Monday, September 19, 2016

Paying it forward

Just wanted to share with you something I learned about forgiveness that hit me broadside just a couple of weeks ago.  An African believer was quoted in a random newsletter which had landed in my email and somehow survived deletion. It was, as if, the words were marked with a highlighter pen as I read them, the testimony of a believer in Monrovia, Liberia, a place where people have experienced great turmoil and suffering:

"True forgiveness is accepting the blood of Jesus as the full payment for what your offender did.  When you refuse to forgive, you become the one in bondage, not the offender."

So it is not me granting forgiveness, but accepting the payment of Jesus for it.

Full payment. Done.  Paid for.  I cannot add to it.  I cannot work for it.  I just need to accept it.

We ALL struggle with forgiveness in varying degrees in our relationships with other people and even for ourselves.  How can I make up for that?  How can I pay that debt?  How can I make it right again?

Jesus already has.  Am I willing to accept His currency?

Forgiveness is not condoning someone's transgression, nor excusing my own, but letting go of the bitterness and allowing God to heal the brokenness. Forgiveness unleashes the profound goodness of God in impossible places. God redeems in ways I can never comprehend, nor may ever see, too powerful to understand.

Out in east Tennessee, there was a historic community tucked in a basin of the mountains.  An early settler there in the early 1800's was John Oliver.  One of the few things that is remembered about him is that a neighbor in the valley once deliberately burned down John's barn and consequently killed his horse.  John never retaliated.  Just a few years later, the perpetrator passed away, and his family did not request the local pastor to speak at his funeral, but John Oliver himself.  Which he did. When I first heard that story, I thought, "this is what forgiveness looks like." That singular act of grace still changes the hearts of people two hundred years later.

Why is forgiveness so hard?
     Because I can't do it.
But Jesus can.
That is why He came.
          That is why He died.

When our church celebrates communion, I often visualize people dragging up to the altar invisible burdens too heavy to bear, and then leaving them there at the feet of Jesus.  But last night, I thought about the word "communion."  We are not leaving anything at all, but joining in with Jesus. A commitment, a conversation, a deeper intimacy.  Something very different going on.  All things new.  And that would be my heart.

But there is forgiveness with You...
For with the LORD
        there is steadfast love,
and with Him,
        plenteous redemption.

                     Psalm 130. 4, 7

And that is the whole message of the Bible,
the scarlet thread
                cover to cover.

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