Thursday, May 1, 2008

Forgiveness and Stuff

So, Chris and I are currently reading a book together lent us by a friend of ours. The name of the book is The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. Basically it's about dealing with offense and bitterness when others have wronged you.

We're not super far into it, and we obviously need to finish reading it to see what else it has. The first few chapters were kind of iffy, not that they were bad but a lot of it is very basic stuff (at least it feels that way - maybe a bi-product of an MK and a PK reading?). However, chapter four had some interesting thoughts in it. more about the book for now because I don't like dealing with a book prior to finishing it. However, it has brought to the forefront of my ever-running brain some questions I have been mulling over for, well in some cases, a few years.

Basic establishment of my personal belief here: Forgiveness of others is important, in fact vital. I believe that we can hinder the work of God in our lives if we hold on to bitterness/anger/offense whatever you want to call it. Matthew 6:14-16 say it all: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Pretty blunt there. Not a whole lot I question about that.

Belief in something and action on something are very different things! And although I have been trying to practice this belief in avenues of my life, and I don't question the concept of forgiveness, it's some of the particulars that I have questions about. Namely, I think it's three (well kind of four) questions.

1. What does forgiveness look like? I know the basic concept of what forgiveness is, but do you actually have to go to someone and say, “I forgive you” or what? Is simply forgiving them in your heart enough? And if it does need to be “verbalized” how do you say that to someone who doesn’t think they need forgiving and probably will pick a fight with you if you dare imply that they’re at fault and need forgiveness?!

L.M. Montgomery has a short story (the title of which I currently cannot remember but I will try to look it up later) about this woman who holds this grudge against another woman for like twenty plus years. And this woman finally decides she needs to extend forgiveness to this other woman. Well, she goes to talk to this other woman and that woman basically (unintentionally) turns the whole situation back on the first woman and forgives her! This makes the first woman furious (because she's trying to be all magnanimous with forgiving the other woman) and she winds up just as mad as she was when she first got offended.

The story makes me laugh, however, in reading it, the first woman comes across (at least initially) as truly trying to settle this problem she has had for so many years and that is why she goes to talk to the other woman. However, in bringing up all of the past, she actually wound up making the entire situation worse. Should she have simply been praying for forgiveness in her heart or did she truly have a responsibility to go to the other person to extend forgiveness to them (especially as the other person didn't even remember the situation had ever occured)?

Different scenario...let's say someone is physically abused by someone else (abuse, rape, whatever you want to put with it). God deals in the victim's heart and that person chooses to forgive the perpetrator. Does that mean the victim has to go talk to the perpetrator to extend that forgiveness - especially if the perpetrator has never asked for forgiveness? Or is it enough that the victim truly has forgiven that person in their heart?

2. How do you ask for someone else's forgiveness if you're afraid of they're using that humility or viewing it as a weakness they can use against you to continue to control/hurt your life?

3. In either scenario, if forgiveness has occured, what kind of relationship is then be expected?

In the case of Chris and I and his parents, they are not really people who are always good in our lives. They cause friction, pain, hurt, they have damaged us/him emotionally, spiritually, to some degree mentally (stress-wise) and in the past even physically. And, please understand, while much of this has occured in the last ten months, it is not in any way, shape, or form limited to only ten months. This negativity, damage, whatever adjective you want to put with it, has been around for a long time.

On a flip side, while we have tried to do our best in dealing with this situation, I have no doubt that there are things we could and perhaps (and if the Holy Spirit really starts dealing with us about it - then we will) should ask for forgiveness about. If we were led to a spot to ask for their forgiveness for whatever (and truthfully, I say that there are things we probably should ask for forgiveness for, but at this point, I don't have any conviction about anything that we have said or done, and so this is all kind of hypothetical. However, I do know that sometimes God works healing in situations by asking one of the individuals to be humble enough to admit their own weaknesses or faults in a given situation, first)...

Anyways, if we were led to a place of asking for forgiveness, does that automatically mean that we're supposed to be reestablishing an actual real relationship with them? But I know Chris (or myself, for that matter) is not in a place where becoming close or even spending time with them is going to be much of an option at this point – particularly if his parents refuse to recognize the damage they’ve done from their side because if they don’t see it, then it will continue to happen. And I don’t want to be influenced by that any more; it’s not healthy for us, spiritually or emotionally.

And, frankly, right now, any kind of relationship with them scares me.

Particuarly if it was just the later scenario and they were in no ways repentent about any of their side of all this.

My instinct is to say that not reestablishing a relationship is not necessarily wrong because, going to my example with question one, a victim of abuse is almost foolish to assume that just because a person has said certain words ("I'm sorry" "Forgive me") that change has actually occured. However, that could just be my more intrepidacious side running from having to try a relationship with them.

However, in a different personal example from my life, just because I have forgiven an individual who hurt me greatly a long time ago, that does not mean that in any way, shape, or form, am I ever planning on going near him again. Doesn't mean I hold a grudge, doesn't mean I am bitter against him in my heart, but I have no intention of making myself vulnerable to him again. Is that wrong? I don't think so.

The book used the example of David and Saul and how David didn't act out of vengence against Saul. However, what the book didn't mention was that even after Saul said to David that he (Saul) was wrong for how he was treating David, David didn't go back to the court of Saul. He forgave Saul...but he didn't put himself back into a place of being vulnerable to Saul. And sure enough, Saul reverted back to trying to kill David pretty soon.


Sometimes this whole, "trying to grow into what God really wants me to be" lifestyle, really is not fun!

Thoughts anybody?

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