I am beginning to realize the appropriateness of the Lord’s 2016 mandate to “Man Up!” for with the purchase of our new home we are finally settling in to a period of permanence in our lives. This is something that we haven’t experienced for almost ten years. Since we moved to Oklahoma in the summer of 2006 so that I could fulfill an almost life-long goal to complete my Biblical training for the ministry that we had been involved in for over 30 years, we have lived in temporary housing in cities that we knew we wouldn’t be staying in for long!
Now with a new home on a beautiful piece of property in the northeast central region of North Carolina, we have a solid base of operations for our lives and the ministries the Lord has for us to accomplish. As I look back upon the last nine years with special focus on the last six, I understand that much of this has been a time of preparation for what lies ahead. The journey and ensuing battle that we have been waging for my wife’s good health has been an experience filled with a great multitude of lessons to be learned.
One of the most intense of those lessons has been the act of forgiveness. Besides all the things I have had to deal with surrounding the attack of Alzheimer’s in Piper, I never thought that I would also have to deal with the negative ways in which some others have handled our situation. At first I was shell shocked and then I got angry… at them and then at the strange feelings, thoughts and words that it aroused in me!
But I must admit that through it all, Papa God has been at my side for He has continually reminded me that even though people may, be assured that “I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5 God’s Word ©) And over the recent years He has taken my hands in the roughest stretches and walked me through the path of forgiveness.
It seems though, that just when I think I have learned this lesson and am ready to move on to the next, something stirs me up and I find myself rehashing the past and those familiar feelings of hurt, anger, confusion and unforgiveness raise their ugly heads again. This experience happened at the beginning of the Holidays about a month ago and haunted me for weeks. In frustration I finally got alone before the Lord and asked why this keeps happening. I think I’ve gotten people forgiven and their insensitive actions forgotten and up they pop again!
After a while in prayer I finally came to the revelation that it is not just the old incidents that come to my remembrance, but that new, different… and yet similar situations continue to present themselves. With that information I leaned back in my chair in our study where I had been praying and realized that He was right! (like dah!) So as I thought about it and pressed into the Lord with more diligence, I heard that still small voice inside of me say that I had to develop an attitude of forgiveness. That in my case it wasn’t just a one-time act to forgive and forget, but a mindset I needed to build up in me that continually looked to walk in forgiveness toward what might be the personal weaknesses and/or failures of others that Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:14.
Then as I continued to study out this attitude change I needed to make, I came across Jesus and Peter’s interaction documented in Matthew 18:21-22. Here we find Peter asking what I’m sure he thought was a very intuitive and humble question when he inquired of Jesus, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” And “Jesus answered him, ‘I’ll tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (God’s Word ©) As with many I’ve heard discuss this verse, the first thing I did when I read it was to multiply 70 X 70 and come up with the sum of 490. But you know, I don’t think that was the specific point that Jesus was trying to convey. I believe that He was trying to tell Peter and those of us who have studied this teaching through the following decades that as a successful believer we need to develop an attitude of forgiveness. To enter in and out of the situations and events, the ups and downs of life with a forgiving heart. With an attitude that doesn’t look for or receive offenses but looks to forgive and emit the love of God to all involved.
On a hunch I looked up the word “forgiveness” in a modern dictionary and discovered that like the word love, “forgiveness” is a verb or action word. The really interesting part is that “forgiveness” is considered to be a “transitive verb.” Which, as I studied deeper, learned that it has two characteristics. The 1st being that “it is an action verb expressing a doable activity,” and 2nd that “it must have a direct object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb.” (See: Grammar Bytes at http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/transitiveverb.htm - a grammar teaching website)
So with an attitude of forgiveness one would continually be alert and sensitive to the need to forgive those who might offend and/or hurt them. Taking an offense and stewing on it would just not be who we are! Instead of getting upset and judging the offender we instantly release forgiveness and thereby allow the Lord to enter in and have His way with the need at hand.
Hummm… seems like I barely touched on this subject, but alas this post is getting too long so I’d better sign off and continue on another day! But I would encourage you to think about it. What would it take for you to develop and walk in an attitude of forgiveness? It definitely has set me free from some things that have been hanging on to me for six or so years now… and I bet it would do the same for you! Have a wonderful week and keep asking yourself… “What can I expect from an attitude of forgiveness working in me?”