Today's E100 (www.WestoverChurch.com/E100) reading was Genesis 32-33. One of the biggest lessons it led me to ponder was that of forgiveness. Yes, I know, that is a tough one. In these chapters we see that Esau completely forgives Jacob for deceiving him, both for taking his birthright and for stealing their father's dying blessing. These were very "big" offenses. Jacob didn't just grab a toy or bite his brother's arm (which are the two offenses for which my 4 yr old often has to forgive my 2 yr old). No. Jacob stole seemingly everything from Esau with deceit and manipulation.
Have you been there? Have you ever been so hurt by someone that you didn't even want to forgive them? I have. And sadly if I think about it, I have also hurt others in my past where I certainly didn't deserve their forgiveness.
This past year God taught me more than I thought I would ever want to know about forgiveness. I experienced pain from deception and betrayal that cut to the depths of my soul. But God proved His miraculous power. I was faced with a choice: I could live in bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness or I could forgive. And to be very honest, bitterness felt more right. Unforgiveness seemed to just fit the betrayal. But God.
By His grace He enabled me to even hear His truth when my mind was entangled with questions, fears, and doubts. His words pierced to the core of my internal battle: to forgive or to not. I soon realized that the enemy had already stolen something from me. I didn't want him to steal anything else. I wasn't going to let him have my peace and my joy. God's word brought a challenge: if I don't forgive then He cannot forgive me, and we are to forgive our brother for everything, no matter what, no matter how many times he or she betrays us.
"Surely not everything," I would debate, "Not this." But that mindset puts me as judge. The truth is that forgiveness is a decision. For a while it was a daily, almost hourly, decision on my part. And forgiveness doesn't mean you are saying that the offense was right or OK. Forgiveness is freedom. As someone put it, "I have to choose to remember no more." This means that when the thoughts arise in my mind I have to replace those thoughts with the truth and promises of God. And I am telling you, He has done something in me that could only be described as miraculous.
There is a higher road. The world tells us that we have a right to this or to that. But God challenges us to lay down those rights and choose to love, without condition and without limit. Even when we were enemies of God, betraying Him and rejecting Him, He still loved us and sent His Son to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Lately I have been faced with my past. (Honestly, I blame facebook; I've got to blame something, right?!). And as I look at the faces of people from my past, particularly high school and college, I cringe as I think of the girl I once was. To put it simply, I was an idiot: selfish, insecure, unreliable, and trapped in addictions. But God.
Even when I was at my worst, He still loved me. He still showed me undeserving, unmeasurable grace. Nothing I have ever done is outside of His forgiveness through Christ. Amazing. And that is what He then calls me to do. To forgive those who are just being idiots.*
*Disclaimer: it is probably not a good idea in every circumstance to tell a person that they are being an idiot. You will really need to consult God on this one before you do.