prisoner

Some of the greatest miracles and healings have come into my life through forgiveness.  It is an interesting phenomenon–forgiveness.  When I forgive, it is not the person that I forgive who receives the miracle.  It was me.

I cannot say that I’ve had more to forgive than most because life is hard for all of us.  No matter what your circumstances or generational history, life has a way of taking each of us and wringing all the marrow from our bones.  Without Divine intervention, we eventually collapse from the weight of our own empty carcass and die.

moldForgiveness is one of the miraculous life-giving principles that the Lord has given to us to renew our minds and bodies.  At times, unforgiveness can be a tricky business.  Like damaging mold, it can hide behind walls we build to protect ourselves from harm.  We prance glibly along not understanding that a damaging parasite is growing in our bodies that will eventually kill us if it isn’t fumigated from our systems.

For years, I carried a hidden resentment toward my parents that seemed to remain under the surface. Because no one was hurt by the things I’d observed, I had no concern about dealing with this festering little pimple.  Nevertheless, I slowly realized that I had fallen into the same habit that had been abhorrent to me all during my childhood.

I could not seem to break the pattern until I discovered the miracle of forgiveness.  The scripture that set me free is Matthew 6:14 and 15.  “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins” (NCV).

Even though I knew this familiar verse that follows the Lord’s example prayer, I had not applied it to this situation.  As soon as I told the Lord I forgave my parents and asked him to forgive me of my petty resentment,  I experienced a miracle in my spirit that still lingers in my memory decades later.

The sad part was that when I explained to my mother about the annoyance I held, she laughed.  “Oh, Honey.  I didn’t do that for your dad.  I did that for me!  It was only for my sake I did it.  At times, your father even resented my actions.”

I had kept that festering indignation for years and it was not even justified.  Had I not experienced the Lord’s miracle of forgiveness, I could still be hurting and following the same pattern of behavior that caused my animosity.

I had to learn that forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of my will.  The word Jesus used in the Greek means “to send away from one’s self.”  Feelings can trick you into believing things that are not true.  True forgiveness may not result in goosey feeling.  However, it will result in a miracle in the spirit man.

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God is Forgiving

Psalm 86:5

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time; but it will dry.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back ever.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  Because we sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry instantly.  And we cannot make the slap not hurt.  But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin.

               Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 12.

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s more than 200 years after this incident.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B.  David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to David’s family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –ex There was a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She was sentenced to death.  Even though she was a Christian, she still had to die.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

God is Forgiving

Lord, you are kind and forgiving and have great love for those who call to you (Psalm 86:5).

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  Because we sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry or the slap not hurt.  But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin. Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  Many years later, God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B.  David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to his family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –ex a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She still had to die for her crime.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

Jesus changes us with forgiveness

Luke 5:20

Central Theme: Jesus has the power and will to forgive our sins.

Introduction–When my mother was in the hospital, she broke her shoulder because she wanted to get out of the bed and she didn‘t want to disturb anyone so she got up by herself and fell. She forgot that she has changed. She had a stroke and she is no longer steady on her feet. We all change. The world changes. Most changes are because God wants them. We cannot talk about changes without discussing how God changes us through His forgiveness.

I. Have a member read Luke5:20.

  1. Tell the story of the man who was lowered by his four friends.
  2. Jesus made the religious leaders angry by telling them that he could forgive sins.
  3.  Only God can forgive sins.

a. This meant that Jesus was God.
b. We need to understand that Jesus can and has forgiven us.

  1. My son got into a lot of trouble as a teenager and he thought that he could not come back
  2. He forgot that God is a God of forgiveness.
  3. God wants to forgive you but you have a part

a. First thing is that you must believe that you are a sinner and need to be forgiven.
b. We can’t be forgiven if we have not done anything wrong.
1) We think other people are wrong.
2) We make excuses for ourselves.
c. Then you need to ask God to forgive you.
d. If you have done anything to hurt someone else you need to make it right

Conclusion–God can and will forgive our sins.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from the computer age is the wonderful power of forgiveness.  I remember that one of the first things I was told about my computer was “don’t worry they are very forgiving.”  Interestingly, this is also one of the great lessons I’ve seen in action within the mentally challenged community. My first foray into the world of computers was with an Apple 2E.  My husband, Frank, had purchased it and our third-grade daughter, Carol, gave him his first lessons in turning on and using the machine.

