Chapter Five, Part Two
The Art of Forgiveness; Forgiving Series
There are scriptures that help guide and guard us in the areas of forgiveness and life.
Scripture has been my ‘go to’ for as long as I can remember for helping me find comfort and strength. I’ve had decades where I read and re-read the Psalms and I relied on them for help in life.
I learned a lot about forgiveness from God by reading the Psalms.
Psalm 32:5 (NKJV) says, “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”
Psalm 40:2-3 (NKJV), “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 103:12 (NKJV), “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Psalm 51:7 (NKJV), “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
And of course Psalm 23. I prefer the NCV (New Century Version) because it starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”
I still say that verse several times a day.
Later in life I discovered sections of scripture that included verses I’d heard a lot.
In Ephesians 4:25-32 (NKJV) we read that the intent of our confession is that it is genuine and lasting, “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
The intent in Colossians 3:12-15 (NKJV) is pretty clear, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”
I John 1:9 (NKJV) I cherish, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I think by reading the Psalms when I was younger I came to realize that God does forgive me. I don’t remember thinking about forgiving others or being forgiven by others when I was a child/teenager. I seemed to focus on how God related to me and how I related to God.
As an adult (and a Pastor’s wife) I struggled to be forgiven by others and to forgive others who thought they had the right to tell me (and my kids) how we should live (specifically if my children should be allowed to wear shorts in church). What’s strange is that now that I look back I wonder why I gave them that much power. I don’t believe God wants us to give people the power to judge us.
What God really wants is for us to seek His face for forgiveness and be forgiving of others. My forgiving in my younger adult years should have included forgiving people who thought they had the right to tell me how I should live my life. Instead, I felt shame and guilt that I had failed.
The question I came to ask was, “did I fail you, God, or did I fail the expectations other people have?”
I came to realize that most of the time I was failing to live up to the expectations other people have of me.
Ergo…I learned to consider then let go of what other people think and say.
In my next stage of life I gravitated toward scriptures I’d heard and memorized.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV), “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
In Luke 6:37 (NKJV) we read, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
John 13:34 (NKJV) says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
And in Luke 6:27 (NKJV) he wrote, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
Those were difficult words for me to understand about forgiveness and life, but as I studied them I carried them in my heart and I ‘practiced’ them. After all, Spiritual Practice is a learning process.
Today I am a bit more like a kid. I love the stories, especially stories from the Gospel of John. Here are a few:
Nicodemus meets Jesus at Night (John 3)
The woman at the well (John 4)
Healing at Bethesda (John 5)
Feeding the 5000 (John 6)
The woman caught in adultery (John 7-8)
It’s been my experience that scripture breathes life into me. When I am down, I read scripture and God lifts me up. When I am confused, God often shows me the answer when I read scripture. When I feel like God is far away, I turn to scripture and the Spirit shows me God is closer than I think. With the guidance of the Spirit, scripture is my guide, my help, and my compass.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Read Scripture
Pray and ask God to guide you as you choose one verse of passage to read. Meditate and listen to God as you read. Ask God to show you what He has for you today.
In God, Deborah