Forgiveness – what is forgiveness and how do we use it?

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Act 26:18 “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Conversation between me, and myself…. “What is forgiveness?  Is it something valuable?  Is it worth anything?  Is it hard to access or hard to use?  Can we operate (live and function) without knowing how to forgive?  Can we ignore forgiveness and avoid the complications that come with the failure to forgive? Why is it important?  I’ve heard so many things about forgiveness as if it something extremely important.  But no one has ever told me why it’s so important and what will happen if I don’t get this “forgiveness” thing down.  I guess what I am admitting is that I don’t know what forgiveness is, but I do know that many people feel that it is so important.  I have avoided it for so long, so could my lack of understanding be the cause of many of my problems?  Should I know what forgiveness is and learn how to forgive?  What if I mess up, and find that I can’t forgive?  Who is going to teach me anyway.  No one will know if I am clueless about forgiving.  Being clueless about something important doesn’t turn out so well, but I don’t want to look stupid. And, do I need to forgive myself too?  How do I do that?  I guess I realize, deep down, that forgiveness is very important and I have to know what it is and how to deal with it.  So, I know it is very important to know about forgiveness and I also know that I don’t know anything about it, but I really need to know cause its too important to not know.  Am I okay not knowing but want to know? At Zion Educational Systems we teach forgiveness. Matthew 18:21  “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” When we were young, somewhere before our 10th birthday, we were most likely just like every other young child; we were most likely resilient, flexible, adaptive, and more importantly, forgiving.  Just think for a moment… do you personally know, or are you aware of any child, younger than the age of 10, that is bitter, resentful, or holding on to grudges? Hard to imagine isn’t it?  Jesus said that to come into the Kingdom of God, to receive eternal life, we must enter as a child.  What did He mean by that?  Perhaps, among other things, Jesus meant that we can only receive the Kingdom of God by being childlike as it pertains to forgiveness; being without grudges, resentment, or bitterness, completely free from the obstructions, wounds, and ugly chasms of unforgiveness. At Zion Educational Systems we teach about caring, trusting, and serving others.  Forgiveness must come first. Perhaps Jesus was referring to forgiveness, perhaps He wasn’t.  But the truth is that unforgiveness is ugly, cruel, and deadly.  Deadly?  Yes, it is a death to future opportunity, death to most, if not all, relationships, and it is death to anything that is potentially grand or glorious in our life.  There is a reference from Biblical times regarding a custom that the ancient people used to deal with murderers.  To punish the murderer for committing murder the village leaders would take the victim’s body and bind it to the murderer. The dead body would be completely bound, face-to-face, to the murderer, and the murderer would be unable to be set free from the decaying body of death.  Eventually the murderer would die a slow and painful death as the decaying body of his victim became poisonous.  What a grotesque way to die!  Very hard to imagine the agony the murderer would go through, unable to free himself from the stench of the decaying body, unable to free himself from the poison emitted by the dying carcass.  Unforgiveness is a very similar event, almost identical to the punishment described above. The only difference is that unforgiveness is a self-imposed death, a circumstance that is totally avoidable, something that everyone is capable of doing, if they are willing. The truth is that when we fail to forgive, and we hold on to the offense, we are binding a decaying poisonous body of death to ourselves.  We soon go from being offended, to being wounded, to being resentful, to being bitter.  The complete process of going from “offense” to “bitterness” is the identical process the dying body goes through as it is bound to us, emitting stench and poison, until it consumes us and eventually kills us.  “So, to answer one question…. Is it important to know about forgiveness?  The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!”  But what if we don’t know anything about forgiveness? Its okay to not know, but it is not okay to stay there in “I don’t know!”  Once you understand that its very important to know, but don’t know, then you are poised to come to know!” Forgiving one self is the first step of knowing forgiveness.  If you can’t forgive yourself then give up forgiveness all together.  No one can grow and live a full life without knowing how to forgive them selves.  Forgiving oneself is one of the single most important things any one person can know. Forgiving yourself is the foundation to every encounter a person will experience.  