Forgiving Others in the Face of Evil

The weekend of Father’s Day is always difficult for me. My dad’s birthday is so close to Father’s Day (sometimes actually falling on Father’s Day) so it’s kind of a double whammy when your dad is no longer here. It’s even more difficult when the reason your dad is gone is because someone brutally took his life, so, for me, there are always a lot of heavy emotions attached to the third weekend in June. Regarding the man who took my dad’s life, many might shout “That man should burn in hell for what he did!” Yet, I have never stopped preaching, “We must forgive!” because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. It simply is not worth it, my friends, no matter how justified we may feel regarding the sins that have been done to us. Jesus shares this sobering truth in the book of Matthew about forgiving others no matter what:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, NIV).

Just like all of humanity, I have fallen short of the glory of God, and I need my sins to be forgiven and washed clean by the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. Oh, what love has been extended to me that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8)! If Christ died for me and has forgiven me, someone who has sinned against a Holy and righteous God, how could I possibly withhold forgiveness to another image bearer of God? 

Knowing what the Bible says about forgiveness, I immediately chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and the man who is now my husband. I didn’t want to harbor unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart that would undoubtedly grow like a cancer. It is not that I don’t love or miss my dad terribly; It is because dwelling on this wicked tragedy will never bring my dad back, but more than that, I know that I must obey God to forgive those who sin against me. I know that justice belongs only in the hands of the Lord. It took six years, but the man who murdered my father was eventually charged with a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions. The Lord brings vindication, most assuredly, but, most of all, I long for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with Jesus like I have found. I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this or the strength to forgive from solely within myself. No, my strength to pray for and forgive the man who murdered my dad comes only from God’s grace and the power and might of the Holy Spirit. 

Oh, believer, we need the love and presence of our heavenly Father from now until eternity! Oh, unbeliever, repent and turn from your sins, and rebellion and come to Christ to be lavished in His mercy and forgiveness! If you are harboring unforgiveness towards another, release it now, don’t wait! I urge you to repent and receive the forgiveness of the Father today and find strength in Jesus to learn to walk in total forgiveness, even in the midst of the darkest of evil and sin against you. Oh, what freedom and peace you will find!

Heavenly Father,

I come to you today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Putting Away Anger

My husband and I will be married twelve years next month, and although we would never admit to “having it all together,” one thing that we have always fought to hold onto is our pursuit to work through our disagreements, however heated they may become, and never go to sleep angry with one another. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we try our best to be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. 

But since we are still on this side of eternity, we are continually being sanctified every day, and sometimes our flesh and pride gets in the way of that pursuit for peace and that was the case in a recent argument that he and I experienced. The two of us became so angry with one another that we continued to go in circles and rehash the argument. I found myself not thinking clearly and saying things that were hurtful towards my husband, things that I did not believe to be true. I would constantly interrupt my husband with what I wanted to say and never let him voice his concerns. In my frustration, I became so exhausted and confused that I didn’t have any energy to continue the conversation. Thankfully, before we drifted off to sleep, we both took some time to calm down and began to apologize for our anger and hurtful words. Knowing anger that is not restrained can often lead to sin, and in this case it did, we both repented to the Lord and to each other. We can find much instruction and wisdom in the Bible regarding the sin of unrestrained anger. James 1 has some beautiful instruction for us that is a wonderful reminder for our hearts, especially in marriage relationship:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, ESV).

Do you notice how our conversations with each other can be tied to the misuse of anger? This is especially true if we are not considering others before ourselves when we want to voice our opinion or concerns. The misuse of anger is called unrighteous anger because it is selfish and prideful in nature. Those who do not think of others when speaking are walking in pride, which can often lead to anger if met with resistance and tension. When anger is unrestrained and rooted in pride, we are not walking righteously before God. We are to be quick to listen before speaking and patient when engaging in a tense discussion. What wise advice for married couples! Anger is sure to occur when two people disagree, but we do not have to give into the temptation to allow that anger to fuel hurtful or hate-filled words towards the other person, sinning against them and more importantly, sinning against God who calls us to walk in righteousness. We need to prefer others above ourselves in our conversations with one another. May the Lord help us and sanctify us in our marriages and relationships with others.

Father, Your Word has so much to say on the sin of anger, yet we give into this temptation all the time when we are challenged in our selfishness. I repent for sinning against those who have been made in Your image when I did not prefer them above myself and allowed my words to cause pain. This is especially true in my marriage. I have allowed my pride to lead me into unrestrained anger by lashing out and interrupting in my disagreements. Help me to follow Your wisdom of being slow to speak and quick to listen so that anger does not cause me to walk in unrighteous behavior towards my husband and brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for Your grace to empower me to walk more Christ-like. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Come Out of Hiding

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

A few months ago, my eyes were opened to the stark reality that I was struggling with an area of my past…

… the pain of rejection.

This continues to be a battle for me, yet I realize that healing from the pain of rejection is a partnership and most definitely, a process. Thankfully, I am not alone in this fight.

