Keeping The Walls Down!
The Church is to be a center of healing. The source of healing is God, but the context of healing is the fellowship of believers in the Church. James wrote, "Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." (James 5:16)
"Bishop Herbert Spaugh, of The Moravian Church in the U.S.A., writes about four symbolic objects in a tray on his desk: a pincushion, a nail, a sprinkler head, and an oil can. 'First is the pincushion. The purpose of a pincushion is to receive the pins and needles stuck into it. So part of our task in maintaining emotional health is bearing the pin pricks of others who are frustrated and harassed. The purpose of the nail is to remind me that I must keep myself nailed to the Cross and keep Christ on the throne of my life. A sprinkler head is a part of a sprinkler system… This is a reminder to turn on the Bible promises and let them permeate my thinking and my emotions. Finally there is the oil can which is a reminder of my responsibility to be loving and appreciative in human relationships. This is the best lubricant."' (Herald: pg. 15: May 16, 1973)
Notes Norman Grubb, ''We can liken a man to a house. It has a roof and walls. So also man in his fallen state has a roof on top of his sins between him and God: and he also has walls up, between him and his neighbour. But at salvation, when broken at the Cross, not only does the roof come off through faith in Christ, but the walls fall down flat, and the man's true condition as a sinner saved by grace is confessed before all men. But the trouble soon begins again after conversion, and here lies the basic hindrance to continued revival. Continued revival is continued brokenness, but brokenness is two-way, and that means wells kept down as well as roof off. But man's most deep rooted and subtle sin is the subtle sin of pride. Though hardly realizing it, while we are careful to keep the roof off between ourselves and God through repentance and faith, we soon let those walls of respectability creep up again between ourselves and our brethren. We don't mind our brethren knowing about successes in our Christian living: they can know if we win a soul, if we lead a class, if we get a prayer answered, if we get good things from the Scriptures, because we too get a little reflected credit out of those things. But where we fail, in those many, many areas of our daily lives – that is a different question! If God has to real with us over our impatience or temper in the home, over dishonesty in our business, over coldness or other sins, by no means do we easily bear testimony to our brethren of God's faithful and gracious dealings in such areas of failure. Why not? Just because of pride… The fact is we love the praise of men as well as of God, and that is exactly what the Scriptures say stops the flow of confession before men;" (Continuous Revival; Norman Grubb; pg. 15-17)
"O God, I see that if the Church is to be what it was intended to be, it must recover and practice the warm and open fellowship of confession, sharing, and mutual dependence. The masks must come off and honest confiding must be practiced among Christians within the atmosphere of love. Help ne to find the true freedom which cones through honest confession."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With God's help I will keep the walls of alienation down, and keep the bridges of loving fellowship intact through intimate sharing, honest confession, and mutual burden-bearing!
Ephesians 4:30-32; James 3:2-3
Forbearing With One Another
Every Christian is called to follow the example of Christ who was kind and compassionate and forgiving. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers: "Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives." (Ephesians 4:31 Living Bible)
One of the most important and essential qualities of the sincere Christian is the ability to confess his shortcomings and sins to his fellow men. Why say, 'I'm sorry'? Simply because I, as a believer, am only a "Christian-in-the-making"! I am subject to weaknesses in the body and mind, and I am subject to the possibility of sinning in the spirit. Both weaknesses and sins can adversely affect human relationships and Christian fellowship.
Even among fellow believers, there is a need to forgive and to be forgiven. Extending and receiving forgiveness is the 'oil in the machinery of human relationships'. No machine can run without oil and no human relationship can long be maintained without the ability to extend and to receive forgiveness.
During the next several days, let us together consider several reasons my Christians need to practice saying 'I'm sorry'.
Believers need to ask forgiveness because, even though their motives may be pure, their actions can at the same time be faulty and misunderstood. This can be illustrated with some common examples. A parent looks not only at a child's actions and performance as evidence of a child's love for the parent, but also at the child's motives. Does a mother despise the crude, child-like drawing which her small child gives to her on Mother's Day? Never! The good mother sees the love behind the act, and the drawing (be it ever so imperfect) is cherished because of the child's love. Also, a loving husband does not judge his wife's love for him on the basis of her perfect performance. The wife's devotion and love for the husband may be total and complete, but her actions and words may be very imperfect and at times even crude.
