Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Tag

Taking Ownership   1 comment

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I am not sure if this is a fairly recent phenomenon or if it can be traced back through the centuries but one disturbing reality which I encounter on a regular basis is a lack of individuals taking ownership for their actions.  I find people frequently looking for someone to blame for situations in their lives but failing to look at how they may have been party to what has occurred.  How is it that we seem to have become a society that lives by the words, “It’s not my fault!”?

There are definitely situations in which an individual or group of individuals have done nothing to create or cause.  Life is full of accidents, mistakes, and misunderstandings.  However, I find that too many people want to place blame without ever doing a little self-examination.  Each one of us has the capacity to do beneficial and meaningful actions.  Each one of us has the capacity to inflict hardship and pain on others.  Each one of us has the capacity to make mistakes.  When we do make a mistake or cause difficulty in another person’s life, we need to admit to it and try to rectify the situation as we are capable.

I find it much easier to be understanding and forgive if someone is willing to admit her/his mistake.  Many times the person did what seemed right at that time.  There are times when we all are in the midst of a stressful situation and we say something which we regret.  Each of has times when we forget or fail to follow through.  Everyone has moments when they error.  The key for me is what we do when those situations arise.  Does the person take ownership or does the person come up with excuses and seek someone else to blame?



Forgiveness   Leave a comment

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Why is it that forgiveness seems to be such a difficult thing for people?  I do not think that there has been one person alive (okay, maybe one) that has not had some struggle with forgiveness.  When we feel we have been wronged, we have a desire to exact a price, to receive some type of retribution.  There are times when we are able to move past whatever has occurred rather quickly and other times when we seem incapable of moving past.  So why is forgiving and moving on so difficult?

First, let me say that I do not have a complete answer to this question.  If I did, then forgiveness would not be a struggle for me and I could easily help others in this area.  I struggle with forgiveness often.  I would say that one of the main reasons that forgiveness is difficult is because there are emotions involved.  The timeliness of our ability to forgive is impacted by the level of hurt (an emotion) which has occurred.  The deeper the hurt, the longer it takes us to even consider forgiving someone.

I think that another reason forgiveness is difficult is due to our inability to forgive ourselves.  When we cannot experience forgiveness in our own lives, it is very difficult to extend forgiveness to others.  Sometimes the behaviors of others which cause us hurt and pain are behaviors that we struggle with in our own lives.  When we are the ones impacted by others’ behaviors, we are reminded of the guilt of our own.  This reminder surprisingly causes not a quick desire to forgive (as it probably should) but instead to lash out.  In some strange way we feel if we attack the other person for the behavior, we can deflect our dislike of our own behavior.

Today I am reminded of a line from Scripture:  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

I would be very interested in your thoughts on why it is so difficult to forgive.

Ash Wednesday   Leave a comment

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Today is the day in the Christian calendar when we pause to take inventory of our lives.  As people, we often seem to run from our mortality and often try to run from our sin.  This day is a day when we acknowledge both.  Throughout the world, Christians will attend a worship service where ashes are placed on their foreheads and they are reminded of both of these facts.

Some view this day as a day of sadness.  I would agree that it truly could be a day of sadness if it were not for the reality of the cross.  If we believed that at death everything ended and our existence was gone forever, then sadness definitely would fill us when we think of our mortality.  If we believed that our sin is every with us and there is no way to have it removed, then sadness would fill us.

However, we do not believe those things.  We believe that through the actions of Jesus Christ, both of these concerns are removed.  First, through his death on the cross, we have been given forgiveness for any and all of our sin.  Second, through his resurrection on Easter, we are given eternal life beyond the grave.  So this does not need to be a day of sadness.

Instead, today is a day that reminds us of why Good Friday and Easter are so very important.  We are reminded of our sin and the resulting death.  Yet, we are also reminded of our forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

What Is Grace   Leave a comment


forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

Grace is giving without cause or merit.  Most often we associate grace with forgiveness.  While they are closely linked they are not necessarily the same.  Forgiveness is to grant pardon and no longer feel resentment towards someone who we have determined has wronged us.  We often assume that to offer forgiveness has a requirement of the other person admitting wrong and seeking to be forgiven. Grace says that the requirement is null and void.

I think that I am pretty good at the forgiveness component most of the time.  Where I run into a struggle is in the grace department.  Yet I expect to receive grace.  I also believe that the concept of grace is key to my belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ.  For Christ demonstrated grace and if I profess to be a follower of Christ I am to strive to emulate his characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors.  Therefore, I believe that the learning ground for grace is the church, the community of believers.

