"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 10, 2010
I would like to once again give the definition of what the word "forgive" means: stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake. Also, the definition of absolve is: set or declare someone free from blame, guilt or responsibility.
Too often, these are things that are difficult for me to do. Anger or hurt cause me to want revenge; or at least to make the other person squirm for a while. But I'm the one harboring unforgiveness in my heart; which meant that I'm miserable and have inner turmoil. The other person may or may not feel guilty for what they've done. They may not even recognize the fact that I'm upset over what occurred; which means that they will never come to me and apologize. So by having an unforgiving attitude, I'm hurting myself more than anyone else. I have to live with myself and my conscience; and I'm only answerable for myself, not the attitude or actions of someone else.
"Forgive and forget" is a phrase that we have all heard over and over again. But that seems impossible for us to do when someone has hurt us. I've heard people say, "I may forgive, but I'm not going to forget!" Is that true forgiveness? Not if we continue bringing it up over and over again. Our tendency is to hold a grudge. We want that person to know how we feel about their actions. And if not them, then we want other people to know what happened so we can perhaps get some sympathy for how we've been mistreated.
The sad thing is, occasionally we can transfer our feelings from the person who hurt us onto their family members. Parents, siblings or children should never have to bear the brunt of the actions of someone in their family. Just because one member messed up doesn't mean that others should suffer the consequences.
It's like the old "Hatfield and McCoy" feud. Someone did something a long time ago, but no one really remembers what happened. But the grudge and bad feelings are passed down from one family member to another, and no one will have anything to do with the other family; only no one really knows the reason why. If forgiveness had been given at the time of the offense, then none of the bad feelings would have followed. Peace would have reigned and everyone would have been much happier.
Matthew 18:21-35 tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.
There was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One of the servants was brought before him who owed him 10,000 talents. Because he was unable to pay, the king commanded that he, his wife and children, and all that he owned be sold so that payment could be made. The servant fell down on his knees before the king and begged, "Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all that I owe you." The king was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him of all his debt.
But that very servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, "Pay me what you owe!" His fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you all." But he wouldn't forgive, and had his fellow servant thrown into prison until his debt could be paid.
When some of the other servants saw what took place, they were grieved, and went and told the king all that had been done.
The king called the servant to him and said, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" The king was angry and delivered the servant to the torturers until the debt could be paid.
We read this story and respond, "How could the servant have done this?" His huge debt was forgiven, and instead of being grateful, he immediately went out and found a man who owed him a small amount of money and had him thrown into prison because he couldn't pay." We tend to think that this servant reacted in a horrible way.
But don't we do the same thing? Maybe not to this degree, but we've all been guilty of this. We do something that requires someone forgive us and we are grateful when they do; yet afterwards if someone does something to hurt our feelings or offend us, we get upset and want them to pay for what they did.
Prior to Jesus telling this parable, Peter was talking to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Peter probably felt he was being pretty generous with his number. He may have thought that Jesus would be impressed that he didn't say just two or three times.
But Jesus responded, "I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." In other words, we're to forgiven over and over again. We're not to keep record of how many times someone does something that requires our forgiveness, but we are to be willing to forgive unlimited times.
That doesn't mean that we allow individuals to run over us and take advantage of us. Some tend to put themselves in that position over and over again. We have to use wisdom as much as possible. But that doesn't mean that we won't be hurt or that someone won't cause us pain. And when that happens we have to open our heart and choose to forgive.
We don't always necessarily forgive someone because they deserve it. Many times we may be in the position where we have to choose to forgive someone for our own peace of mind. They may not be sorry for what they did, or they may not ask for forgiveness, or they may feel like they were right in what they did. But if it causes us to harbor bad feelings towards that person, then we have to forgive in order of us to move on with our lives and be truly happy. The stress of keeping unforgiveness in our hearts can cause health issues, sleepless nights, and all kinds of problems. It's just not worth holding onto.
Harboring unforgiveness in our heart is like constantly wearing shackles around our ankles. When an individual wears chains on their ankles, they can still walk and get around, but they can't run. The shackles are a constant reminder that they have lost their freedom. And carry around that extra weight around their ankles has to be very tiring. Unforgiveness has that very same effect on us. We may still be able to walk and get around from day to day, but we are constantly reminded of the act that hurt us so deeply. Carrying around the weight of unforgiveness is very tiring. But we'll never truly know freedom until we choose to let go and forgive.
When my dad passed away, my sisters and I were devastated. It happened suddenly and there was a lot going on at that time. A brother-in-law was gone to Colorado hunting and my sister couldn't get in touch with him at first. He flew in late the night before the funeral. A nephew was getting married on that Saturday. My stepmother was having a lot of health problems; and ended up being hospitalized for a few weeks shortly after my dad's funeral. None of us realized how bad her health had gotten. For a long time she didn't really remember much at all about the week my dad died. It was just very stressful, and my sisters and I had to make a lot of decisions and try to plan the funeral like Daddy would have wanted things done. Looking back, there are things we wish we had of done differently, but we did the best we could do at that moment.