The same is true in any genuine human relationship. Fellow Christians ought to see behind every action and word, to the intention and the motive and the desire. However, because we Christians cannot always see 'below the surface' to the motives, but instead become preoccupied with the imperfect actions and words, we need to confess to each other when actions and words are misunderstood by our fellow Christians. One's actions and words do not always reflect the true motives of the heart, but when one realizes that his actions and words are misunderstood, he needs to communicate the true meaning and intention of his actions and words. "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don't quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible." (Romans 12:17-18 Living Bible)
"Lord, when I slip am unintentionally say the wrong thing, help me to have the humility, sensitivity, and courage to say 'I'm sorry' to the person whom I have hurt or offended. In Jesus' charitable name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I cannot claim perfect behavior or perfect words, but I can claim to serve a perfect God who can perfect my motives within and who can enable me to harmonize my relationships without!
2 Corinthians 4:7; Galatians 6:1-5
Treasures In Earthen Vessels
Why do we Christians need to ask forgiveness of each other, to say 'I'm sorry'? Because we are all subject to weaknesses, misunderstandings, and even sin. None of us is perfect (Galatians 6:5 Living Bible).
Because of the presence of strong-willed opinions among sincere Christians, there is sometimes misunderstandings and consequently a need for seeking forgiveness. Sharp differences in opinions sometimes sever strong-willed Christians. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so great that they parted company (Acts 15:36-41). Christians oftentimes differ in outlook, tastes, and opinions, and from this alone, misunderstandings arise. It is quite easy to talk, but often hard to listen. It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes close-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions oftentimes breeds misunderstanding. Someone said, "To be always right is to be always wrong." When strong differences of opinion on an important issue cause misunderstanding in relationships, believers need to extend forgiveness and receive forgiveness.
Because of the fact of God-given differences in temperaments, there is a need for understanding, forbearance, and even forgiveness. "We need to remember that each of us has inherited certain temperaments and that there are some things which are part of our physical nature… There is as much difference in the temperaments of people as there is in horses. Some horses are slow and easy going by breeding, while others are spirited and high-strung by breeding. They can both be broken and used in a great way, but their natures will never be changed. The same thing is true of people. Some people are by nature slow, placid and calm. They were born that way; they do not deserve any credit for being that way. It is just as much a part of them as the color of their eyes. Now their temptation may not be with temper and nervousness… On the other hand there are some people who are by nature high-strung and of a nervous temperament. Now when they get the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, all of that temperament is not taken away. If it were, they would be useless. It is a part of their make-up. They will have to guard at this point and cultivate the grace of patience and learn to be patient with other people who are slower than they are." (Earthen Vessels; John Church; pg. 52)
The Christian with an impulsive temperament may be misunderstood by the Christian whose temperament is passive. The cheerful temperament may have problems understanding the artistic temperament which is given more often to moodiness. The activistic temperament may have problems with the meditative temperament. The extroversive temperament may grow impatient with the introversive temperament When different temperaments conflict and patience grows thin, there is need for the oil of forgiveness.
"Lord, help me to be patient with those who differ with me, and help me to overlook the personality flaws in others while I focus on their strengths and virtues. Make me slow to judge and quick to forgive."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I feel I must disagree with another person, I will disagree agreeably, maintaining the 'unity of the faith in the bond of peace'.
A Call To Deeper Understanding Of One Another
There are many reasons why Christians need to learn to forgive one another. Another reason is this: Because of the fact of 'Repressed Complexes' among sincere Christians, the expressions of which may prove to be offensive and misunderstood. Dr. Mavis, former long-time professor at Asbury Seminary, explains and illustrates this point quite clearly. Notes Dr. Mavis, "The term 'repressed complexes' refers to emotionally toned feelings, memories, and ideas that were excluded from the conscious because they were stressful, humiliating, and painful. These feelings, memories, and ideas became buried in the unconscious beyond the reach of volitional recall, but they remained dynamic, being the source of many unconscious urges. Repressed complexes, representing some of the deep drives of human personality, exert an enormous influence upon human behavior… Repressed complexes are often rooted in unfulfilled personality needs, in situations in which one has been deprived of basic emotional satisfactions. There is an urge in every person to fulfill the basic needs of human personality, namely, a sense of security, of love, and of adequacy.
"An instance from the laboratory of life will illustrate the working of repressed urges. John Smith, a lay leader in a holiness congregation, is given to making frequent references concerning his achievements, and some of his fellow members say that he is ambitious in the matter of holding offices. He becomes depressed if he is criticized and downcast if his ideas are not accepted. At such times he finds it hard to be thoroughly cooperative.