To the degree that someone is able to forgive them selves will be the degree of success they will enjoy success in every area of their life.  Otherwise we are binding ourselves to the body of death.  If unforgiveness is binding ourselves to a decaying body then that is something we have to deal with. Essentially, if we don’t, we stink and our life stinks… that body has to go.  Parents seeking help for their troubled teen can look to www.troubledteensearch.com. Over the course of many years we will make many regrettable choices, really screw up, hurt others severely, and do all kinds of dumb things.  Without forgiveness each screw up is like a 5-pound weight.  If we don’t discard them as they happen (through forgiveness) pretty soon we will be so weighted down we won’t be able to move.  Forgiving one self is all about being reasonable, having a good attitude, being secure, dependable, consistent, faithful, and resilient.  All these things are extremely important and they all hinge on our ability to forgive, forget, and let go of all the dumb mistakes we’ve made.  When we can forgive ourselves we can then certainly have empathy for others, and forgive them as well.  Having a clean slate for yourself is vital to being able to function in life, as well as to experience healthy fulfilling relationships with others.  Otherwise we would eventually be filled with self-hatred to the point that no one, including ourselves, could even bare to be around us. To hold on to a wound given to us by someone else will lead us to becoming resentful, bitter, and then eventually it will cause a death within us.  And, instead of freedom to live, we have imprisoned ourselves and have nothing more than enslavement to hate (hating self, hating others). Again, if we see unforgiveness as the decaying body bound to us face-to-face, we can see the ugliness of failing to forgive.  We don’t want to be bound to a dead body as it decays, that is so gross it is hard to even image the agony you would go through as the body breaks down.  All the stench, the poison, and then pain from the attachment to the dead body would be more than anyone could take.  If our unforgiveness is like the dead body we must do whatever it takes to get rid of it, for our own sakes. Everyone, if given long enough, will be wounded by someone close to us, someone we love, someone that is supposed to be our confidant, close friend, or personal advocate.  No one escapes the experience of extreme disappointment, betrayal, or the act of being let down by someone meaningful, someone we depend upon and count on to be there when we need them the most.  This is an experience that everyone comes to have at least once in his or her life.  And, in every case, it is devastating, very painful, creating indescribable agony, and very hard to overcome.  It is here that we either learn to live and love, or die and perish. We are either going to find a way to overcome this wounding, or fail to life from this point on. Matthew 26:27-29 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness is the reason for Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and Master.  We have a need to be forgiven, as the Bible declares, “we have all fallen short of the glory of God!”  Meaning, every single person who lives will fail at one point, disappointing themselves or others.  Everyone will betray someone else; it’s just a matter of time.  Everyone will lie, deceive, yell and scream saying nasty things to another person. Everyone will be selfish and self-centered while screwing someone else out of his or her rightful place.  Everyone will steal or take something that is not theirs.  Everyone will break or destroy someone else’s belongings.  Everyone will experience the human condition of harming someone else through betrayal, disappointment, lying, deceiving, cheating and/or offence.  We all will harm another person eventually, if only given long enough.  Therefore, we are all in the need of forgiveness, redemption, being set free from all the offence we have created.  Over the span of a lifetime it can get pretty messy as you tally up all the bad things you’ve done.  Jesus is God’s answer to setting us free from every negative thing we have ever done, or ever will do.  Jesus, and the forgiveness of our sins, is the Gospel of God (good news of God…. Gospel means, “good news”). If we can recognize that we will hurt others but want to be forgiven (so it doesn’t add up over the course of a life time), then the next step is to have empathy for others as they hurt us!  If we want the benefit of forgiveness from others but we won’t forgive others, then we are big fat hypocrites.  Forgiveness is a two-way street, always!  Meaning, we need to be forgiven and we need to forgive others just the same.  Forgiving others is very tough, and it’s not for cowards (only cowards refuse to forgive others). Forgiving those who harm us is totally essential and can’t be avoided without major consequence.  To fail to forgive others for offending us is like failing to eat or breath.  Eventually the lack of forgiveness will kill us by killing all of our relationships.  Those that fail to forgive others become victims, and victims perish.  