"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I forgive you

In Neil Anderson's "Seven Steps to Freedom in Christ," Step 3 deals with "Bitterness vs. Forgiveness." I have led many people through this step. Now it is my turn.

I choose to forgive the pastors and elders of Grace Brethren Church for hurting us. I choose to forgive you for hurting so many of our friends. I choose to forgive you for continuing to hurt those who do not agree with you, who agree with the Bible instead. 

I choose to forgive those friends of ours who still believe the leaders at GBC. 

Forgiveness doesn't mean what someone did to you was all right.

"Forgiveness is a choice, a crisis of the will. Since God requires us to forgive, it is something we can do. [Matthew 6:12-15; Ephesians 4:32] However, forgiveness is difficult for us because it pulls against our concept of justice. We want revenge for offenses suffered. [In my case, I have wanted vindication.] However, we are told never to take our own revenge  (see Romans 12:19). You say, 'Why should I let them off the hook?' That is precisely the problem. You are still hooked to them, still bound by your past. You will let them off your hook, but they are never off God's. He will deal with them fairly, something we cannot do.

"You say, 'You don't understand how much this person hurt me!' But don't you see, they are still hurting you!  You don't forgive someone for their sake; you do it for your own sake so you can be free. Your need to forgive isn't an issue between you and the offender; it's between you and God. [Matthew 18:34]

"Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person's sin. You're going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.

Forgiving someone doesn't mean we have to put ourselves in a position to be hurt by them again.You must set up scriptural boundaries to prevent future abuse. 

"Decide that you will bear the burdens of their offenses by not using that information against them in the future." [God called Jerry and me to "bring the deeds of darkness into the light for My judgment." When he released us to leave Grace Brethren Church, He released us from exposing their deeds.]

"How do you forgive from your heart? You acknowledge the hurt and the hate. If your forgiveness doesn't visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete. . . Let God bring the pain to the surface so He can deal with it. This is where the healing takes place."

"Don't wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made. Freedom is what will be gained, not a feeling." 

Forgiveness is dealing with your pain and leaving the other person to God.

'Lord, by an act of my will, I choose to forgive (name the person) for (verbally share every hurt and pain the Lord brings to your mind and how it made you feel).'

"'Lord, I release all these people to You, and my right to seek revenge. I choose not to hold on to my bitterness, anger, and self-pity. I ask You to heal my damaged emotions. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.'"

[Note: The way I look at it, we are all going to spend eternity together in heaven--so I'd better start learning to love you down here!]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Not Janus

There was one who stood out from all the rest. He made a point of quietly coming up to us and giving us hugs, asking how we were, really caring. He sent us emails now and then--just a line or two--wishing us a happy Thanksgiving or a merry Christmas.

At first I thought he must not have heard the accusations, must not have been aware of the ogres we were. But he must have known because he was--still is--an elder. Yet he did not look through us or away from us. He greeted us not as Judas but as Jesus. 

Of all the others, from those who set themselves against us to those who were deeply troubled and didn't know how to view us, he still stands out in my mind. This man did not judge us. This man exemplified Christ's command to love his enemies. I know he did not even consider us his enemies.

This man, Jim Siler, was walking in the sandals of his Lord. And I want to thank him: Jim, you kept me from utterly losing faith in the Church.