Sunday, December 28, 2008

Faith Expressed: Forgiving Misunderstandings

Ephesians 4:31,32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

In Dr. Charles Swindoll’s radio Bible study entitled “Getting Through The Tough Stuff” he spoke on getting through the tough stuff of misunderstanding someone’s words or intentions. I believe it is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves, both forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. Dr. Swindoll says, “Without forgiveness you will limp through life with bitterness. Misunderstanding someone’s words or intentions can breed deep seated bitterness which does not easily go away.” Forgiveness must occur if you ever hope to be free of experiences of misunderstanding in your past. Bitterness and forgiveness cannot co-exist. You cannot change the past – but your bitterness can change you!”

At times in our lives we need to take an “inventory” of our feelings surrounding bitterness and resentment and examine the misunderstandings that have caused hurt and pain to ourselves and to others. Then take the time to resolve these issue.

Dr.Robert Schueller, Jr. spoke on resentment recently, also. He said, "There is no room for resentment in our lives. No room for resentment with our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and the whole world." I agree that life is too short to harbor resentments, bitterness, and an unforgiving, conditional love lifestyle.

I once received the E-NCOURAGEMENT devotionals via email by Chris Courtney, and he also spoke on bitterness and forgiveness! “Listen”, he said, “all it takes is a tiny seed of bitterness to grow and spread until we go from “bitter” to “embittered”, hardened by our hurts (both real and perceived). All it takes is a little bit of un-forgiveness toward one person: one ex-spouse, one former employer, one parent, one individual who has wronged us or caused us pain and that little bit of un-forgiveness can grow within us and poison our whole outlook, our whole attitude towards family, friends, life in general, and toward God Himself.”

Susan St. James spoke about the death of her son in a plane crash and when a reporter her whether she was angry about his death at the young age of 14, when her older son and her husband survived the crash. Her response has been echoed around the world. “Having resentment is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Keeping resentments in your heart is deadly.. We may feel like we are getting back at others, or have the right to be angry and unforgiving towards someone because of misunderstandings that have occurred, but the resentments poison us. It will keep relationships from healing and we may cause others to be upset with our bitterness and revenge towards those who have hurt us or we have perceived have hurt us, but these misunderstandings and feelings of resentment will hurt us the most. God knows this, and that may be why he speaks specifically to this issue in the Lord’s Prayer. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors..”

In Matthew chapter 18: 22-35(RSV) we find the Law of Forgiveness. Peter asked Jesus how often we are to forgive a brother who continues to sin against me – seven times? Seven times would have been more than Jewish law required, but Jesus replies that we are to forgive others seventy times seven. It seems like an overwhelming task and certainly “not fair”. God is not saying it is easy, but it is necessary.

Forgiveness is so freeing. Where would we be if God did not forgive our sins or our own “misunderstandings” with him?

In Matt: 14, 15 we also read, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” These verses are given to us at the end of The Lord’s Prayer, and they make it pretty clear how important the act of forgiveness is! Similar verses are found in the books of Mark and Luke also. I believe that God gives us these rules/laws on forgiveness as a loving Father who knows what is best for their child. He loves us so much that He wants us to follow His commands for our own sake.

Chris Courtney said, “God puts within each of us a beautiful garden. WE must tend to our gardens with love and nurturing. We have to pull out the weeds that would threaten our crop. The only way to weed ourselves (spiritually) is through love, through Jesus. Forgiveness pulls out bitterness by the root, and fertilizes the soil of our souls for what God wants to plant within us.”

When I first realized that God was speaking to me through so many avenues on forgiveness, resentment, and bitterness, I knew that God really wanted me to listen, to take this to heart, and search within myself to find those areas that harbor resentments – some hidden even to myself. It is a good time of the year to look within and also set new goals for ourselves. I pray that in sharing this with all of you, it touches your hearts. For I believe that God is asking us to look within and find those areas we need to weed out, those areas that would threaten not only the relationships we have with others or with God himself, but those areas that would keep Him from being able to continue the planting Chris Courtney speaks of – the plans he has for our lives and how we are to serve Him.

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