Wednesday, 14 May 2014

How Many Times Must I Forgive Him/Her?

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV).

I was recently reminded of what an important part forgiveness plays in our ability to relate to one another.  Obviously that includes our ability to forgive our spouse, the one we have vowed to love in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part.  Except if I become unhappy, disenchanted and/or disillusioned with said person I want to retain the right to seek happiness elsewhere. 

Equally as important is for each of us to forgive those people in our past who we have not forgiven.  What we fail to realize is that the wounds we suffered at the hands of a parent, a sibling, a teacher, etc., who we have truly not forgiven are often showing up in our current relationships.  Consider the daughter who was ignored by her father.  She is craving the affirmation, attention and love that she never received and expects her husband to fill her emotional needs basket.  The husband on the other hand never lived up to his father’s expectations as an athlete and has never felt good enough.   He is too preoccupied with his own emptiness to give thought to the emotional needs of his wife.

Some of us are angry people, much of that comes from unresolved issues as we were growing up.  Fear and the need to control are two possible underlying causes of anger.  All sorts of dysfunctional family dynamics could leave an imprint on a child that would leave him/her fearful or needing to control.

A preacher who was delivering this message about forgiveness had a very effective visual aid.  First he told his congregants to get a piece of paper.  Then they were to write down the names of everyone who came to mind who had hurt them, including what that person owed them.  Perhaps a sister stole your boyfriend and went to the prom with him.  Perhaps a co-worker presented your idea as his/hers and got a promotion that should have been yours.    What do they owe you?  Is it even conceivable that they could somehow pay back the debt?

Then the pastor folded the paper in half.  He drew the figure of a cross on the paper.  He then took a lighter and set the paper ablaze. (Make sure you have a fireproof receptacle nearby).   The hope is that such a gesture will allow us to begin to heal as we remember through the cross how Christ has forgiven us.

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