"Smith has gone to the altar during every revival meeting for the last several years and has professed each time to be sanctified. His old problems have returned a few days following each altar victory. Smith told his pastor that he had sincerely believed at the time of each revival meeting that he had been really sanctified 'that time'. Most of Smith's fellow members believe that he has never been sanctified because he either will not consecrate himself or he cannot believe.
"A closer view of this earnest man reveals that he has a low sense of personal adequacy. He feels that he is not the equal of other people, whereas, as a matter of fact, he is more capable than most of the other lay officers. He longs fervently for a healthful sense of recognition which he was denied in his childhood. In desiring to view himself as a man among men, he makes frequent references to his achievements. The election to an office is the most tangible evidence that he is adequate. The acceptance of his ideas, which are usually sound, is the best certification that he is equal to others. Smith's deep urge for a sense of wholesome recognition and adequacy is the source of his acts that suggest self-enhancement." (The Word and The Doctrine; Chapter 23; Mavis; pg. 311,312)
"O God, I am increasingly seeing that there is always need for great charity and restraint in judging fellow Christians' actions, many of which can be wrongly interpreted. Help me to evidence a forgiving spirit, in light of the fact that the expressions of 'repressed complexes' can appear to be carnal, when in fact, they are not motivated by carnal desires at all.
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Helping others to discover and to fulfill their greater potentials is one of the greatest thrills of life!
Matthew 7:12; Galatians 6:9-10; James 4:17
Confessing Our Sins Of Omission
Sins of commission (1 John 3:4) need forgiveness. But what about sins of omission (James 4:17)? They too need forgiveness! Many pagan religions have an ethical standard of a negative prohibition:
Hinduism: "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.
Buddhism: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."
However, Jesus said, "Treat other People exactly as you would like to be treated by them – this is the essence of all true religion." (Matt. 7:12 Phillips) Jesus commanded us not to do evil – true! But far, far more than this! Jesus "gave a commission, not a prohibition… It's not a matter of not doing to others but of doing the thoughtful, considerate, sympathetic thing." (The Freedom of Forgiveness; David Augsburger; pg. 110)
How carefully should we apply this standard to our lives? "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10) When I have opportunity to do good and do it not, then I have sinned against God and man – and I need forgiveness. This means that I am constantly in need of mercy and forgiveness – from God and from my fellow men! When I have opportunity to do good to my neighbor and do it not – I have sinned. When I fail to pray for those that are my duty to pray for, I have sinned against them. It was Samuel who said to King Saul, "As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." When I cease to pray, I sin against God and against my fellowman. Have you ever asked anyone to forgive you for not praying more consistently or fervently for him?
When I have opportunity and fail to attend the House of God (Church) for public worship or for prayer, I have sinned against God, against myself, and against my fellow brother whom I should have helped through my presence at the public worship service or prayer meeting or Bible study group. Hebrews 10:25 says, ''Let us not neglect our church meetings." When I neglect them, I sin against the fellowship group who are depending upon me. 'I am my brother's keeper'. To neglect the means of grace – prayer, Scripture reading, fellowship, witnessing – is to sin.
"Neglect is the greatest sin of all. To neglect God's offer of new life, to neglect God's free gift of salvation, to neglect God's power for living, to neglect doing God's work in our world, to neglect being God's people today – is the sin that damns a man forever. And by his own choice. 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation' (Hebrews 2:3)?'" (The Freedom of Forgiveness; David Augsburger; pg. 108)
"O God, help me never to forget what a godly man once said to John Wesley when the latter was searching for spiritual fulfillment: 'Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.' In Jesus' name."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To know God is to find myself, in order to give myself away to others.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 7:1
Confessing Our Sins Of 'Judgmentalism'
Because the body is weak, temptation is strong, and Satan is subtle, it is possible for a Christian to stumble into sin and, as a result, seriously offend his brother. The Christian who falls into sin needs love, mercy, and forgiveness – not condemnation or criticism. "Dear brothers, if a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help his back onto the right path, remembering that next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong. Share each other's troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord's command. If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody." (Galatians 6:1-3 Living Bible)
Matthew 7:1 says, "Judge not that ye be not judged." When I judge another Christian brother, I sin against him. Barclay suggests three reasons why no one is capable of judging another: (1) We never know the whole facts or the whole person. We cannot understand his circumstances or temptations. (2) It is almost impossible for any man to be strictly impartial in his judgement. (3) No man is good enough to judge another man. Our own faults and our own inability to resolve them automatically disqualify us as fair critics.
