Friday, June 10, 2011

Journey of Faith Friday: Forgiveness

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Forgiveness

This week has been tough for many reasons that again I can not divulge here.  However, through these circumstances I have continued to search Scripture, read books, and reflect on past experiences to assist me in moving forward.  While reading, I came across some wisdom and instruction I received years ago regarding forgiveness and bitterness.  It was given to me during a season when I was struggling to let go of many past hurts and disappointments.  


Because the instruction and wisdom is based on Matthew 18: 21-35, I will share it in it's entirety.  

Characters
  1. King/Master = God
  2. 1st Debtor/Man/Creditor = Me
  3. Fellow Servant = Those I am angry, upset and/or bitter towards



The Parable of The Unforgiving Debtor

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against 
me? Seven times?”

 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]

 23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold
—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will 
pay it all.’27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison 
until the debt could be paid in full.

 31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to 
prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.”


After reading and processing this passage I was instructed to:

Step One:  Make a list of all the things the offending person(s) had done to hurt me.
Step Two:  Make a list of the things I've done to hurt God (ie.  Lied to Him by making promises I do not keep.  Tried to be the leader of our relationship. Not spending quality time with Him. Etc.)
Step Three:  On List #2 check off all the things for which God has forgiven me

Moral of the story:  
  • Acknowledge the debt, yet choose not to collect what is owed you.
  • God forgave my debt.  Forgive the debt of others.
Source: rodeo.net via Emily on Pinterest


I wish it was that simple, but I realize (from experience) that it is not.  However, inserting my name in this parable helped change my perspective.  After acknowledging the magnitude of my own debt and God's grace in forgiving that debt I have been better equipped to forgive and extend that same grace to those who have hurt me.

Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) says "Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.  Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.  

A Few Potential Consequences of Harboring Bitterness:
  1. You become a slave to the person(s) you're bitter toward.  You lose your freedom.
  2. You have a tendency to become like the person(s) you're bitter toward
  3. Bitterness causes physical problems.  Your health suffers.
  4. Bitterness in one relationship spills into other relationships, marring and scarring new relationships.
  5. Bitterness leads to spiritual damage.
  6. Bitterness affects your appearance negatively.
  7. Bitterness can lead to addictive behavior
Why Do We Hang On To Bitterness:
  1. We don't believe God will provide justice without "our help" and worry that if we forgive, they will be "off the hook."
  2. We don't know how to get rid of our bitterness
  3. We believe (falsely) that our bitterness protects us.
Therefore, if you are struggling to forgive someone for a deep wound or a simple incident where you didn't see eye to eye I want to encourage you to read Matthew 18: 21-35 inserting your name and the name of the one who wronged you.  Make a list following steps 1 through 3 realizing as you check off each offense that God has forgiven you, you are able to forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.  

**This information is adapted from Dr. Charolette Melcher, Focus on Relationships, Inc. 
------------------------------------------------
Are you struggling to forgive?
Has this been helpful?
What other information could you share regarding forgiveness?

You can read previous Journey of Faith posts HERE.

Next Friday, I will continue sharing portions of the wisdom I received regarding forgiveness.

How is God working in your life as you journey with Him?

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5 comments:

Renee Ann said...

What a great mini-study! Glad I stopped by today. Blessings!

Sandy said...

Amber, what an EXCELLENT tutorial on applying forgiveness in our lives! I was thinking about this EXACT passage these past two days when I was thinking of a couple friends whose lives seem bound and chained by bitterness right now, and yearning for them to be able to apply forgiveness to their wounds... Thinking about how hampered we are in forgiving others when we are not fully aware of the pain our transgressions have caused God and people), and how necessary conviction of true guilt is in the process - how much easier it is to move from the prisons of bitterness to the freedom of forgiving others when we think about how much we have been forgiven.

I've applied these words of Jesus many times in my life, but never in this written step by step approach. Really useful. And the list of some of the consequences of bitterness is so true.

Craig said...

Amber, from the real life, to the parable, to the list, to what bitterness does, to you, and to all of us – I hearted every bit of this. I've written a about forgiveness myself lately – forgiving the unforgivable. We will not be forgiven unless we forgive as he forgives. You hit this Right. On. The. Head. thank you. I heart reading you – and seeing your pictures – and I'm really glad our words crossed paths. God bless you and all of yours this day.

Heidi said...

I have observed almost every single 'Potential Consequences of Harboring Bitterness' in an individual in my life.

It is real - I'm sad for them, but the real life visual sure keeps me pursuing an attitude of grace and forgiveness in my own heart and mind.

Courtney said...

What a most excellent post, Amber. Funny because Matthew 18:22 came up today in church - how many times Jesus says we should forgive someone. I think it's very hard to let go of bitterness because in today's society it's considered "normal" to hold on to it, hold grudges and not forgive. And who doesn't want to be "normal"? But Jesus expects different. So we definitely have to change our perspective and go against the grain, so to speak. I think it's wonderful that you are working on this area of your life. Many, many blessings to you!