Christmas is over. We’ve celebrated the birth of Christ with presents, pageants, parties, choir concerts, church services, Christmas trees, gift giving, visits with Santa and family get-togethers. Will the birth of Christ affect our future?
The days following Christmas many will reflect and ponder the past year and the New Year. In 2017, 53 percent of respondents from a survey said saving money was their primary resolution followed by losing weight. Only 15 percent resolved to find love. With loneliness on the rise globally, I was surprised to read that only 15 percent wanted to find love. I wondered if it was really a lack of interest or a lack of hope. Are we shackled by past hurts and disappointments in relationships to the point that we insulate and isolate ourselves from attempting to emotionally connect? Are we bound by bitterness and lack of trust? What if we could shed the weight of resentment and bitterness? We can. We can learn and practice forgiveness. Resolve to forgive in 2019.
Christ’s birth affected all of our futures. Christ was born to die for me so I could be FORGIVEN and have a saving relationship with God. He came to redeem us from sin; the 3 R’s: Resolve the issue of my sin, Reconcile me to God and Restore my relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His birth affects our life today and our future. He has forgiven me over and over again although I don’t deserve it; He continues to show me mercy and compassion.
What does it mean to forgive?
If He can forgive me, I can learn to forgive. What does it mean to forgive? Forgiveness seems illusive because we typically view it as a feeling rather than a decision. Many of us believe if we’ve forgiven then everything returns to normal, and we’re no longer hurt. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we don’t feel pain. It doesn’t mean we continue to share life with the offender. It doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten what happened. Forgiveness means we release the right for retribution, vengeance and negative thoughts toward the offender. We release the expectation of an apology. We release the right that the wrong be made right. Although we may have the “right” for vengeance, we’re not eligible to render punishment because we too are sinful and will always be in need of forgiveness on this side of heaven. We allow God to deal with the offender in any way He chooses. If He chooses that they experience a catastrophe or they win the lottery, it’s His decision to make.
Forgiveness is something I do for me.
Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It doesn’t take our memory, but forgiveness allows us to escape bitterness and begin healing.
Forgiveness is not allowing injustice to continue; healthy, mature people have boundaries.
Forgiveness is not condoning; it doesn’t mean the offender is free from consequences.
Forgiveness does not remove hurt and pain.
Forgiveness does not restore trust.
Forgiveness releases the burden of the offense to God.
The snare of offense
Satan never wants you to forgive. When you are angry and bitter and unwilling to forgive, the door opens wide for sin and gives the devil a foothold in our life. One of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get believers out of the will of God is offense. Unforgiveness restrains countless Christians, severs relationships and widens the gulfs between us.
Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1). Although you will encounter offense, you can choose how you will react. Our responsibility before God is not the behaviors of my offender but my responses to those behaviors.
As John Piper so aptly writes, “We must have Christ to have resources to respond encouragingly and hopefully and wisely to the ones who wrong us, instead of angrily, or with self-pity, or whining, or manipulative moping, or the silent treatment or solemnness. We all hurt each other and disappoint each other and frustrate each other almost every day in some degree.”
What does the research say about the physical effects of unforgiveness?
*Distresses central nervous system causing irritability, nervousness, anxiety, hostility, anger, resentment and depression.
*Stresses circulatory system, causing High blood pressure, heart rate irregularity, strokes and heart attacks.
*Stresses muscular-skeletal system, contributing to headaches, muscle and joint aches and dizziness.
*Depresses immune system, making it unable to ward off acute and chronic disease.
Someone once said that “unforgiveness is the poison pill we take to kill our offender.”
What does the Bible say?
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1Peter 3:9).
“Do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
“When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4: 27-29).
The true litmus test for forgiveness is when you have empathy for your offender. The goal is to get to a place where you have the same perspective as Jesus hanging on the cross – “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”