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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Monday, June 6, 2011

The Freedom to Forgive


"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door to resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."

                               ~ Corrie ten Boom, Holocaust survivor







I thought those were beautiful words of truth and simply amazing considering the source they came from. The Holocaust stands out in history as one of the most tragic times in our not so distant past. Where hate, fear and ignorance and the desire for dominance and control swept over a continent; leaving in its wake a tremendous amount of death, pain and suffering. Many of us wouldn't even blame a person who had experienced the reality of a concentration camp and had witnessed their loved ones being tortured, starved and killed,  to hold resentment and bitterness towards their past captors.

And yet...and yet....look at the words of Corrie ten Boom. Wow. They echo Grace. They resound with the love of our Maker and His stamp, sealed firmly on her heart, is evident in her beautiful words of reconciliation

I've recently read through Romans, and the attitude of faith that Corrie displays reminds me of how God calls us to conform our characters to be more like Christ's.  Paul gives us some instructions on how to live out a life of grace and love:

Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[b] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[c] to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


The one thing that I've found in scripture that God sanctions us to hate is evil. Evil did reign in the concentration camps, suffocating the minds and consciences of the Nazis with unspeakable darkness. We are called to hate that evil, but not the individuals who've been infected by that evil, simply the evil itself. We are not to stoop down to the level of those that hurt us and lash back using their means, but to leave vengeance to the Lord. It doesn't mean that we can't resist or defend ourselves, but God doesn't want us caught up in the cycle of hate towards those who wrong us, which indeed can sow dark seeds, bearing bitter fruit. To repay evil with evil just spreads more evil. We are to cast our lights into the world, not help darkness grow.  And to cast our lights, that means we must forgive, for God forgives our every sin and our daily rejections of His grace and mercy that we commit, oftentimes unknowingly through forms of pride.

This is certainly a topic that can be uncomfortable to address for many of us have been wounded greatly at the hands of others. It's so easy to harbor bitterness in our grief and pain. I think that perhaps the most important thing to remember is that God wants us to be free. He wants us to walk in freedom, truth and love. He  holds the keys that unlock the door to healing. Those keys were brought to us through the blood of Jesus. All we need to do is open our hands in humility to receive those keys and they will unlock the door to the pathways of peace and the liberation from suffering. And from my understanding, that's the best way to get back at our enemies; to prosper in life and bear abundant fruit.

We can have the freedom to forgive others, knowing that whatever we might have been able to do to them to act out and try to "get back" at the pain they gave us, is nothing compared to the consequences that they will receive from our God if, when they perish,  they have continued to walk in their dark paths and rejected His love and truth. We can be assured that not only is our God a God of love and compassion but He is also one of Justice, and Justice will always prevail.

Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section below. Thank you :)


12 comments:

  1. Jessica, when someone does us wrong it seems so easy to be hateful back. It takes discipline to be able to turn and walk away from the situation, or to stay and try to turn the situation around.
    I cannot even begin to imagine what the people experienced going through the Holocaust. I don't know if I would have been able to walk away from that kind of abuse with a positive nature.
    Now, it simply amazes me that my son comes home from school and tells me that teachers tell the students that the 'Holocaust' never occurred. Which of course, is another topic:P

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  2. Great post! The art of forgiveness is one that does not happen overnight, however it is one that is very important to our spiritual walk. We will not receive forgiveness for ourselves unless we forgive others.

    Blessings to you Sis!

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  3. Loved this post Jessica! Forgiveness is a long and difficult road. I am dealing with a problem right now which is totally out of my control but seems to be destroying me. I have decided to pray for this person and let God work in his/her heart to forgive me for whatever I have done to provoke the anger and hatred. It may take years.

    Nelieta travel blog

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  4. Unfortunately most people say they forgive but, don't quite get over it fully. There is a thin line between hating the evil that made someone do something and hating the actual person who inflicted the harm and pain. Hating in all it's forms only destroys the one hating not the hated. It is a hard thing to love someone after the evil they inflicted on their fellowman (brother) but, loving them and letting it go fully is the only way to truly forgive and be at peace within yourself.

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  5. Forgiveness is the noblest revenge, It does give you inner peace to forgive and forget..lovely post

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  6. Corrie ten Boom is a shining example of how to forgive. Years ago I read The Hiding Place, and then saw the movie. What an inspiration this woman was! I recall her sister Betsy forgiving those who had beat and abused her so brutally. If you saw the movie, you may remember how, on her deathbed, she looked so weak and frail. But after she died there was a beautiful glow on her face, as though she’d already been transformed into His image.

    I appreciate your sharing this Jessica, and the scriptures are just perfect for this message. You tie it all together so beautifully.

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  7. I like this post. Forgiveness will ease your hearts and soul. Easy to say but sometimes, hard to do.

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  8. Hi Jessica: the quote above: I"M STEALING IT.
    : )
    The thing is, and I say this a lot, we have so many more atrocities then the Holocaust in the last 100 years, starting with the 1914 Albanians. Then the Holocaust (11 mil); China under Japan; ALL of the S. African ones (Rwanda to Congo to Darfur and more); Serbian/Kosovo conflict; we don't as a species learn, and that is the sadest. I am leaving out a whole mess of ones. bTW..My father was in Auschwitz, so..yeah.. not downplaying what he went through and others, not at all.

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  9. Hello Jessica -

    Hate or hatred is a word I really jump on my children when I hear them use the term. "I hate you" brother..."I hate carrots"..."I hate cold weather", ect. I tell them that hate is one of the ugliest terms in our language and also one that is continuously used improperly. I've also said that there is only one thing you should hate in this life is the devil (evil) and I wasn't even sure if I was right about that.

    Anyway, I did not know that the bible (God's word) tells us that we need to hate evil. That doesn't mean we hate the person. I really enjoy your post and thank youuu for checking in to the comment adjustments. Yippeeee some more of us can post regularly here again. :)

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  10. It took me time to come back in this post. I wanted to reflect on which areas of my life I still have unforgiveness...

    A confessor once told us that it's better to be honest and not force reconciliation. It doesn't happen naturally. Wounds do take time to heal. But in a community, I cannot put off forgiveness for a long time...

    It really takes humility to initiate signs of reconciliation. It do takes a lot of amount of freedom to truly go outside of oneself and reach out.

    I was inspired by the different saints that we have who forgave their oppressors/transgressors. One of them is St. Maria Goretti. I was also inspired by Pope John Paul II who went his way to the prison to talk with Mehmet Ali Agca, one who attempted to assasinate him...

    How many of us could do that?

    I think an important point too, is the freedom to ask for forgivenes...

    I love this post and will keep coming back to draw more reflections...Thanks Jessica :)

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  11. This is a great post, Jessica. Thanks for sharing. One thing I would add is that true forgiveness isn't about "getting back" or even having God get back at our enemies. When Christ was on the cross, He said, "Father forgive them they know not what they do." Do you think God answered His prayer?

    In Acts 2 at Pentecost, Peter preaches to the crowd and says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). 3,000 men who had chanted "Crucify Him" not even two months earlier were forgiven and baptized.

    The same goes for Stephen when he was martyred. He cried out, "Father forgive them". Shortly after Saul who held the men's coats that killed Stephen was saved on the way to Damascus and had his name changed to Paul.

    God's vengeance can be settled in the cross just as well as something bad happening to someone, and this is what I would think Christ would have us do when forgiving someone who has done us wrong. Ask God to forgive them too. Holding out and hoping God will pay them back, so they'll get their just desserts, isn't really forgiving, at least not the way Christ forgave us.

    My blog is at Manifest Blog if anyone is interested. God Bless!

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