I became a Christian when I was very young, and have kind of just bought into the whole God thing, hook, line, and sinker. It's only been in the last few years that I've been challenged to ask myself why I believe these things, and if this "faith" that I have is even really mine. I quickly decided that I very much own my faith, but that I don't have an accurate grasp on just how many things I say that I believe but haven't thought critically through. I'm realizing that the concept of forgiveness is one of those things. I thought hard about God forgiving me. But, I've nodded my head and smiled a lot about the big picture of forgiving others. I've had a fairly easy time forgiving people who are not Christians, because I don't expect anyone to act like a Christian who isn't one. My struggle here is forgiving within the church. We Christians have done an overwhelmingly cruddy job of treating each other well, and forgiveness among the church is a much bigger concept than I had realized before.
This sub-category of forgiveness is where I've spent the majority of my thought life recently. I have prayed really incoherent prayers that go a lot like this, "God, please, I want to forgive them. Ummm yeah. Please. Help me there, because I don't know what to do now. Thanks." This week though, I decided to stop with the discombobulated stuff and just actually pray for the people I'm trying to forgive. I prayed for their families, their marriages, and their spiritual health. Before I knew it, I was feeling compassion and care for these people again! All of a sudden my heart was humbled, and I realized that these people that I'm swimming in unforgiveness for have been offered a complete, pardoning, forgiveness from the one I claim to worship. By holding a grudge, and not offering forgiveness myself, I was putting myself ahead of God. I was claiming to be greater than God. Man I hate it when truth hurts my feelings.
So to sum up:
1. Forgive in order to adjust your focus from what's been done to you by the offender(s), and back to what's been done for you by Christ.
2. Forgive because God has offered forgiveness to you for a lot more.
3. Forgive because God has offered them forgiveness too, and if anyone deserves to hold a grudge, it's the creator of the offender. If He can forgive, you better figure it out too.
I'm still not doing this forgiveness thing perfectly. I am still doubting that I've forgiven them fully, because the hurt in my heart is so very real and painful. But I am so incredibly encouraged that I WILL concur this battle with unforgiveness. The other option is to walk away from the church, because we're all just as flawed as the ones outside of the church. This is a fact, but if we can't get it together and love each other, then how in the world will we show the rest of the world that the love from our Savior is greater than anything they've ever experienced? Our God is so so good.
I don't know if I'll write any more about forgiveness, but I so appreciate the conversations, emails, text messages that I've received about these posts. I've felt scattered and disorganized in my thought process, but I'm so glad that some of you have seen through the fogginess of my thoughts and been encouraged through my struggle. That's all I can hope for when I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve. My struggle is not unique and I've been challenged and encouraged by the responses. Keep 'em coming!