Sitting beside a hero of the faith yesterday evening, a man who has seen hundreds of thousands–even millions (yes millions)–of souls ushered into new life in Christ, someone in the small gathering asked, “Let’s say you have the ear of every single person in America who calls themself a Christian. What would you say?”
His answer was simple: “Forgiveness. If only we could all learn to choose to not be offended.” Why? Because, he realizes it’s offense toward others that keeps us from experiencing God’s forgiveness and freedom for us.
Several times in the course of the evening, the venerated missionary would chuckle and re-emphasize, “Oh, there will be plenty of opportunity for offense. You have to choose now that you won’t be.”
My mind reeled. Do you mean to tell me, after working alongside Mother Teresa and seeing atrocities most of us cannot even imagine, the deepest directive is Forgiveness? Yes indeedy.
As he spoke, I got a picture in my mind of chains and bonds around our hearts and lives–all born of unforgiveness and offense. Always, if the root of bondage is followed to its beginning, it’s a root of offense.
This is not to say that horrible things may not have happened to or been done to you; it’s just that your choice of whether to cut those bonds through forgiveness–or not–makes or breaks your relationship to God, to others, and to what God can accomplish through you.
Although it sounds so simplistic to say, “I choose to forgive ___________ since God through Christ forgave me,” there is a level of faith and a spiritual freedom that is acquired with those words. In a very real and mysterious way, when we choose to forgive–even when we don’t see any way to forget–we are getting out of the way so God can heal.
At the same time, that unhealthy connection to the person who committed the hurt can be severed. Ah! Breathe the fresh, free air of God’s favor!
And, moving forward, we can choose to remain unoffended. Just think, that sensitive wound that used to flinch when touched and caused you to lash out will, after forgiveness, be a beautiful testimony of the depths of God’s grace.
No justification, no plotting revenge, no ill will, no hatred that puts that person above God’s place in your life–just complete freedom to receive and pass on God’s overwhelming love.
Hmmm. Sounds like a taste of the New Testament Church to me where, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
With a schedule like that, there was no room for offense and unforgiveness.
After all, the first lesson Jesus taught as He hung on the cross, still bleeding, in agony, naked, spat upon, ridiculed and cursed was… “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Let’s choose to give our unforgiveness and offenses to God so He can transform us until we too can live a life of freedom and power.
Then we can “taste and see that the Lord is GOOD.”
Chana Keefer is the sister, daughter, and granddaughter of pastors.
Her fresh perspective stems from a background in journalism,
missions, acting, and writing for print and live theater. Her favorite
things are God, family, and the written word but she also brakes for
chocolate, old barns, and people who live passionately. She and her family reside in southern California.