Forgiveness Part 2

I was thinking again on this subject and had more thoughts to share.

I write this blog from an entirely Christian, Bible-based perspective. I just want to clarify that before I begin, because I know I have a wide range of readers who may or may not agree with my beliefs about God, the world and us who inhabit it! Regardless, I am thankful and honoured to share my thoughts about matters that apply to all of us, no matter how we encounter God in our lives. I do believe that He seeks to draw all of us to Himself by His great mercy and love.

Because of His great love for us, He calls His children to forgive. This is a high order for some, but when a follower of Christ really considers it, it is not such a big deal. We would like to think it is, but that is merely a form of nursing wounds.

Forgiveness is puzzling to consider when we look at the foundations of our western culture - it's values, core beliefs and traditions. It is a counter-cultural idea to most all cultures, but I think especially so in a western culture. Let me illustrate this a bit.

If any of you have lived in other countries, that do not respect rights, efficiencies in bureaucracy and the equality of all members of society (or at least attempt this!), you will find great hurdles to cross in something as simple as renewing a drivers license. In certain countries, you will wait an entire day, then be told to come back with some obscure paper, then be told it got lost and do it again and then have to endure a day or two or more of more waiting before someone kindly decides to process your request. What does this have to do with forgiveness?

Well, I think that people who are used to having their 'rights' ignored, who live in selfish bureaucracy states, who readily see that they are not treated equally with others (like perhaps those who willingly bribe officials to speed up the process), learn to forgive and let go of slights a bit easier than those of us in the West. On the other hand, maybe they don't. Maybe they stew, fume, boil in anger, protest, stomp off in a huff and sulk. Maybe they expend enormous energy writing to newspaper editors, campaigning politicians, complaining to their spouses and cursing at crazy drivers on the road. Maybe they do all that and die early deaths of heart attack from increased blood pressure due to their own inability to let it go and exist within a corrupt system. Who knows. But I do think forgiveness, patience and tolerance make life more livable when up against a brick wall.

Here in our beloved U.S of A, we tout rights - we proclaim and claim them. We demand them. We expect them to be honoured. We complain a LOT. We seek retribution. We sue. We litigate. We murmur. We yell at other drivers. We gripe about laws, restrictions, regulations. We blast our elected officials. We feel free to denigrate any higher official who differs from our views and operates with different principles. We do not value, appreciate or understand forgiveness, at all.

Now, that is all about the public sector stuff. Let's bring it down to a more personal level - and here I begin talking specifically to Christians.

It is one thing to be in this culture, informed by it, shaped by it, a part of it. It is another to directly ignore the directives of Scripture, and what God says to us, simply because our culture has a greater hold on us than the Word of God.

I see unforgiveness has crept into the Church - the people who should be most forgiving of all. Sadly, the greatest examples of forgiveness in our day and age are a Christian group - a fringe group - that lives in such contrary ways to the culture that even their forgiveness is remarkable. I am speaking of the Amish, who live, or attempt to live by how they read Scripture - and they do not ignore Christ's call to forgive. Their simple willingness to let go of great injustices and loss in obedience to Scripture awes the general public and the Church at large - alike! But shouldn't this aspect of their devotion to Christ characterize all Christians?

Should there be any sitting in our Church pews who:
refuse contact with a relative over some grievance?
refuse to eat a common meal with anyone in their congregation?
withhold friendship from someone who has offended them?
bear grudges against neighbours for some perceived or real slight - as small as: not mowing their lawn enough, letting too many weeds grow, leaving too much clutter in a window?
complain regularly about other drivers on the road?
dishonour politicians who don't agree with our values?
bear ongoing grievances with others for any and every reason whatsoever?

Should these be inhabiting the pews and congregating with those who claim the Bible as their authority? Should these be left unconfronted for these attitudes? Should they continue to consider themselves followers of Christ when they continue to ignore what Scripture teaches?

Now, that may be a bit harsh of me, because we all miss things and fail in many aspects of applying Scripture. I do understand that and don't mean to step on too many toes here. I just want to bring to light what I am beginning to observe - that sometimes we say we believe things and then act as if we don't. I believe: belief determines behaviour. If I say I believe something, and then don't live accordingly, I betray that I lied. I don't really believe something I don't do.

If my core value says, unforgiveness is okay, I can hold grudges, it is my right, I am due more than I got, I can be a Christian and expect God to forgive me even if I don't forgive those who sin against me - I will live according to that belief. And I believe many people do live this way. But they fail to admit it. So I'm calling them out on it. Sorry for my bluntness.

Almost everyone of most faith groups is familiar with the Lord's prayer, so I end with this quote:

Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


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