As victims we become bitter, suspicious, guarded, and expect others to harm us.  We become fearful and insolate our selves from further harm.  Unfortunately, we can block the good relationships while protecting ourselves from the bad.  By forgiving those who have hurt us we are not letting them off the hook or setting them free from responsibility for what they have done.  We are not forgetting what they have done either.  By forgiving them we are setting ourselves free, and we are enabling us to continue to grow and prosper.  By forgiving others for what they have done to us we are acknowledging our worth, and our sense of worthiness.  We are not allowing the harm to fester or to continue to harm us.  We are letting go of what was done, and moving on with experience and wisdom, but most importantly free from the harm of the offence. Therefore, to forgive others is to be empathic and understanding that we ourselves have done the same thing.  Since we all fail and fall short, and we all hurt and harm others, it makes totally sense to forgive others for what they have done, especially if it is going to set us free.  The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to forgive those who have harmed us, appreciate the fact that others have forgiven us, and to be thankful for the entire system of forgiveness. How much should we forgive, and should we forgive every incident?  Forgive the whole thing, all of it? Why not? And, Yes! We are to forgive every incident Absolutely!  We should forgive every incident that has ever happened to us because we want to be set free from the incident. But understand that forgiving another doesn’t mean that we forget what they have done.  If someone has harmed us greatly, we can forgive him or her and at the same time never have anything to do with them ever again.  Some harmful incidents would make it impossible for the relationship to continue.  When an adult molests a child, that adult should NEVER be trusted with a child again.  Ever!  We can forgive the adult for what they have done, and move on.  But we are not stupid, and we don’t have to put ourselves in that same position ever again.  Forgiveness and trust are not the same.  We can forgive those completely and still not have any trust for them, and that is okay!  However, if we fail to forgive those who have harmed us we are forever attached to them and bound to what they did to us.  Meaning their offence continues to offend us even if they are not anywhere near us. We have established that most of us don’t have a clue how important forgiveness is, and that we probably haven’t ever even thought deeply about the importance of forgiveness.  We have also established that we don’t know how to forgive, but it is very important to forgive ourselves as well as to forgive others.  Otherwise we are binding a body of death to ourselves, or weighing our selves down with unnecessary heaviness until we can no longer move (relationally).  We have established the fact that we don’t know, but that it is very important that we do know, all about forgiveness.  We have established that we need to forgive ourselves first and foremost, and if we don’t we can’t grow or prosper.  Essentially we are stuck in a rut and can’t get out, weighted down by loss and regret, unwilling or unable to let go and be free.  We have also established that we need to forgive others so that we are not negatively affected by their offence, but we don’t have to forget what they’ve done or allow them another chance to do it again.  We have established that through empathy (knowing that we have hurt others and we want to be forgiven allows us to give the same to others, setting them and ourselves free from the offence) we can forgive others and set ourselves free, no matter what they have done to us.  Lastly, we have established that the good news that Jesus brought to all men is that we are forgiven by his blood covenant (his death and resurrection) and we all can enjoy the benefits of His forgiveness.  In order to receive the benefits of what Jesus did (the benefits are eternal life and present freedom) we need to repent (turn from our mistakes, acknowledging that they were made, take responsibility for what we’ve done, make plans to overcome it and stop doing it) and forgive those who have harmed us, receive the Holy Spirit (clean spirit from God) as His free gift (grace), and enjoy the freedom that His mercy has allowed us to have. The whole thing about forgiveness can be wrapped up in the following Scripture… Acts 2:38 “Peter said to them, ” Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What is forgiveness?  Do we know forgiveness?  Do we really know what it is to be forgiven?  Or, do we really know what it is to forgive someone else, truly forgiving them?  Do we even know how important forgiveness is?  Do we have any clue?  Is it something we can dismiss, forget about, put off until later?  Is it something important, something that needs our full attention, our best effort?  What happens when we fail to forgive ourselves or others?  What are the consequences

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