One thing for sure is that the Lord fights for me and the Holy Spirit guides me into all truth, illuminating and highlighting lies that I was believing that are rooted in rejection.

Rejection had overwhelmed so much of me that I wasn’t being fully honest with people in my life. The lie I believed was that I would be rejected if my sin or wrong-doing was discovered. Therefore, I chose to either keep silent or tell a lie to keep my secret hidden so that I wouldn’t be a disappointment.

That lifestyle was keeping me from being fully transparent and honest with my husband and most importantly, with God. I believe this is why 1 John 1 reminds us of the importance of confessing our sin:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

Hiding our sin causes us to hide from God, similar to Adam and Eve when the first sin entered the world. They felt ashamed, and shame made them feel rejected. Because of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, we are forever made righteous in our position as we stand before the Father and are forever forgiven, yet when we sin, it causes our fellowship with God to be hindered, and then we can very easily stray from Him. God’s love toward me never changes when I sin, yet I may still experience consequences and correction for my disobedience. Repentance, as a believer, is for our benefit to keep fellowship with our Father open and unhindered. Sin can often cause our hearts to grow callous, and we may not be as sensitive toward the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

The enemy wants you either in pride thinking you are better off doing life your own way or in isolation, bound in a pit of depression, unable to receive love or give out love, feeling like no one loves you or cares about you, especially God. But God’s love is unconditional and perfect, and nothing can stop His pursuit toward you. He wants us to be honest with Him so that we can see real transformation happen in our life, as He conforms us into the image of His Son.

Like I said above, positionally, in Christ, you stand before God forgiven and righteous, but experientially, sanctification is a process because our flesh is weak. Although as born-again believers, we continue to sin against God because we are constantly at war with our flesh in this life, the good news is that we have a great advocate, Jesus Christ, who is forever our righteousness. To be sure, our position in Him as declared righteous before God will never change, yet, we are still called to confess our sin, which purifies our conscious before the Lord.  Is there a particular sin that you have been struggling with? Pause and take some time to write it/them down and repent before the Lord, laying it all down at His feet. 1 John 1:9 says Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Let us come out of hiding and rejoice in the truth that Jesus is forever our righteousness despite our shortcomings!

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The Freedom of Forgiveness

Although it was six years ago, it’s still fresh in my mind- the day that the man who murdered my father received his official guilty sentence- life in prison. He was sentenced to 60 years of his life, not free, but behind bars, given a great opportunity to think on his actions for the rest of his life on this earth.

The murder occurred in November 2008, so it took many years for the sentence to be finalized. While many of my dad’s side of the family still doesn’t fully understand, I chose not to become involved in the pursuit of making sure that this man “paid for what he had done.”

There was much commotion and to be quite frank, drama, via social media between family members over the course of a few days that resulted in hateful and bitter comments regarding events in my dad’s life that occurred almost 20 years ago- my parent’s divorce being one of them. My heart was heavy to think that in the midst of such tragedy, people would choose to argue over issues that they have no control over any longer, and truthfully, no business being involved in whatsoever. The tragedy of losing my father actually paled in comparison to the unforgiveness and bitterness that surfaced between my family members.

Unforgiveness is bondage.

It is a yoke that slowly tightens around our neck and chokes the life out of us.

Bitterness is like a cancer that spreads throughout your whole body and affects you completely and everything and everyone around you.

We are given many opportunities every single day to take the bait to become offended and hold grudges, but it is so important that we hold onto Jesus and His powerful Word- God’s perfect truth.

The Apostle Paul explains to us the freedom we find in Christ and urges us to not become entangled in sin in Galatians 5:1:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (ESV).

Although Paul is not speaking of unforgiveness specifically in this verse, we do know that unforgiveness is sin that will separate us from God.

Jesus explains to us at the end of the Lord’s Prayer:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6: 14-15, NIV

Allowing unforgiveness to hold you captive keeps you from fellowshipping with your Heavenly Father and keeps you from walking in total freedom that Jesus died for us to have.

When He was crucified and His blood poured out to accomplish God’s ultimate salvation plan for the world (John 3:16), our sins were thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and we no longer had to be slaves to sin- we were made free! 

When we stand before God in prayer (and eventually at the end of this life here on earth), He sees what Jesus has done. He sees His Son’s precious blood, and the price that Jesus paid with His very life just so that you and I could have a relationship with Our Heavenly Father through Christ.

So why would we deliberately choose bondage by allowing unforgiveness and bitterness to plague our hearts and hinder fellowship with God and the love of others?

I don’t know who you may need to forgive. I don’t know how deep the pain goes, how big or small the offense may be. I don’t know how long you have carried that burden with you, but I do know that you need to forgive, and you don’t have to do it in your own strength. God has given you the Holy Spirit to help you, to heal you, to change your heart. You are given the choice to be the one to make the move. You must choose to forgive. Don’t wait. Do it today. Do it right now. You will experience such great freedom that Jesus so passionately laid down His life for you to have.

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