This morning I learned something. Do you ever feel you are past learning or cannot be bothered to learn new things?
At our Thursday prayer time we were discussing the talk that Kieran will be giving this morning. Without stealing his thunder, the three attributes of believing, behaving and belonging were being talked about. Which comes first for the Christian? Should one come first? Is there a ‘Jesus’ type of order?
Anyway, when it comes to ‘belonging’, which I have tended to prioritise, it dawned on me that true belonging is for every Christian who has trusted Jesus. I belong because of what Jesus has done. Sherrie said it like this: “A child belongs because they are a child. That child might not believe in their parent or behave like they are a part of the family.” But they still belong, not because of what they have done but because of what has been given to them.
I learned this morning that Christian belonging needs to be understood as more than a feeling, yet so many Christians opt out because they declare they don’t belong. I need to do better at helping greater robustness in true belonging.
I also learned something BIG on the men’s weekend. I learned, after 35 years of being a professional Christian, that I have never truly understood forgiveness.
We discussed this at the 7:30am service last week, so I thought I’d give a summary. Feel free to discuss it with me because it has far-reaching implications.
On the cross, Jesus declared, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” God’s forgiveness does not primarily require our understanding. It does require his initiative and authority to forgive. We have this in Jesus.
Forgiveness comprises my relinquishment of two things:
1) my right to revenge, and
2) my right to harbour bitterness.
When it comes to me forgiving another person,
I do it – after much, much, much soul-searching and clarifying – because Jesus has forgiven me. It is ONLY between me and Jesus. It goes, “Dear Jesus, I forgive Bill x,y,z as a decision of my will. I relinquish my right to revenge and bitterness. I resolve to leave this with you who have given your life to win my eternal forgiveness. Amen.”
I’m doing two things. I’m opening the hand to restoration – not relationship or friendship – by letting the offence go, but also declaring STOP! I have been wronged. I cannot and may never progress with the offender unless they agree they have done wrong and owe me some recompense. This is about justice.
The insight here is that forgiveness does not necessarily lead to reconciliation with the person.
Reconciliation may, sometimes, be possible – when the offender sees the injustice they have done and acts with contrition and seeks to make reparation.
Understanding forgiveness gets all confused when I rush from forgive to reconcile. I need to do a lot of work to understand my grief, loss, bitterness, guilt, shame, etc. before I can come near the act of declaring forgiveness; and it may never get beyond me and God. But he demands this work of me. This is why he sweated blood in the garden, to, in time, make this miracle possible and to set me free.
Still learning after all these years.