Monday, October 5, 2015

Withholding forgiveness...

Have you ever thought of what it means to withhold something?  It means to hold back or restrain from, or to not grant something to another person.

Here are a few examples:
As a parent, you may have come across a time or situation that to grant your child's request may put them in danger.  Or, perhaps to grant the wish, you take the chance of your son or daughter not learning a very important lesson.

Second, consider a work-related example.  An employee of yours requests time off when they have not accrued enough time to take a 2 week vacation yet.  Do you grant their request or deny it?  What are the circumstances surrounding the request?  Will it affect your business in a negative way?  Can you spare the "help" at this time?  Is it for a family emergency or for a vacation that was planned long before they took the job at your business?  Regardless, there are many factors that may have to enter into the decision to grant the request or not to grant it.

Now let's consider relationships.  Someone you love.  Someone who means a lot to you.  A dear friend, a spouse, a sister/brother, or a significant "other" that has been in your life for quite some time.  You have a disagreement, an argument, or a rift of some sort.  Heated words are exchanged or painful accusations are brought up.  Unwanted reactions happen all too quickly and you part ways in haste or in anger.  What happens next?  Who said what to whom?  Who should apologize - you or the other person???  How do you resolve the conflict?

Some people would say the person who offended the other person should apologize first.  Well, who decides who is offended most?  Can each party let the anger dissipate and come to the table to discuss the disagreement after the dust has settled?  Well, it depends.  Many factors can cause disagreements and many factors can cause a relationship end or to be altered.  Sometimes the outcome is positive and other times it is not.  It may depend on the maturity of the persons involved or the length of the relationship.  It may depend on the severity of the offense.

Let's add one more piece to the puzzle.  Forgiveness.  When does someone offer forgiveness or withhold it?

Can you let the sun go down on your anger or do you try to resolve the issue before it goes beyond the point of no return?  Can you offer to take the high road and offer forgiveness first?  Or, does your pride get in the way and you stop short because you have been hurt too much.  Forgiveness is an important factor in all relationships.  And, it takes a willingness to offer and/or receive forgiveness.  Especially when the hurt run deep!

Now, let me ask you this:  Have you ever withheld forgiveness to someone because you were hurt or angry?  Was the situation so dire that you just could not bring yourself to let something go or could not or would not accept another person's apology?  It is a hefty question.  And, what if the person who offended you or said those horrible words to you, reacted negatively, or behaved badly wrote you a note of apology or called to say they were sorry?  Could you speak to them again?  Would you consider bridging the gap?

The Scriptures say that if you have an offense with anyone, go and resolve that issue before coming to the communion table.
Matthew 5:23 says:  "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother (sister/friend/husband/wife) has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

First, GO and be reconciled.  Yes, that mean YOU!  Take the first step.  Offer to resolve the conflict.  Say you are sorry.  Give them a chance to say they are sorry as well.  Let them know that you want to resolve the issue and find some common ground - even if you have to agree to disagree.  Even if you choose to not restore the relationship, mend the fence.  Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Don't let pride get the best of you and hold onto a grudge for days, weeks or even years.  It truly only hurts you, not necessarily the other person.

Pray about it.  Choose to forgive.  Then, allow the process of the offense being forgiven to begin.
Let the other person know you forgive them!  Don't withhold it.  Don't torture them for months by not talking to them.  Let them know you have asked God for forgiveness for your part in the disagreement and you choose to forgive them and forgive yourself as well.  Forgiving someone and NOT letting them know is just as bad as not forgiving them and holding a grudge.  It simply is not what the Lord wants us to do.

Think about it from the standpoint of why Christ offered His life for us.  He came to save us from all the things we have done wrong.  Not just some things, not part, not most, but all.  Forgiveness is the pinnacle of Christianity.  He came to forgive us, to save us, to redeem us.  He asks us to do the same.  That is why He came to earth.  Why He was crucified.  Why He was buried.  Why He is resurrected and sits at the right hand of the Father!!!  Forgiveness.  Offered once and for all for every one of us.

Christ never withholds forgiveness if we ask Him to forgive us.  Never.  He doesn't wait 5 minutes or 5 months to let us know we are forgiven either.  His forgiveness is instant!  Complete! Assured. If we ask.
I John 1:9 says:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Tenth Avenue North  has a song called "Losing."  Here is the bridge where one of the best messages of forgiveness is explained:

"Why do we think that hate's gonna change their heart
We're up in arms over wars that don't need to be fought
Pride won't let us lay weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up just to burn them down
We think pain's owed apologies and that it'll stop
Truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
of Mercy and Your Grace, Father, send your angels down."

A friend of mine once told me that forgiveness is something for each of us to give whether or not the person that it is offered to accepts it.  Sometimes it is very difficult to offer forgiveness.  But, go ahead.  Go the extra mile and offer forgiveness first.  Don't withhold it.  Don't wait to let the person know you want forgive them either.  Choose to surrender your right to be right.  Choose to forgive.  It goes a long, long way to healing your own soul.

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