16 November 2005

Good Thoughts in Bad Times

Good Thoughts in
Bad Times

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” ~Thomas Fuller

I’ve been taking some time out these past couple of days to do some more study on biblical terms of forgiveness and acceptance of those in Christ. As well in relation to those in the world, children of wrath, whose father is the devil the liar of old. It is a difficult thing to deal with people in the world who live by differing weights and standards, whose appetite is for carnal fulfillment of the flesh alone and who serve false gods and give heed to idols. It far more troublesome to one’s soul to take in to personal account the measure and price of being ‘offended’ or ‘wronged’ by a brother or sister who is in Christ and coming to terms with that offense and forgiving them.

Now, by way of consideration, let me dismiss or do away with what could be considered ‘petty’ or ‘minor’ offences or wrongs done in the course of daily living. These are best left for the thin-skinned Pharisees of the easily offended, often known as the “unreachable righteous”. So heavenly minded, the're no earthly good and quick to point out the no good acts or deeds they see in you or others. (See Ocular Lumber) I would instead point to the transgressions that one might suffer, that would by even worldly standards be called wrong, dishonest and wide of the mark or sin.

[Now I will for sake of brevity not go down the theological line of consideration for a biblical definition of sin in this writing, to do so would take volumes of writing and divert us from the subjects primary and cursorily look at forgiveness.]

It has been my reward to have-had an assortment of circumstances in which my faith has been tested in dealing with such scenarios to varying degree. Such is the joy set before us in the perfecting of our faith that we may win the crown of life. (eternal) Now forgiveness is for all intensive purposes “an inside job” for until that work is completed in the heart and mind of man, there will be no external fruit (or application) in response to the one who has transgressed against you. (See Matt. 6:14-15)

I particularly enjoyed a comment made by John Piper in his writing,
As We Forgive Our Debtors where he proposes:

Our greatest risk

The greatest risk we face as a church in these days is not that we may lose an organ, or that we may lose money, or that we may lose members, or that we may lose staff, or that we may lose reputation. The greatest risk is that we may lose heaven. Because one way to lose heaven is to hold fast to an unforgiving spirit and so prove that we have never been indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.

It is interesting to note that in Luke 17:3-4 it speaks about some one who after being rebuked, repents and receives forgiveness. How quickly we shortchange that process in ‘modern’ thought and theology by skipping from step 1 to 3, or even ignoring steps 1 & 2 and going straight to 3. After all we are programmed to be a “tolerant” lot in our politically correct society, and to do otherwise would be “intolerant” would it not?

The modern day church, awash in a humanistic culture has lost it moorings in a sea of easy believe-ism. With seeker friendly services guaranteeing no one will be offended (or convicted). We target market apostate souls assuaging their ailing conscious, never once subjecting to censure their wicked ways. Today, cash is king not Christ, compromise and egalitarianism is the standard that we cling to and embrace as we hide our face from Him. What has happened to repentance before forgiveness? Not to mention shunning. Let me not be so narrow-minded in my thinking as to embrace such hard concepts. (Yet I Jest.)

Forgiveness is at best a two way street, at times a one-way highway. Forgiveness is where we trust Christ. If we trust Him we can emulate His way of life. Thomas Watson asked, “When do we forgive others?” and answered the question, “When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” Now I would submit to you that this description best fits a repentant individual. So there is a sense in which full forgiveness is only possible in response to repentance. But even when a person does not repent (Matt. 18:15-17) we are commanded to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28). I like how GK Chesterton puts it:

A stiff apology is a second insult... The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.

The difference is that when a person who has wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion (turning from sin to righteousness), they cut off the full work of forgiveness. We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.

A good biblical example to us would be this; David forgave Absalom, and was later nagged into permitting him back into the palace. Absalom returned the favor by immediately beginning to plot against David. (2 Samuel 15) He was never truly repentant. David did well to forgive him, but it was a huge mistake to let him back in.

Thomas Watson said, “We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him.” (Body of Divinity, p. 581) You can actually look someone in the face and say: I forgive you, but I don’t trust you. Trust and acceptance is something different from forgiveness. One might be forgiven and not accepted. If a person wrought me some serious injury, by the grace of heaven I might forgive that person; yet I might warn them that they must keep their distance and never cross the threshold of my home. Acceptance is reconstituted fellowship. It is liberty of access to continued fellowship. It is an authoritative welcoming to the home and heart. Though always this implies forgiveness, the two are not identical. This is wisdom in certain cases, but how crucial is the heart here. What would make that an unforgiving thing to say is if you were thinking, What’s more, I don’t care about ever trusting you again; and I won’t accept any of your efforts to try to establish trust again; in fact, I hope nobody ever trusts you again, and I don’t care if your life is totally ruined. That is not a forgiving spirit, and our souls would be in danger.

So it is even more difficult with the world. How we deal with those who hold unjust balances, who are more self-centered than others centered and could care one iota for God and His divine standard. I can say this; you do well if you preserver in doing well………as someone greater than I wrote “so let your light shine” (Matt. 5:16).
(to be continued)


At 10:19 PM, Anonymous KSMILKMAID said...

Awesome post Scott!!

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Mark,Debbie,Mattias, & Maria said...

Isn't the beauty of the gift of forgiveness powerful! Great post, what a way to live <><

At 1:54 PM, Blogger music_educe said...

With a heavy heart, I googled the phrase "Forgiveness during bad times." Thank the Lord that I found your blog! This spoke to my condition and offered a lot of comfort. Your connection between forgiveness and trust was very well written and easy to apply to my life!


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