A couple days after I got back home, I received an anonymous poem in the mail. When I first started reading it I thought, "Oh, this is nice! Someone wrote a poem to honor my dad." Then shock and disbelief set in. I really think the poem was written to try and be comforting and was sent with good intentions, but it was so rude and disrespectful. It said really bad things about June; very negative comments were written about the funeral; and it was just generally distasteful. I was so devastated! I was the only person in our family to receive a copy of the poem. I just started bawling when I read it. When I called my sisters to see if they had been sent a copy, then read it to them, they were extremely upset too. They told me to get rid of it. I knew that if I kept a copy, I would get angry and upset every time I read it. I didn't want it in my house, so shredded it. For a long time, I tried to figure out who would have written it and mailed it to me. I was so upset. God knows if I had of found out, I probably would have said a whole lot of things to that person that I would have later regretted. I later realized that whoever wrote it didn't have all the facts about what all was going on at the time of my dad's death. They didn't know about June being so sick. They didn't know that we did Daddy's funeral as we thought he would have wanted it done. They may have acted unwisely, and I had no control over that; but I could control my attitude and response. I had no idea who sent the poem, and I still don't know. So what would have unforgiveness accomplished? I'm sure that whoever sent it didn't realize how hurtful it would be and therefore had no remorse. So not forgiving them would have only hurt myself. It didn't happen overnight, but I chose to forgive and move on. I had to let go and move on for my own peace of mind.
The greatest example of forgiveness is when Jesus was hanging on the cross. He had been falsely accused, beaten, stripped of His clothes, had one of His disciples betray Him, Peter denied knowing Him, had the crowds mock Him and demand His crucifixion, been nailed to the cross and would have a spear thrust through His side. Yet before His death, Jesus spoke these words, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
After everything that had happened to Him, Jesus asked God to forgive every single one of them. He didn't die cursing or demanding retribution for what He had gone through. He wasn't bitter or filled with anger. But Jesus died with a clear conscience and peace in His heart knowing that He had truly forgiven the people for their actions and words of false accusation. He hung on the cross loving each and every person who had betrayed and denied Him. Jesus forgave the soldiers who had beaten Him, put the crown of thorns on His head, drove the nails in His hands and feet, and the one who would pierce His side with his spear. What an example of true forgiveness and mercy!
I believe that even now, when mankind denies Jesus and curses Him and refuses to accept His gift of salvation, He looks at them with compassion and mercy. The moment they repent for their sins, Jesus immediately offers forgiveness.
In fact, 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Psalms 86:5 says, "For you, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You."
If God can forgive us of all our sins, then we should also practice forgiving others when they offend us or make a mistake. May we all accept the forgiveness of God, then choose to forgive others and live lives filled with peace.
I saw a comic long ago where someone was very happy about forgiving his brother. It was the 490th time he forgave him, and the next time...
Sometimes it's easy to forgive someone once for something. Maybe even twice. But if they interrupt me a third time...
I've even thought a few times, "Next time they do that, I'll call them on it." Usually, that's when I'm pretty sure they don't even know they've done something I didn't like. It's tempting to pass it off as 'correcting' them. And they wouldn't do whatever it was if they only knew it bugged me.
Sure, it's usually good to talk about things like that. But talking is very different from obsessing about it. Obsessing is a waste of time, causes ulcers, and keeps me in a negative mood. It's amazing how much a mood can carry over to everything in your life. A negative mood can make everything look bad, and everything becomes an affront or assault, even when it is meant in kindness. And of course, that gives more fuel for unforgiveness.
Angel Food and Pineapple Cake
1 pkg. (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 cup cool whip -- thawed
1 prepared round angel food cake
1 cup fresh strawberries or mixed fruit (optional)
Mix dry pudding mix and pineapple in medium bowl. Gently stir in cool whip.
Cut cake horizontally into 3 layers (a serrated knife works best). Place bottom cake layer on servicing plate; top with 1/3 of the pudding mixture. Repeat the two remaining layers. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Top with berries just before serving, if desired. (Blueberries and slices strawberries look pretty on top to garnish.)
When my niece was around 10 years old, she really liked the song, "Oh Where Have You Been Billy Boy." Remember that old song?
"Oh where have you been Billy boy, Billy boy; Oh where have you been charming Billy? I have been to seek a wife, she's the joy of my life......"
Several times during that period of my niece's life, she mentioned to her mom, "When I grow up and get married, I want that song sung at my wedding." Apparently since the song talked about him going to seek a wife, she thought that would be a great wedding song. Thankfully, by the time she grew up and got married, she changed her mind and had songs that were a little more appropriate for a wedding!
The most difficult things we choose to do can also be the most rewarding.
It's getting closer and closer to springtime! We're getting excited for warmer weather and seeing things begin to turn green again and flowers to start to bloom. Not too anxious to begin mowing the yard again, but that comes with season.
We hope you all are being blessed by our weekly newsletter and find encouragement from the devotionals we write.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon