In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's not easy forgiveness that's the problem, it's denial

For my new job I have to drive quite a distance, and for some time due to traffic, so I've taken to checking books on CD out from the local county library. Recently I've been listening to a trilogy The Seasons of Grace by Beverly Lewis. These books have got me thinking on some things.

I've been thinking about various relgious groups' approach to sin in the life of their followers. I've never been comfortable with how some groups require their members to do actions, a pentance of some kind, as part of the process of forgiveness. I think of Bible passages such as Titus 3:4-6, 2 Corinthians 5:15-17, Psalm 130:3-5, 1 John 1:4-10 that show God's forgiveness. I see that God is gracious to give us forgiveness based on His character, not on the basis of our deeds or worthiness.

However, I think the concern for many is that if we offer an “easy forgiveness”, that sin and it’s results will be neglected. In retrospect I think that the Christian tradition I’ve lived much of my life around has somewhat done that very thing; or more certainly, I can see how in the past, in my eagerness to emphasize the forgiveness of God, I’ve not always fully dealt with the sin.

The problem with that is that the sin itself does have repercussions. The reason God considers some actions as sin is because they harm ourselves or others. So, even though we can live in His forgiveness and without guilt, we still need to deal with our sin so we can be healthy and mature. We need to look at what went wrong and why, at who all it affected and if there are actions we need to take to make amends to those we’ve hurt by our sin, or if there are changes we need to make in our life to avoid this sin in the future. Sometimes even though forgiveness is given instantly, it may take time for the people whom we have hurt to process through their own emotions before we can re-establish relationships.

All of this takes time and is a process. Yet we live in an instant, micro wave, society. But I can tell you that as I look back on my life and those with whom I’m close, that we never grow and have the kind of life and relationships that we want unless we go ahead and engage in this process; it’s one of those things that must happen sooner or later.

What about you, do you ever struggle with achieving the balance between forgiveness and dealing with sin?


Andrea said...

GOD placed me in the position of having NO choice but to forgive the person who killed my sister in 1989. He also enabled me to talked to this young man about HIS forgiveness and how much more important is was to ask for GODS forgiveness than mine. The young man still faced consequences for his sin. I am thankful GOD gave me the opportunity to forgive. If I had not been put in that position I am not sure I would have ever forgiven him. The added bonus in my life has been forgiving others has come easy since then. No harm to me has ever come I suppose it was a double blessing that day! My heart carries a much lighter load. HE is able to give us just what we need...just when we need it!
Blessings, hugs, and prayers,

Michelle said...

Nate and I were just discussing this yesterday! He reminded me of a preacher we listen to sometimes. This particular pastor said that when he thinks he is doing "OK" and "is good", "reading his Bible, giving good messages, etc." he is further away from God than he needs to be. It is our brokeness over our sin that brings us closer to Christ. It is in these moments that we remember our need for forgiveness and grace.

John Cowart said...

Hi Tracy,

I have problems in two areas here: being forgiven myself and forgiving others.

As to being forgiven, I have a hard time acknowledging that what I did was all that bad. I mean did the Lord Christ really have to suffer in agony on the cross just because I did so and so (and am likely to do it again)? Then, on the other hand, I endure great remorse over some things in my life that (in my head) I know Christ has forgiven yet this or that from 30 years ago crops up again and again to condemn me.

As far as forgiving others goes, I'm a hurt, vengeful guy. They did me dirt and ... ok, Lord, I'll forgive them if You insist, but I want nothing more to do with them ever again! Ever! And every time I think of them, even years and years later, their offense (real or imagined) is what I think about and what I still get in a huff about. So I am guarded against them. I refuse to let them into a position where they could hurt me again. Run it's course, this attitude isolates me from the rest of humanity.

I try to keep in mind what Jesus said about the mote and the beam. It's healthier to focus on my sins than on others' sins.

No answers. Just thoughts. That's all I got.


Michelle said...

Crazy...I was signing on to leave you another comment and you had just left ME a comment.

Anyways, a friend of mine were just discussing our love for the book Grace Abounding by John Bunyan. The quote he left from the book went perfect with your question about balance between forgiveness and dealing with sin. (Or at least in my head it does.)

From Bunyan's concluding reflections in Grace Abounding-
"6. I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:
1. Inclining to unbelief;...
2.Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth;
3. A leaning to the works of the law;
4. Wanderings and coldness in prayer;
5. To forget to watch for that I pray for;
6. Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have;
7. I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves. When I would do good, evil is present with me.
7. These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with, yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good;
1. They make me abhor myself;
2. They keep me from trusting my heart;
3. They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness;
4. They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus;
5. They press me to pray unto God;
6. They show me the need I have to watch and be sober;
7. And provoke me to pray unto God. through Christ, to help me, and carry me thru this world."

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Too many points to discuss here which will take over your Blog if I tried.

Yes some Churches (e.g. Catholic) do require some sort of amends when one has confessed one's sins. The logic is that when we do something wrong there's always a payback, a recompense as it were. Say you confess to a priest (another matter for discussion) that you've argued with someone in a serious dispute. Logically, the priest should require you to make peace with that individual before you're forgiven. This is not always possible or practicable. So the practice grew of asking you to say a prayer to God and truly repent.

I could write on this for ages ... but it would be wrong to take over your Blog.

Thank you for this post.

God bless.

David-FireAndGrace said...

I find that not getting offended is a lot easier than for giving.

The ones I have the most trouble with are the repeat offenders.

When it come to resentment, it is better to give than receive. I find it far easier to say "I forgive you" than "will you forgive me."

Good job, Tracy.

Tracy said...

Andrea - Wow. I can't even imagine what you went through. Praise God for His forgiveness. Yes, sometimes there are consequences to our actions even though we are forgiven.

Michelle - Thank you so much for the Bunyan quote, I'm going to have to think on this one...

Victor - I'd actually welcome hearing more of your view. As I mention above, I realize that my own tendancy in the past has been to stress the forgiveness to the point of almost denying, or at least not fully dealing with, the sin. So I'm quite interested in other people's take on this question. I've read enough of what you write to respect what you have to say. (Don't worry about "taking over")

David - repeat offenders are always difficult for me too.

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