Notes John Church, "This leads me to call your attention to the fact that in the Book of Leviticus, the 13th and 14th chapters, the truth is brought out in a very striking way, that sometimes there was brought to the High Priest a person who had an eruption which looked very much as if the person was a leper. However, the High Priest was not hasty in his judgement of that person, for it was a serious thing to pronounce him 'a leper. If there was any doubt at all in the mind of the Priest, he always gave the person involved the benefit of the doubt. He had him shut up for seven days am then he looked again. If he was still not sure, he withheld judgement and had the person shut up for seven more days. In some cases this was repeated until a period of twenty one days Passed before he would pass final judgment on a person. I have often read this passage and thought of what a wonderful thing it would be if all Christian people would manifest the same patience in judging their fellow men about their sins am faults. Just suppose that we would be willing to wait twenty one days before we finally passed judgment upon the conduct of our brother. What a different world this would be! The trouble with us is that we condemn and pass judgment before all the evidence is in, and many people are condemned before they have a hearing. Too bad that this is true, for many lives have been hurt and reputations have been ruined by such hasty judgment. Let us be patient and wait until all the evidence is in; it may not be as bad as we think." (Earthen Vessels; pg. 16,17)
"Father, forgive me for my critical, judgmental attitude towards my fellow Christians in the church. Help me to be slow to speak and quick to listen, slow to judge and quick to forgive. In Jesus' charitable name , Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus said 'Judge Not', and He also said 'Ye shall know them by their fruits'. Fruit-testing (1 John 4:1-3)? Yes! Critical Judging (Matthew 7:1)? No!
Ephesians 4:30-32; Romans 12:17-21
Forgiveness Assures Continuing Happiness And Health
Forgiveness is important to assure one's continuing happiness and health. I am not built for hate and I am not built to carry grudges, but rather I am built for cultivating love. Anger has devastating effects upon the physical body. "Some doctors put a tube down through the nostrils of a man into his stomach. They tested the contents of his stomach according to the states of his mind. When he was in good humor, digestion went on normally; but after they had purposely made him angry, digestion completely stopped. Only when they brought him back into good humor would digestion start again. This fact was at the basis of a doctor's advice when he said: 'You ought to feel good-minded when you eat. If you don't feel good- minded, you'd better layoff from your eating.'" (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 52)
A doctor was baffled over the cause of sickness in a baby. One day in visiting the child he came into the home while the parents were quarrelling, and saw the mother suckling the baby meanwhile. The doctor threw up his hands and said, 'Now I know what is the matter with your baby- you are poisoning it by this ill will.' The poison was in the mother's milk, put there by anger. In two days the child was dead." (Ibid; pg. 52)
Says E. Stanley Jones, "Hate is sand in the machinery of life; love is oil – and life works better with oil than with sand. The lovers love others – and themselves; the haters hate others – and themselves." (Ibid; pg. 56)
There is a popular book that is entitled 'Love or Perish', and that precisely is man's choice. The man who refuses to receive God's love and who refuses to love others is perishing – gradually but surely – mentally, spiritually, and even physically!
"Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander and no more malicious remarks. Be kind to one another; be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:30-32 Phillips)
"Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don't quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don't take the law into your own hands. Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be 'heaping coals of fire on his head.' In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don't let evil get the upper hand but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:17-21 Living Bible) There is a saying that goes: "Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging an injury makes you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him!"
"Father, help me not to hold grudges. Help me hardly even notice when others do me wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5). Enable me to forgive forgetfully! May there never be room in my heart for the memory of a wrong. Release me from all bitterness and resentment! In Jesus' powerful name, Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will react positively to people's negative actions, never allowing the rude actions and the crude attitudes of senseless people to determine my behavior!
Forgive In Order To Be Forgiven!
"I never forgive", General James Oglethorpe said to John Wesley. "Then I hope, sir", replied Wesley, "you never sin!" Says David Augsburger: "If you intend to claim all your rights in life, to even all scores against you, to demand every penny ever owed you, then go ahead. But if you give no inch, expect no second chances; if you show no mercy, do not hope for mercy; if you extend no forgiveness you can expect none. Life, love, mercy, and forgiveness are all two-way streets. To receive, you must give. Humbly. Aware that you are constantly in need of the understanding and acceptance of others and the loving mercy of God. 'All that take the sword shall perish by the sword', said Jesus Christ. Is there any doubt?"
Said Jesus, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15)
When we pray, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," we are making a proposition with God! We are proposing to God that He treat us in the same way we treat our fellowmen, in regards to offenses and sins. We are really asking God to forgive us in the very fashion as we forgive those who sin against us!
