(Job 38:1-7; 42:1-6,10)
Lesson 4 -- third quarter 1998
June 28, 1998
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications
"How can you forgive me? I will understand if you never trust me again." The shame and the pain could not be mistaken. He had violated my trust, had deliberately deceived me, had been unfaithful to his wife, had undermined my standing and leadership in both the church and in the community, had brought great reproach to the name of the Lord, had inflicted great turmoil on the church and had severely destabilized his family...and mine.
But he was my friend.
How do you treat such friends?
The Christian has two basic choices: respond naturally or respond naturally. Yes, ma'am; yes, sir. Those are your options, make no mistake. So take your pick:
Respond Naturally. This natural response springs from anger, bitterness, mistrust, condemnation, vengefulness and all their kin. When we choose this avenue we have little interest in the restoration of the friendship, much less the restoration of the individual. With this response we elevate ourselves above the other and manifest a desire to ensure the individual reaps precisely what he has sown...and therefore what he justly deserves. This is the response that, from a position of "righteous" strength, judges the fallen. This natural response is considerably more concerned with my hurt than his.
Respond Naturally. This natural response flows from love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and empathy. The choice of this response comes most naturally to those who have experienced for themselves love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and empathy in the aftermath of failure. This response shows its practitioner considers himself no better than its object. Such a response is the natural fruit of one interested primarily in putting people back together.
So, how will you respond?
Too often, our decision is formulated according to the character, disposition and attitude of the offender. My friend, that is the wrong natural response! We Christians have no business at all responding to people on such an ungodly basis. We should not respond to them on the basis of how or what they are. We must respond according to the character of God in us. We ought to respond according to what we are. Why should another's character determine my response? Think about this: We respond from the depth of our own character.
Now, back to the first question: "How can you forgive me?" Well, how could I not?! In the first place, I have been the beneficiary of forgiveness myself, primarily and most amazingly from God, but also from many others. How could I dare withhold it from another? Forgiven, I forgive. In the second place, unforgiveness is a heavy load. Why should I carry such a burden? In addition to that, though, the load of unforgiveness will do nothing to help the wounded advance again. In the third place, I fear the wrath of God. In forgiving I express my desire for ongoing and future forgiveness (Matthew 6:12). In forgiving I demonstrate both an understanding and an acceptance of the principle of restoration. No, not the restoration of the sinner this time. Rather, the restoration of my own guilt, accountability and punishment (Matthew 18:23-35). Finally, I forgive because I love God . . . and my offender.
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