If you ask me, my mom was a pretty good mom. Not perfect—but close. Her level of patience with four daughters, all within four-and-a-half years of each other, was stellar.
However, on occasion she did lose her patience with me. One particular event I’ve never forgotten. It’s not what prompted her reaction that stuck with me. Being only four-years-old at the time I can’t remember. But what lodged permanently in my mind is the way she handled herself afterward.
She knelt down, tears in her eyes, and asked me to forgive her.
Maybe there were other times my mom messed up. But that one incident taught me about forgiveness in such a way that I was able to apply it from then on.
Though I found it easy to forgive my mom, I struggled at forgiving others. Sometimes I’ve looked at past offenses and found myself still nursing hurt feelings. I knew I must forgive those people. And frankly, I wanted to. Not just because Jesus said to, but because I hate the way I feel when I don’t.
Why in the world would I want to hold onto that old stuff? Seriously!
So unforgiveness is something I tend to hit pretty hard in prayer until I find a breakthrough. And then I often have to pray through it another time or two. I have to tell myself you already forgave that person; let it go.
Of course, Satan likes to resurrect old garbage as well. I have to be vigilant to diligently combat him with biblical truths.
*I’ll share scripture at the end of the blog, but at this point I really want to move on to a new and freeing lesson I recently learned.
Because I hate the feeling unforgiveness causes, because I know it’s actually addictive (fact) and I want to refuse that kind of power over me, and because I know unforgiveness is pretty serious business to God, I pay attention when it tries to set up camp in my soul.
I’ve written on forgiveness before. Frankly, there are books dedicated to this topic—I could probably write one myself. But I ran across a new teaching this past week that caused me to stop and think.
Complete forgiveness has to reach beyond the acts of offense.
James S. Macchi, in his book, No Longer Orphans, mentioned the idea of contempt. Contempt? Hmm. What exactly is that? According to Macchi, it’s deeper than unforgiveness. We forgive people for specific acts but may still hold contempt toward them in a deeper part of us.
Google’s online dictionary defines contempt as,
To know if I harbor contempt for someone I need to pay attention to how I speak about them. What words do I choose, what is my tone of voice, what feeling buzzes inside my chest, when I talk about someone who offended me? Especially someone who offended me many years ago. Do I think less of them than their heavenly Father does? If I do, then I’ve got some contempt to confront.
I still think I shouldn’t necessarily trust the offender again, but I do think …
Am I truly open to the fact that they are redeemable? Have I made room in my thinking for them to change. Do I pray for the best in life for them?
Tough stuff. True stuff, though. Imperative stuff to get real with.
Hard, yet when I do release all contempt from my own heart, I not only find total freedom from the ick of it all, but I find myself looking forward with hope. I don’t just close the door on the darkness of the past, I open the rooftop to the light for the future.
On a cold winter day like today, I’d much rather choose the warmth found in this kind of grace.
Speaking of grace, earlier in Macchi’s book he mentions that God’s mercy is for the past, while His grace is for the future. Releasing contempt is one way we walk in grace toward those who’ve offended us. It’s also one of the most marvelous ways to walk in the grace God has for us.
Is there a magic formula for releasing contempt?
I don’t know.
For me it works to speak the words “No contempt!” whenever I find myself being sucked back into that ick. It reminds my mind what I’ve determined to do. And it reinforces the eviction notice I’ve already delivered to the enemy.
It probably also helps to do what I’ve mentioned before: make a good report list of the offender. Am I solely defined by my mistakes? No. And neither is my offender. God can show me how He defines that person when I ask Him. Sometimes it helps to write down what He says so I can easily refer to it when I find myself tempted to pick up the old resentment again.
And as I’ve also said before, much of the time struggles forgiving others stems from my difficulty in forgiving myself. Either way it’s a step of faith. Nobody deserves God’s forgiveness. But frankly I don’t think the word “deserve” was in Jesus’ mind when He went to the Cross.
But LOVE was.
*Now onto what Scripture says about forgiveness.
The teaching of Jesus that prods me the most is in Matthew 6:15 (ESV),
But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Youch! Scary! But it’s that important! Why? I think because if I don’t believe the cross is good enough for someone else, then it’s impossible to believe it’s good enough for me. End of story. Either the cross works, or it doesn’t.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, … Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
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.”
Matthew 18: 21-22 (NIV)
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8:7 NIV
Did you notice how many times forgiving others is connected with receiving Christ’s forgiveness for us? I’d say it’s pretty important. Foundationally important. No wonder it’s so hard.
The father of lies isn’t going to make it easy on us. But it’s time to shut him up, bind him up, and remember Whose child we are.
It’s time to stand up in faith and through the victory won on the cross free those, including ourselves, we’re holding captive in our souls.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:19 (NASB)
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