How do we want God to treat us? with justice or with mercy? With mercy! We want God to forgive us and to forgive us Immediately, Constantly, Finally, and Completely, and we want God to Forget as well as Forgive! And this is the way God does forgive, and this is the way we ought to forgive others. When God forgives us, we want Him to be on speaking terms with us – warmly communicating and fellowshipping with us again.
Notes Augsburger, "Beyond even forgetting, there is healing! Reconciliations! Forgiveness is not finally complete until the severed friendship is mended. And the new weld of depth-forgiveness should result in a deeper, stronger union afterward than ever existed before!"
Our Scripture for today teaches us that if we withhold forgiveness, then our own forgiveness from God is withheld or forfeited! In this story in Matthew 18:21-35, "Jesus teaches that the forgiveness of God, though fully and freely granted in pure mercy and grace to undeserving sinners, nevertheless remains conditional, according to the individual's subsequent response to the gracious forgiveness which he has received. This is the point of His parable. To deny this is to deny that the parable has meaning." (Life In The Son; Shank; pg. 39)
George Herbert once wrote, "He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven."
"Father, when I am tempted to hold grudges and to 'lick my wounds', help me to remember that no one could inflict more hurt on me than what I have already inflicted on You when I helped crucify your Son through my sins! If you can forgive me the big sins I have sinned against you, how can I withhold forgiveness from those who have, either thoughtlessly or volitionally, sinned against me? let me enjoy the freedom of forgiveness!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will forgive all, in order that I might know forgiveness of all!
Learning To Forgive
Notes William Barclay, "If we are to forgive we must learn to understand. There is a proverb which says, 'To know all is to forgive all." (The King and the Kingdom; pg. 135)
We must seek to understand the motives for people's behavior. We must be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Impoliteness may be caused by worry or pain. Suspicion may be caused by misinformation. Impatience may be caused by bad nerves. To understand the cause for one's behavior is to be aided in developing the forgiving spirit. How much easier it would be to forbear with one another, if we sought to understand the personality make- up and the behavioral motives of those with whom we differ.
Not only must we learn to understand, but we must learn to forget. "Our memories are queer things; they have a bad habit of forgetting the things we ought to remember and remembering the thing we ought to forget… We must never say that we will never forget what someone has done to us; we must never allow our minds to think and brood about anything that has been done to us. It is difficult – only Jesus can make us able to do it, but we must learn to forget." (Ibid)
Barclay further notes, "If we are to forgive, we must learn to love others. That is what Jesus told us to do when he told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The word Jesus uses, 'to love', is a very interesting word. …It is a word which means that no matter what the other person does to us we will never seek anything but his good. We will never do to him as he did to us; we will do to him as we would like him to do to us.
"Abraham Lincoln was blamed for being far too kind and courteous to those who were his opponents and his enemies. His friends told him that he was foolish to behave like that; that his duty was to destroy his enemies. His answer was, 'Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?'
"When we learn to love others then we win the greatest of all victories; we forgive them; and by loving them, by seeking nothing but their good, we change our enemies into our friends." (Ibid)
The need to forgive is apparent, even among sincere Christians: (1) Because of faulty judgment among sincere Christians, (2) Because of different degrees of spiritual 'light' among sincere Christians, making it easy for believers to judge each other, (3) Because of the presence of strong-willed opinions among sincere believers, (4) Because of the fact of God-given differences in Christians' temperaments, (5) Because of the fact of 'Repressed Complexes' among sincere Christians, the expressions of which may prove to be offensive and misunderstood, (6) Because fellow believers can sin against each other through neglect, (7) Because fellow Christians can willfully and hurtfully sin against each other.
"Father, I now realize that health and happiness come only when I constantly express good will towards all persons – even my offenders. I further realize that my enjoyment of forgiveness from You is maintained as I maintain a forgiving spirit towards others. Help me, therefore, to forgive others just as you, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven me!"
AFFIRMATION FOR WE DAY: Learning to understand, learning to forget, and learning to love with God's love, all lead to an abundant life here and eternal life hereafter!
