Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Courage to Forgive First

One of the best lines I've heard about forgiveness didn’t come from a sermon. It came from the TV show, Mad About You. It was said on the last show of the series. In a previous episode the main characters, Paul and Jaime, had separated. Their daughter, Mable, had invited both of them to the premiere showing of a Broadway show she had developed. Their friends all arrived before them and strategically chose their seats, leaving Paul and Jaime no choice, but to sit together. At the end of the show everyone decides to go for pie. Paul and Jaime are left standing there feeling awkward and not quite sure what they should say to each other. Paul finally asked Jaime if she wanted to go have pie and she says no. He turns and reaches for his stuff and when he turns back towards her to say goodbye she leans into him and kisses him. He closes his eyes and when she pulls back from the kiss he stands there for a moment with his eyes shut and then asks her if she just kissed him. She tells him no and he opens his eyes, smiles, and tells her he did not think she did. He then asks her again if she would like to go for pie. They walk out arm in arm and the daughter comes on screen to say that he took her for pie and then he took her home and never left again. The daughter then makes the statement, “There is no greater act than being the one who kissed first." I love that statement. To me if I could change it a little I think it states a clear principle from Scripture. “There is no greater act of courage and of love than to be the first one to forgive." 

We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. What does that mean? It means when we were still in our sin and were His enemies He left heaven and came to earth to initiate a relationship with us. He made that possible by paying for sin so we could be redeemed, forgiven, and reconciled to Him. Of the people I have known over the years, the most forgiving people are those who understand God's grace and forgiveness in deeply personal ways. They have came to terms with their own sinfulness and then the extent of God's forgiveness. By contrast to the scene above I read a true story of a couple who had an argument one day and exchanged some really hateful words. The wife went upstairs and they never spoke to each other and never slept in the same bed again. It's sad they lost years of companionship, conversation, hugs, laughter, comfort, and yes, kisses. This was because neither had the courage to be the first one to "forgive." Neither had the courage to be the first to move back towards their spouse. Neither had the frame work of experiencing the grace of God for their sin. 

God's word tells us to forgive"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32) But, God know that forgiveness is never easy. It is one of the bravest acts of love we can extend to another person. In the face of hurt and anger it requires a willingness to risk more hurt and more rejection. It requires us to crucify our pride, our right to take revenge, and our desire to carry out our sense of justice on another. It requires we put to death the desire to cause another person to feel the pain we feel and then some. It requires trusting God to give the strength to be kind when we feel like lashing out. It requires strength as we allow God to give us words of grace seasoned with salt instead of just spewing the hateful words that pop into our minds in the moment. It requires trusting God to provide healing for heart wounds not only for past and present hurts, but our future ones as well. It requires that we trust Him to provide a way to rebuild broken relationships. 

We want to understand that forgiveness does not mean just putting one's self back into unhealthy, sinful relationships. For God has instructed us to lovingly speak truth to one another and to exhort and encourage each other to grow. If we look in the Gospels at what Christ said to people as He dealt with them we see forgiveness and we see truth telling. Along with expressions of forgiveness and acceptance He told them to go and sin no more. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we don't address issues that hurt us. However, it does mean we address them in a way that invites reconciliation and a correction of the relationship so each person and the relationship honors God. 

When we are struggling with a conflict with someone close to us we want to do some self examination. Could it be that our pride and/or theirs prevents us from restoring the relationship? If we long for the relationship to be restored, do we have the courage to "kiss first" by moving towards the person instead of withdrawing? 

Some of the sweetest relational intimacy is born out of brokenness that is healed as we work through conflict and extend forgiveness. Christ loved us first and out of that love He died for us, initiating forgiveness and restoration. I wonder are you...am I...willing to do the same for another? 

Prayer: Father, thank You for sending your Son to demonstrate Your love to us. Thank you for forgiving us of our sin and for initiating our reconciliation to You. Even in the midst of our broken relationships and our deepest hurts, give us the courage to be willing to extend forgiveness and reconciliation to others first. Please search our hearts and show us when pride rears its ugly head and hinders our ability to forgive. Please heal our hearts so we’re passionate enough in our relationships to be the first one to forgive and seek reconciliation.  Amen.    

No comments:

Post a Comment


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!