Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Other "F" Word

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said, “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.” Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It should be so easy, but forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks a human being may ever undertake. Anger is so effortless and although it eats away at our very own well-being by giving us a sense of bitter satisfaction, it somehow remains very appealing. After all, when someone wrongs us, it seems to be so right to carry a grudge against that someone who deliberately, or perhaps unknowingly committed that act that caused us so much consternation.

The song “Forgiveness” by Matthew West says it so well, “It’s the hardest thing to give away and the last thing on your mind today. It always goes to those that don’t deserve. It’s the opposite of how you feel. When the pain they caused is just too real. It takes everything you have just to say the word …Forgiveness. It flies in the face of all your pride. It moves away the mad inside. It’s always anger’s own worst enemy. Even when the jury and the judge say you gotta right to hold a grudge. It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’ …Forgiveness." 

God forgives each and every one of us, no matter how serious our sin may be. Complete, absolute, and unwavering forgiveness, each and every day, by faith alone, whether or not we ask for it. God sent His one and only Son, who took on human form and presented Himself as a sin offering for each and every human being, past, present and future. Jesus, one with the Father and the Spirit, God incarnate, became a man and experienced the ultimate form of forgiveness, willingly taking the punishment that a sinful humanity truly deserved. Even while dying on the cross in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” As disciples of Christ, we attempt to achieve some small measure of the righteousness that our Lord and Savior demonstrated during His ministry here on earth. Yet, we remain steadfast in our refusals to grant forgiveness to those who slight us. In our politics, in our relationships, and in our biases, and even toward our fellow Christians we continue to hold that grudge. Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness frees you and cleanses your soul, eliminates anger, and anger is a great toehold that the evil one uses to cause us to stray. Anger poisons the soul and along with any other negative emotion may seem to fulfill some need, but simply fulfills a sinful craving of a misguided human being. Colossians 3:8-10, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Forgiveness truly allows us to become that new creation, one transformed by the love and forgiveness our Father has given us. From the last verse of the song, "By what you see through eyes of grace, the prisoner that it really frees is you...Forgiveness"
Many still struggle with the hurt and are angry with the leaders of the ELCA and withhold their forgiveness to those that have caused so much pain and strife. It is not for us to judge, but rest assured, our Father will make the appropriate judgment of those leading His children astray. It is difficult to retain that righteous anger that leads us to proclaim the truth so that all can hear and understand the fallacy of the wide and easy path of tolerance and diversity that has persuaded so many of our brothers and sisters to fall away from our Lord’s teachings. Our perceived anger simply causes those we are trying to reach and gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, to ignore our words and lash out in anger toward us. Forgiveness disarms those who would harbor a grudge against those that simply pray that their eyes be opened to the truth. But, as we forgive, we must also never forget. Far too many of our brothers and sisters continue to cling to the misguided belief that the ELCA is on the proper path. We are charged to continue to proclaim the truth and expose the heresies that may threaten the very salvation of those foolish enough to lift up these false gospels. Prayer can move mountains and we must continue to pray for our brothers and sisters adrift in the ELCA.

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