1 Peter 2:19-22; Luke 23:32-34; Acts 7:54-60
Unusual Examples Of Forgiveness
Said Jesus, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45) An Armenian asked E. Stanley Jones one time, "How can I forgive the Turks?" Jones replied, "I could tell him only how one Armenian girl has been enabled to forgive a Turk. She and her brother had been attacked by Turks in a lane, and while she had escaped by climbing over a wall, her brother had been brutally killed before her eyes. She was a nurse, and later on while nursing in the hospital recognized one of her patients as the very Turkish soldier who had murdered her brother. Her first feeling was: Revenge! He was very ill, just hovering between life and death. The slightest neglect, and he would die. And no one would know. His life was absolutely in her hands. But instead of revenge she decided for Christ's sake to forgive him. She fought for his life and won, nursing him back to health. When he was convalescent, she told him who she was. The Turkish soldier looked at her in astonishment and said, 'Then why didn't you let me die, when you had me in your power?' 'I couldn't', answered the girl. 'I just couldn't, for I am a Christian, and my own Master forgave His enemies who crucified Him. I must do the same, for His sake.' 'Well', said the hardened Turk in astonishment, 'If that is what it means to be a Christian, I want to be one.'" (Abundant Living; pg. 59)
In the heart of the African continent is the tiny land of Burundi, a country no bigger than the state of Delaware. Yet within this small area, several years ago, carnage and suffering took place on a gigantic scale. The trouble began when the Hutus made an attempt to overthrow the ruling tribe. The attack failed, and the Hutsis launched a campaign of vicious reprisals that had all the appearance of racial genocide. Hundreds of thousands were brutally killed, an estimated 1 out of 8 people in the entire country! The reprisals in Burundi were not directed primarily against the Christians, but against the Hutus as a tribe. However, since many of the Hutus were Christians, the leadership of the Church became decimated, A Christian leader looked into the eyes of the frenzied soldier who loomed over him with a club, battering his bloody head. And the Christian said to his murderer, "I do not despise you. Satan do this through you. I forgive you." Many Christians died, forgiving their murderers.
It is written concerning Jesus, "He never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly." (1 Peter 2:22-23 Living Bible) Jesus is our example to follow. Through the enabling grace of God, you can forgive those who have injured you!
"Father, your grace is all-sufficient. Help me never to condone wrong, but let me also never condemn the wrong-doer. Vengeance is Yours! You will repay. It is my duty to love and to forgive. Uproot the bitterness in my heart and shed abroad your love in my heart by your powerful Holy Spirit. Enable me to return good for evil, and thus fulfill the royal law of love!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will enable me both to hate sin intensely and to love sinners unconditionally!
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Resentment'
Do you agree with the following statement: "The source of healing is God, but the context of healing is the fellowship of believers in the local Church." (Note James 5:16)
Is it possible for a hurting believer to experience personal spiritual healing from God without that same believer openly confessing his sins to God and openly sharing his hurts with his fellow believers?
What is the symbolism behind each of the four objects which Bishop Spaugh had on his office desk?
What conditions does Norman Grubb say must be maintained if the Church is to enjoy continued revival?
Why is it so important for fellow believers, within the context of the local church, to understand the motives and the desires and the intentions behind each others actions and words? Is it necessary for a believer to acknowledge his faulty actions, if behind his faulty actions there are pure motives? Why or why not?
What kinds of challenges sometimes arise in the fellowship of the local church because of the presence of many different strong-willed Christians and because of the fact of many different temperaments?
What are "Repressed Complexes", and how does an understanding of this psychological phenomena help in realigning with personality conflicts and relationship problems within the context of the local church?
How does the "Golden Rule" as taught by Jesus differ from the ethical standards for conduct taught by other religions?
Give illustrations and examples of 'sins of omission'.
Why does David Augsburger consider 'Neglect' as the greatest sin of all?
Give three reasons why no one is really qualified to judge another person (Matthew 7:1).
What does Leviticus, chapters 13 and 14, teach us concerning the attitude of judgmentalism?
What attitude should a Christian express towards a fellow Christian who has fallen into sin, according to Galatians 6:1-3?
What evidence is there that health am happiness can be maintained only as long as one maintains charitable attitudes towards his fellowmen?
What does Romans 12:17-21 teach us regarding vengeance? What is the difference between seeking to punish wrongdoers in the name of 'justice', and seeking vindictively to repay those who have mistreated you? What is the difference between redemptive rehabilitation of criminals and vindictive punishment of criminals?
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Resentment' (continued)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: If we withhold forgiveness, then our own forgiveness from God is withheld or forfeited." (Note Matthew 66:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35). Is God's forgiveness conditional or unconditional? Is it possible for a one-time believer to become so bitter and hardened and unforgiving in his spirit, that he not only forfeits God's forgiveness but also severs his own relationship with God, thus jeopardizing his personal salvation which could result in ultimate eternal death?