I had a red IBM Selectric Correcting Typewriter and I was reluctant to let go of my prize machine.  Then I got a job with a Christian magazine.  I was required to write at least 200 pages each month, in addition to numerous assignments with ridiculous deadlines.

My husband convinced me one night after supper that I should try the word processor.  At 2am after completing an unheard of number of pages, I slipped into bed next to Frank and whispered, “I will never use my typewriter again.”  The thing I loved was that the computer made corrections so simple.  You just backspace and, WaLa, all was forgiven.

When I entered into the world of disabilities, I found the same forgiving and loving spirit.  Yes, people who are mentally challenged are people like everyone else.  However, their life experiences have taught them the great value of forgiveness.

Maybe, it’s because their lives are so hard and so filled with missteps that they are grateful to receive forgiveness from others.  That is certainly the reason that they enthusiastically embrace the redemptive Christ into their lives and heart.

Maybe it’s because they experience so much mistreatment and misunderstanding that they have to forgive more than the rest of us.  However, I think the secret lies in what a mother told me several months ago.  We were talking about her family and some of the hurtful things they had done to her.  “Why do you continue to have anything to do with them?”  I asked.

“Oh, it’s too hard to hate and hold unforgiveness,” she said, while nonchalantly looking at her fingernails.  This dear mother had no idea the great secret of health, mental stability and happiness she had uncovered.  “It’s so much easier to love than to hate.”

My world was shaken.  Of course, she was correct but how had she discovered this wonderful promise?  I believe that the complexities of a hard life had taught her to seek for easy answers to life’s perplexing problems.  The mentally challenged community also seems to know the easy nature of love and forgiveness.  In the first verse of Psalm 131 David confesses, “I have learned to not try to figure out things that are too high and hard for me.”

Perhaps that is the real attraction that people see when they venture into our cloistered sub-culture.  Maybe when we slip away from the crowd, there is a deep knowing that rings in our hearts,  I’ll never be the same person because I have experienced something genuine and deeply moving.  I have seen forgiveness walking in flesh and blood and I have seen the easy nature of love.

What have you learned about forgiveness that has changed your life and direction?

 

2 Responses to “Forgiveness”

  1. SPG Says:
    February 15, 2008 at 4:16 pmeTwo things, you really write well and second, what verse are you referencing in the 145th Psalm?
  2. specialgathering Says:
    February 15, 2008 at 4:28 pmeOops! Thanks for the correction. It is Psalm 131 verse 1. I’ll change that. David said, “Lord, I am not proud. I don’t try to act important. I don’t try to do grat things. I don’t worry about things that are too hard for me.”This was one of my mother’s favorite verses.

For 120 years, Israel and Judah were united as one nation bearing the name of Israel.  In 930 BC, the nation of Israel became two nations, Israel and Judah.   In 723 BC, the nation of Israel fell to the Assyrians.  Before Israel fell into the hands of the Assyrians and became their slaves, there were 2 hundred years of warning from the Lord.  The conduct of the kings of Israel went from pretty bad, to bad, to much worse.  Elisha, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and other prophets spoke to the people to let them know that God was displeased with their conduct.

God wanted Israel to know that they could repent and he would immediately forgive them and bless them.  In fact, they were being blessed during those 200 years by a merciful God.  Occasionally, some of the people would turn back to the Lord but overall the nation went the way of sin and selfishness.  It seemed that they were bent on either destruction or determined to see if God would actually punish them.

As I read this portion of the Old Testament, I am always reminded of one of my mother’s favorite phrases before she would punish us, “You are begging for a spanking.”  It seemed that Israel wanted to see how far they could go into sin before God would smack them.  Eventually, he did punish them but it was with great sorrow on the part of God.  It is clear from the scriptures that God never wanted to have to punish his people.

