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Running After God's Heart - Forgiveness

Written by  Adam Littrell, Worship Team Lead & Young Adult Lead Tuesday, 07 June 2016
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When someone mentions the word forgiveness, how does that make you feel? Do you feel your heart sink?  Does dread fill your consciousness as the scent of a relationship gone sour floods your mind?  Or, are you suddenly conscious of relationships that have been healed because of the bravery of one person?  One thing is certain.  If you are human, someone has probably hurt you at some point in your life.  For some of us memories of abuse and pain are a daily encounter that will simply not leave.  At some point we will realize that time does not, in fact, heal wounds.  Time may make it worse, actually.

You’re probably feeling somewhat cheated by the title of this article.  You’re having thoughts such as, “I thought this was about running after God’s heart!” or, “What in the world does forgiveness have to do with relationship with God?”  Forgiveness is a touchy topic for some.  If you are in pain, know that the heart of Jesus is to comfort you and bring you hope.  There is no condemnation.  However, he does want us to be free from pain, and that is the topic of this article.

If you haven’t read the story of David, it is worth dusting off your bible (or downloading bible software on your smart phone) and diving in. (Hint: Start in first and second Samuel) David, like many of the young men in his time, spent his days caring for his father’s sheep.  But, things took an interesting turn in David’s life when the prophet Samuel showed up at his doorstep.  Samuel brought him the wonderful news that he was chosen to be the king of Israel!  (1 Samuel 16) This did not, however, come without conflict.  Israel’s present king, Saul, would not let go of his power so easily. Even though David never attempted to usurp the throne, or even mention his conversation with Samuel, Saul had this unquenchable desire to kill David!

Eventually, David went into exile.  Being a man who was accustomed to warfare, David had become exceptionally skilled as a warrior and military strategist; he chose to do the thing that he was skilled at.  David became the modern equivalent of a hired gun, or mercenary.  Even in exile, king Saul continued his hunt for David.  Using every form of deceit and manipulation, Saul made many attempts to put his friend’s head on a platter.

As the opportunity for Saul to kill David continually eluded him, David was given numerous opportunities to kill Saul.  At one point, David even caught Saul alone in a cave with his pants literally down!  David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but instead he chose to show Saul that he was still willing to be his friend and serve under a man trying to murder him.  (1 Samuel 24)  David didn’t just get cold feet in the cave that day.  He was more capable of killing Saul than most people, and we know it wouldn’t have been his first time killing someone.  David had been waiting over twenty years to become king, wasn’t it about time God lived up to his promise?

David understood something incredible about God’s heart, and I believe it is because of moments like this that David can be called “a man after God’s own heart.”  (Acts 13:22) Over a thousand years before Jesus died on the cross to show us forgiveness, David knew the importance of forgiveness.  David had never heard the parable that Jesus told about the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21), but he became a model of forgiveness in the Old Testament.

Jesus says something very interesting in Matthew chapter five.  “But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44-45 NIV)  Do you see what Jesus said?  “That you may be children of your Father…” He isn’t just talking to fill space.  Jesus just made a connection between being his children and loving those who hate us.  Think back to David’s life, taking note of how he treated his enemies.  He chose to forgive at such a depth that even those who tried killing him were not enemies in David’s eye.  But why is this so important, and what does it really accomplish?  What if the answer is simply that God, as a loving Father, doesn’t want you to live in pain?  As we love other people, we love Jesus himself.  What we do to the “least of these” we do to Christ himself. (Matt. 25:40)

Choosing to not forgive will only hurt you.  We think our un-forgiveness will somehow punish the other person. In reality, un-forgiveness locks you in a cell and tells you the lie that the other person is the one in jail! Another analogy that has stuck with me for some time sums it up very well.  “Un-forgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott, 2000)  Un-forgiveness is the very thing stealing your freedom and joy.  So, take back your freedom and quit consuming this lie!

Most importantly, forgiving those who have hurt you will open up doors of trust that will allow you to develop deeper relationships with other people.  Habitual un-forgiveness creates a pattern of despair that separates us from the people we love.  It closes the door of trust and forces us to lose relationships that will give us life.  Maybe it is time to re-examine relationships that have been damaged.  Jesus will most certainly heal your wounds.  Even if the relationship doesn’t go back to how it was, you’ll know that you are free from anger and that you are better equipped for future relationships to be developed.  Be courageous and choose to love over fear.  Pray this prayer and let go of the pain that others have caused you.

 

Father, I choose to let go of my anger towards this person.  I choose to no longer hold on to the pain of what the have done to me.  I choose to forgive them and I pray that they will experience your healing touch.  Show me ways that I can actively love my enemies and reflect your character.  Give me a new way of seeing the world that isn’t tainted by the lens of un-forgiveness.  Give me a lens that allows others to have the pleasure of knowing me.  And lastly, show me the depths of the love and forgiveness that you have shown me.  I want to be consumed and changed by your love!  Amen.

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 June 2016

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