Christianity 201

August 25, 2014

Forgiving Those Who Betray Us

Matthew 6:12

Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
    as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.  (Good News)

Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. (Phillips)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. (Amplified)

I had run across Samuel C. Williamson online because of his book, Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? (Bet that title has you curious!) I thought we had used his material once before, but apparently today will serve as an introduction. I also thought the topic of this particular post might resonate because, unless you live in a vacuum, we’ve all been hurt. To read this at source, and then look around the rest of his blog, click the title below.

How Do We Forgive Betrayals?

I ended last week’s story of betrayal with the faint beginnings of a desire to forgive. But our wanting to forgive doesn’t mean we’ve granted forgiveness any more than wanting a beach vacation gives us tickets to Tahiti. It’s a start, an important start, but only a start.

Our desire to forgive is undermined by our memories, recollections of the betrayal that relentlessly resurface with stunning clarity. With the vividness of slow-motion video, I recall a half-erased whiteboard, the buzz of a fly, and the shadows on the wall.

A friend of mine remembers the jingle of an ice-cream truck and the smell of lilacs through the screen porch.

We want to forgive, but images flood our mind, and something in our soul recoils. We try to forgive and forget, but those memories scratch their way out of the holes we buried them in.

We want justice; somehow, in some form or fashion, we want payment. Like David, our heart cries, “Let death take [them] by surprise; let them go down to hell while still living” (Ps. 55:15).

Or as Freud said, “One must forgive one’s enemies: but preferably after they’ve been hanged.”

It twists our soul

Last week, I heard a talk radio host interview a therapist. The therapist claimed that “unforgiveness is a major contributor to heart disease,” and that “bitterness can kill us.” The wrong done to us begins to take root in us. The evil inflicted on us begins to flow out of us.

Mirslov Volf wrote, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude my enemy from the community of humans and I exclude myself from the community of sinners.” We begin to dehumanize our betrayer, and in turn we are dehumanized. Agony and anger twists our souls.

On hearing the consequences of non-forgiveness, the radio host responded, “I don’t want a stroke, so I’d better start forgiving. I’ll just let it go.”

But it’s not so simple. No magic wand will wave away the stain. To claim, “I’ll just let it go,” is like getting over stage-fright by saying, “I’ll stop being self-conscious.” It makes matters worse.

And it completely misunderstands the essence of forgiveness.

Because someone does have to pay

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the World War II martyr who died resisting Hitler) said:

If you’ve ever really forgiven somebody, forgiven some real wrong, all forgiveness is suffering. If you say “I forgave and I didn’t suffer,” it wasn’t that serious a wrong. But if you have ever really been wronged, and if you have forgiven it, then you have suffered. Because all forgiveness is a form of suffering.

When we’ve been deeply wronged—not just an accidental slip-up but a treacherous betrayal—we know there is a debt, a deep-seated sense of injustice. We can’t shrug it off as if nothing happened, we can’t simply dismiss those memories in a momentary fancy of forgiveness.

When we remember the injury, we must choose between two paths. We can make the perpetrator pay (by finding little ways to make them suffer, poking pins in their memory, disparaging them to our friends, or snubbing them in our heart); or we can forgive.

If we make the perpetrator pay, evil wins. The road to hell is not paved with good intentions, and not even with our betrayal of others. The road to hell is paved with our non-forgiveness.

So what does it mean to forgive?

Everyone thinks forgiving is a wonderful idea. Until they have something real to forgive. Because forgiveness means suffering. If we don’t make the perpetrator pay (and somebody has to pay), it means we pay.

Forgiveness means we pay our betrayer’s debt.

It’s normal life. If I borrow your car and wreck it, then either I cough up cash for the repair, or—if I don’t have any money—then you do. The damage doesn’t disappear magically. Somebody pays. (Or you drive a wrecked car, which is just another form of you suffering for my mistake.)

How do we pay? When we’re tempted to dwell on their cruelty, we stop (it costs not to punish them in our thoughts). And when we have a chance to tell others of their betrayal, we shut up (we suffer when they enjoy a good reputation). And we pray for their welfare, not punishment.

Of all Christian disciplines, this is the hardest. First we suffer the horrible wrong done to us, and then we pay for their wrongdoing. It’s double baked death. Compared to forgiveness, chastity, charity, and contentment seem like sipping lemonade on a summer’s evening.

Forgiveness also brings us closest to Christ. It is suffering, thorns, nails, and a cross.

Forgive me for repeating myself

To settle a debt requires capital. We need a full bank account (either financial, emotional, or spiritual reserves) to write that check. We need deposits in our account before we can pay out. But our reserves were depleted by the wrong done to us. What are we to do?

Our ability to forgive is wholly dependent on our being forgiven. When it seems impossible to forgive, our only hope is to understand our debt to God, and to grasp our own forgiven-ness.

Jesus said of the prostitute who washed his feet, “She loves much because she’s been forgiven much, and whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” With the deposits of our own forgiven-ness, we pay our debtor’s debt. And little by little, we find we have forgiven.

Over time (not magically in a moment) something miraculous happens. We begin to really hope for them, to really wish them the best; we even begin to love them.

The evil done to us has been executed.

Sam   (see also, Betrayal)

P.S. Don’t think that because I can write this that I can also do it well. But I’m getting better.

P.P.S. Forgiveness does not mean disconnection with reality. Our betrayers may still act like jerks toward us or toward others. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we should go back and work in that ministry or become best pals with that former friend. But it does mean their debt has been paid, that we have shredded our case files, and we that desire their welfare.

May 13, 2011

We Fall, We Fail; He Forgives

About six months ago we included an item here from B. J. Rutledge, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas.  (Imagine waking up each morning in Paradise!)   Today, we’re giving you a bonus of two short, related items from his blog.  The links appear in the post titles; one deals more with issues that might involve just ourselves, the other with issues that can involve others in the church.   

NLT – Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

Satan’s Stumbling Block

Jesus words in Matt 16:23 are extremely sobering:  “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” 

I wonder how often this has been true of me.  What a terrible thought to know I could be used by Satan as a stumbling block to Jesus; but I know it’s happened.  It’s happened because I don’t always set my mind on the things of God.  Sometimes, I’m more worried with what men think than with what God thinks.  Sometimes, I’m more concerned with what I want than with what God wants. 

This is humbling and frustrating because I so want to be used of God.  

I’m thankful for the rest of the story because Peter went on to be used of God in mighty ways!  I’m thankful because God doesn’t give up on me.  I’m thankful that I can confess my sin and receive complete forgiveness.  I’m glad that when I’m repentant, God restores to me the refreshing power that comes from the presence of His Spirit and allows me to be a stepping stone to Jesus.

Jesus’ Rx for Unity in the Church

If we would apply the words of Jesus in Mt 18:15, a multitude of tragic issues in churches could be avoided and relationships healed.

Jesus said:  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

If we’d just do what Jesus said here, so many negative issues could be avoided.  If your brother sins against you – GO TO THEM IN PRIVATE and deal with the issue/the sin.   In other words – apply the medicine directly to the wound.  

A simple illustration.  Let’s say I have a gash in my arm and go to the emergency room for stitches and help.  The doctor gives me a shot in my leg and begins to suture my leg.  What happened?  My arm that was hurting got no help and now my leg (that was fine before) is hurting.  Instead of applying the medicine directly to the wound, now another “member” of my “body” is hurting and I’m worse off than I was before.  

Get the picture?  If members of any  church “body” would simply go to each other in private and work out their issues without taking them to another part of that church ”body” it would make a world of difference and the church would be free to function in a more healthy way!   Think about it.

~B. J. Rutledge