Raise your hand if you have ever been hurt by someone.
Now raise your other hand if you have ever been hurt by a CHRISTIAN.
For those of us church-goers, it pretty much goes without saying that we have all been offended, dismissed, degraded or flat out sinned against by another believer. Frequently I hear people say they left one church for another because they 'were burned'. Is that really the reason that they left?
Yes, there are times when people have actually been 'burned' by the church (myself included), most often it is not a matter of being hurt. It's a matter of holding a grudge.
The Shocking Truth
Being hurt by someone produces real, valid emotions. Yet, these emotions do not give us the right to hold a grudge. God's standard is forgiveness over and over again. One of Jesus's closest friends asked how many times he should forgive an offense. The answer was shocking. I'm not sure what Peter's math skills were, but I think Jesus knew he'd get the point when he said 70 x 7. Basically, forgive every time (Matthew 18:21-22).
How quickly our defenses can rise up at the audacity of what Jesus requires of us! We think offenses against us are so heinous that surely God would be okay with us clinging to bitterness. And if the offender is a Christian, we hold them to a higher standard, thinking they should have known better. Yet, the amazing truth is that the command to forgive is not even for the offender...it's for US!
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
Strength for Our Weak Knees
We are not broken by being burned, but by the grip with which we hold on to anger and bitterness.
Forgiveness is essential for any functioning relationship. Without it, we are numb and unable to show love to others. Anger builds a wall around our heart so that nothing can get in or out. It's a faulty defense mechanism, because in trying to preserve ourselves and avoid hurt, we end up feeling lonely and broken.
Forgiveness is for our healing. It is for our holiness. It is for our grace.
In the letting go there is an overwhelming peace which is beyond understanding. We can look our accuser, our persecutor, our fellow sinful man in the eye and LOVE. We can fulfill the greatest command: to love God and love others. We can choose to be a catalyst for church growth instead of defiling the bride of Christ.
Have you felt offended or burned lately? Has bitterness taken root or have you clung to the truth that forgiveness is God's better way? How have you overcome being hurt in the past?
Be on the look for my next story on forgiveness that happened in my life, No Soup For You!