I was struck by the 200 years of warnings and tolerance that God showed to Israel.  Even more important, God said, “Repent and I will forgive.”  While he gave warnings again and again telling the people to change and turn back to Him.  He was slow, slow, slow to punish.

However, God told them repeatedly that forgiveness was available instantly.  All they had to do was go to their knees, go to prayer and go back to him and he would immediately forgive them. 

Amazingly, the narrative that God has for all the people of every nation is the same.  Repent, I forgive.  However, the road to destruction may meander around with lots of turns and curves that all lead to a dead-end but may even be paved with material prosperity and blessings.  God is slow to punish but instantly forgives when we truly repent. 

As I shared this remarkable message of repentance and restoration to the members of Special Gathering this week, their eyes were glued to me as they soaked in this simple message of true hope and love.  The message of God’s love is clear, plain, yet life changing.  IQ doesn’t matter.  Repentant hearts does matter.

Having a slow and go God allows us all to have access to the love of Christ.  Forgiveness and repentance are available immediately for all.

Tammy was abused by her employer.  She is a high functioning young mother who also suffers from touches of mental illness.  While still a teenager, she was left homeless and took a job as the nanny for several young children.  The divorced father had been left with the three children and quickly Tammy became their surrogate mother.  Unfortunately, she also became the father’s surrogate wife.

After about five or six years, Tammy realized that she could no longer endure the abuse of her employer and left the position.  As she told me her story, I was greatly impressed with her attitude.  It was clear from the beginning of our conversation that she had been greatly wounded from the experience; but I could tell even before she expressed it that she had completely forgiven her abuser.

Tammy’s story–no, Tammy’s attitude–regarding forgiveness greatly effected me.  She knew from the first time her employer touched her that he was taking advantage of her precarious position.  She always knew that he didn’t care about her; but he was only using her because  he knew she had no other place to go.  (After she left the nanny position, she was homeless for several years.)  Nevertheless, she was willing to freely forgive him of his offensive and abusive behavior. 

This is not the first time that I’ve seem great offense forgiven by the members of The Special Gathering.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged (mentally retarded) community.  While our members are developmentally delayed, they often have much to teach folks who are “normal.”  And forgiveness is one of those areas.

From them and from a study of Scriptures like Matthew 18, I have come to believe that forgiveness is not an emotional act.  In fact, I believe it has nothing to do with emotions.  It is an action, not an emotion.  We forgive in word and deed.  It is also an action that Jesus elevated to a commandment.  Even if I don’t feel I cannot forgive a person, that is not the issue.  Forgiveness is possible because it is an action, borne from the gracious act of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from death.

There is a conversation and discussions that circulates around the Christian community at times regarding forgiveness.  The discussion goes something like this: 

 Forgiveness is something you must do whenever anyone does wrong things to you. 

No.  You can only forgive when someone seeks forgiveness.  God does not forgive us until we seek forgiveness.  Can we do something God does not do?  Can we forgive people who don’t seek forgiveness?  We must be willing to forgive but we cannot forgive, unless the person seeks forgiveness.

 Okay, I admit it.  This whole discussion leaves me totally confused.  Because the latter is certainly a reasonable argument.  And I can’t help but agree.  But I guess I choose to forgive the person who has wronged me even if they have not asked for forgiveness.  

You see, I know I have wronged people; and for years, I didn’t know that they were hurt.  I didn’t even know what I had done.  Maybe the first time I hear about the hurt is when they come and tell me they have forgiven me.  I would hate to take the position that I can’t forgive unless the person comes to me and then find out as I stand before God’s Throne that I’ve been wrong on this matter.  You know, Jesus was pretty plain in Matthew 18: 22.  “You must truly forgive your brother and sister, or my heavenly Father will not forgive you.” 

Perhaps, it is because of their limited cognitive abilities that it seems easier for members of the mentally challenged community to forgive; but I don’t think that is part of the equation.  Somehow, these people who have suffered a great deal of discrimination and hurt have been able to tap into a part of God’s grace that is difficult for most of us.  They have learned that forgiveness is an action and they willingly forgive. 

Have you found that forgiveness is something that your friends or members who are developmentally delayed do well?  Have you learned from them the importance of forgiveness.