amen.

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