The Freedom to Forgive

This is a guest post from my friend, Clay Woford. Clay is a husband, Seminary student, Director for Business Development for Coastal Wealth Management, and an Engineer for Marathon Petroleum.

You have been wronged, maybe small – maybe large – maybe for the last time? You feel you deserve justice, or revenge – that you need it. You seek counsel from friends and they support you that you deserve better, you deserve justice, that you don’t need to forgive this person who has wronged you. When you are wronged, you can lose an endless amount of time dwelling on what happened. Yet, your faith calls for different and there is freedom found in Christ from this bondage.

Your faith in Jesus Christ leads you to 1. Delayed Justice and 2. Unconditional Forgiveness.

Delayed Justice

Hebrews 10:30 – “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

Romans 12:19 – “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Our Christian worldview guides us to not seek out our own justice through revenge or disparage someone. Our ultimate justice is coming in that God will judge all according to their deeds.

Unconditional Forgiveness

The idea that forgiveness might have limits or that at some point it isn’t deserved is not a new thought. Peter asked Jesus this question to find out when forgiveness was exhausted. Jesus responded to him with a parable comparing what we have been forgiven, and how we should respond to this grace.

Matthew 18:21-35 – “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents (60 million days work) was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii (100 days work); and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way, that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

Matthew 6:12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Unconditional Forgiveness is given by those who have been unconditionally forgiven. Our view, as Christians, on forgiveness is from a place of grace. Understanding that the forgiveness we find in Christ is of such magnitude that it should lead our hearts to forgive others. God has forgiven us of a debt we could never pay, we owed far more than 60 million days of labor, and that it should be our pursuit to forgive people who hurt us. You are “Paying It Forward” or paying your grace forward. That we are responding to our hurt or adversity, with generosity.

Forgiveness is baked into the essentials of faith with forgiveness being in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. Forgiveness is essential to our Christian living, but it doesn’t mean it is easy. That in life if forgiveness does not come quickly, resentment can set in and weigh heavy on your life for years, if you let it. If you find yourself struggling with forgiveness, lean on God to strengthen you for this task. I encourage you to not struggle alone if you are wrestling with forgiveness or resentment, that you share your burden with another Christian to walk together. That in Christ, you find forgiveness and the power to forgive others.

Clay can be contacted at rcwoford@gmail.com

A Clash of Worldviews

The increase in conflict and hostility in America is due, in part, to a growing divide between the secular and the Christian worldviews. Christian author, James Sire, defines a worldview as “a fundamental orientation of the heart.” A worldview answers the all-important questions of, “Who are we?” “Where are we?” “What’s wrong?” and, “Where are we going?” Everyone has a particular way in which they view the world even if they don’t know it, or their approach is inconsistent.

The clash of worldviews finds its basis in Scripture. In Romans 8:5-8, the Apostle Paul refers to minds set on the flesh and minds set on the Spirit. The Greek nouns behind the word for mind(s) means “a fixed disposition or an orientation towards something.” In context, Paul is describing two approaches to life: one that is focused on the flesh and materials things (as if that is all that exists) and another that is focused on the Spirit and the things of God. These two worldviews are diametrically opposed to one another.

Many of the morals, values, and traditions in American have grown out of a Christian worldview. As unbelieving American’s distance themselves from these practices (intentionally and unintentionally), they are also distancing themselves from the principles of a Christian worldview. The growing divide between these two basic worldviews has become the breeding ground for wide-spread animosity and distrust.

To be clear, this isn’t the only reason for our disunity, but it’s one of the more fundamental reasons that doesn’t get talked about very much. A Christian response to this situation includes three components. First, Christians should should work to bring their fundamental assumptions in line with each other as well as Scripture. Internal consistency and the authority of the Bible are two of features that make the Christian worldview so attractive.

Second, Believers must work to uncover the fundamental assumptions of their unbelieving co-workers and neighbors so they can share the hope and joy that that comes from a God-centered worldview. The expectation in 1 Peter 3:15, is that this activity is to be done in a spirit of gentleness and respect. This is the part that seems to be missing these days. Harshness and disrespect seem to be on the rise on both side of the cultural divide.

Third and finally, Christian parents and Church leaders should work to pass on the principles of a Christian worldview, not just the practices that have grown out of it over time. The next generation needs to embrace the answers to the all-important questions (see above), instead of just going through the motions. This is harder work, but it’s essential work.

The clash of worldviews in American is a wakeup call and an opportunity. Its an invitation to reflect more intentionally and more deeply about what we believe and how those beliefs impact our lives. Its also an invitation to engage with others who may believe differently and to share the truth with them.

Devotional Thought for Leaders: The Cult of Personality

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1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:4-9

One of the issues the ancient church at Corinth struggled with was division.  In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that church he wasted no time in identifying one of the main sources of their conflict.  Apparently, the church had been influenced by a cult, the cult of personality.  The people in the church had divided their loyalty among several key church leaders.  Some people had aligned themselves with either Paul or Apollos, while others claim exclusive allegiance to Peter or Jesus Christ.  It would seem that the last group had the right idea, but lived it out in a divisive way.

 Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that every human leader in the church is just that – a human leader.  Compared to God the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ. we are all just “workers” in God’s field.  Some may plant and some may water, but it is “God who cause the growth” (3:7).

Unfortunately, the cult of personality didn’t end with the first century church.  Power, fame, and influence are big values in our culture today, and they slip easy into the church.  Sometimes it’s a pastor who is secretly (or not so secretly) set on becoming more popular than Jesus.  Sometimes it’s an up-in-coming staff member or lay leader who wants to make a name for him or her self.  Sometimes it’s a long-time member who enjoys exerting their influence and control.  Whatever form it takes, this passage warns us that the end result of the cult of personality is division, and ultimately distraction.

Here are some questions to help you stamp this cult out in your church or organization:

Is the conflict in your church or organization issue based or personality based?  If it is personality based, what are people doing to create the problem?  Are you part of the problem?

How can you humbly engage with the divided parties and turn their attention back to God and His mission?

Two Aspects of Forgiveness

quotes“Forgiveness is both an event and a process.  Making the four promises of forgiveness (found earlier in the book) is an event that knocks down a wall that stands between you and the person who has wronged you.  Then a process begins.  After you demolish an obstruction, you usually have to clear away debris and do repair work.  The Bible calls this ‘reconciliation,’ a process involving a change of attitude that leads to a change in the relationship.”

-Ken Sande, The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict           (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 219