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Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Difference Between Thinking and Doing

How many times must I be told something before it takes hold in me? Apparently, the count is innumerable. But just as apparently, God is patient with me, and to Him, I am worth the wait.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was frustrated and I took that frustration to church with me. I wish I could say that I'm one of those people who can put thoughts on hold, those who can pick and choose what flows through their mind, but I'm not. Something happened on this particular Sunday morning that upset me and I was angered. I realized it, though, and asked God for forgiveness and forgave the individual the anger was directed at. On the way to church I would recall what had happened, and I'd get angry, recognize it, and ask God for forgiveness and I'd forgive...again. This happened countless times on the way to church, in church, during praise and worship... It happened so many times that I was feeling guilty for harboring this anger and for how many times I was asking for forgiveness. It was like a vicious cycle. I'd think of what had happened, I'd get angry. I'd realize my anger and ask God for forgiveness and I'd forgive the person who'd wronged me...then my mind would return to the act that had angered me and it would start all over again. The more it happened, the more guilty I felt. Plus, it was robbing me of my favorite time of the week, the time I usually get lost in praise and worship...and of my joy.

Sometime during the week, I read Matthew 18. Peter asked Jesus how often someone should be able to sin against him and he still forgive them. Jesus was very clear on this...we're to forgive 10 times however many times we believe we should forgive. Matthew 18:21-35 tells us the story of a servant who owed his master a large sum of money, and the master was going to sell not only the man, but his family and all belongings to regain this debt his servant owed. Only, the servant begged forgiveness of his debt, and the master was moved with compassion and showing mercy, forgave his servant his debt. In turn, though, the servant was owed a small fraction of what he'd been forgiven, by a fellowservant and he physically threatened this fellowservant. When his fellowservant begged for time to repay, the servant refused to forgive him and had him thrown into prison. The master, when he heard of what the servant he'd shown mercy had done, was disturbed and called his servant to him, saying: 'O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?' The master then had his servant delivered to the tormentors (K.J.'s, the Living Bible says the master sent him to the torture chamber) until he had repaid his debt.

I tell you all of this to get to the very last verse; "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses". The English Standard version puts it this way: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart".

Forgive from the HEART.

I've been emotionally forgiving. Forgiving with my mind, but not with my heart.

Here is what came to my mind: I believe I've been forgiven and take great comfort in it. I'm not about to start sugar coating my past; I was a thief, adulterer, liar, and the list goes on. The Word tells us that when God forgives us our sins He remembers them NO MORE. What if He did remember them...and every time He remembered them, we faced His wrath again and again. What if at the time of our death, our sins came to His mind, and He sent us to the torture chamber?

He doesn't forgive emotionally, because emotional is the result of the moment. He forgives us out of Love, because Love is eternal. It's a done deal. Regardless of the moment, of the circumstance, of the occasional disappointment, He loves us. It's a heart thing. Not mental, not emotional, but a Love thing. When I continue to get angry over the same thing again and again, apparently I've not forgiven it. I've not had His compassion, and therefore I can't show His mercy. This isn't about the person who has wronged me, the wrong here is within me. ME.

We're told that what we freely receive to freely give. I've received that forgiveness freely, I didn't pay for it, and yet I'm not freely giving it. I have no difficulty freely giving clothes, food or money. Why is it so difficult to freely give forgiveness?

Do I want to be given over to my tormentors? No, trust me I don't. But that's what the Word says will happen if I do not forgive, FROM MY HEART, EVERY ONE OF MY BROTHERS THEIR TRESPASSES.

Pray on this, my friends. It doesn't say to befriend them, to dine with them or to even make an occasional call to see how they're doing. But it does say to forgive them from your heart.

I praise Your Holy name, I thank You for Your forgiveness of my wrongs and for loving me. I am so thankful that You do not remember my sins, but once forgotten they remain forgotten. I ask You, Father, to help me grow in this kind of Love, that I, too, can forgive completely without remembering it again and again. I accept the Love You have given me in the form of Jesus Christ. That Love lives within me, therefore I know I am capable of forever forgiveness. I thank You for the conviction of Your Holy Spirit. I ask You to forgive me of my sin of not freely giving what I have so freely received, complete forgiveness. There is a part of me that wants someone to earn their forgiveness, and yet I could never have earned mine. Help me, Father, to cast that part of me out and to replace it completely and totally with Your Word, Your Love and Your forgiveness.
In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.