Unfortunately, I feel that the church often fails to be this learning ground.  Too often the community of believers fail to demonstrate grace.  We become all about following prescribed rules and seeking to punish the rule breakers.  Yes, there must be accountability.  Yes, there must be an agreed upon set of understandings.  However, this accountability and set of understandings must be in the context of relationships.  We must be about building relationships and in the midst of that determining how we are going to live together in those relationships.  This is where grace plays a key role.  Grace must be prominent in relationships among believers and between believers and those who are outside the community of faith.  This is a key element of what makes relationships of believers different from relationships as defined by society – grace.  As people of Christian faith, we need to learn how to practice this grace so we should be provided opportunity to practice it within the church walls so that we can live it outside the church walls.

What an amazing reality could exist if grace abounded more than punishment in the community of believers.  What an amazing reality could exist if believers demonstrated this new way of living in relationship to the rest of the world.

Day 3 of Holy Week   Leave a comment

Quito, Ecuador, Good Friday 2010: Street proce...

Quito, Ecuador, Good Friday 2010: Street procession entitled Procesión del Jesús del Gran Poder (Jesus with the Great Power). Français : Quito, Équateur, Vendredi saint 2010 : procession appelée Procesión del Jesús del Gran Poder (Jésus au grand pouvoir). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided this week to focus on the most important week for a believer…. Holy Week.  This is the time period between Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday.  During this week, Christians focus on the events of the last week of Jesus’ life.  Palm Sunday recalls the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Everything starts in a very upbeat and positive manner but by the end of the week the attitudes are much different.  Today is the third day of Holy Week.

Today, I spent time considered Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34, NIV)  It points out to me two important realities.  First, that even in the midst of pain, disappointment, abandonment, and dread, Jesus still had an attitude of forgiveness.  I am confident that if I was experiencing what Jesus was experiencing, and if I knew that I was on the path to execution, I would not have forgiveness at the forefront of my mind.  Jesus even provides them an excuse which would not hold water with me.  I am extremely grateful for this demonstration of forgiveness however.  It clearly communicates to me how deeply Jesus’ forgiveness can go.  I need that type of forgiveness.  I know that there are many aspects of my life that need a forgiveness that does not make sense, a forgiveness that I, myself, am not able to offer.

The second reality that stands out to me is that many times I do or say things that I do not even realize will have the impact that they do.  I am truly one of those who “do not know what they are doing.”  While I have never executed someone physically, I wonder how many times I execute someone with my words, my actions, my inaction.  How many times do I not even realize what I am doing to someone else?  to the Lord?  These words call me to be more mindful of how I can negatively impact others and not even realize it.

So on the third day of holy week, I hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness and am challenged to be more mindful of the way I do things unknowingly.


Mixed Messages – Part 2   3 comments

Jesus Does Maths

Jesus Does Maths (Photo credit: LivingOS)

Yesterday, I wrote about the problem of mixed messages.  There was one area that I felt deserved its own post so I saved that for today.  In my first post, I pointed out how in work, parenting, and the church mixed messages can be confusing and frustrating.  I even lifted up that a mixed message can become a barrier for individuals.  I think there is a mixed message than can be very destructive – the message of forgiveness.

The mixed message in regards to forgiveness happens way too often.  A person (or group of people) talk a lot about the importance of forgiveness and how they hope to be forgiven by others.  We all need forgiveness because we all make mistakes and behave poorly at times.  Yet while there is a lot of talk about the importance of forgiveness, many times it is not used in relationships.  This happens in all aspects of life but probably is most noticeable in regards to the community of faith.

One of the central components of the Christian faith is the understanding of forgiveness given to all of humanity by God.  The one person to whom Christians point as the author of the faith, Jesus Christ, came to demonstrate the expansiveness of the forgiveness that God offers to every person.  Scripture records time and time again the stories of Jesus offering forgiveness to those who were viewed as unforgivable.  Even while dying on a cross, Jesus extends forgiveness to one of the men who also was dying on a cross and even to those who placed Jesus on the cross.  It appears that forgiveness is a chief component of the teachings of Jesus.  Many sermons, writings, and blog posts over the centuries have lifted up forgiveness (grace) as something that has been received by every person and should be extended toward others.  The central prayer of the Christian faith which many congregations say together weekly has the petition:  “Forgive our debts (trespasses, sins) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us, those who sin against us).”  So the message of Christians is:  We have received forgiveness from God so we will extend forgiveness to one another.

Yet, the mixed message comes in at this point.  While the message of Christian faith is forgiveness, many within the Christian faith do not extend forgiveness towards others.  If people do not conform to our way of thinking, if people do not behave as we think they should, if people do not have the same list of priorities as we have, then we label them and often hold a grudge against them.  If we feel that we have been wronged, we seek revenge.  So our actions toward others does not align to one of the central messages of our faith.  We send the world a mixed message and poorly represent Christ to the world.

However, this mixed message can be corrected.  It requires at least two important steps.  The first is acknowledging our need for forgiveness from God and one another.  Once our need is acknowledged by us, then accepting the forgiveness which has already be given is part two of the first step.  Realizing how fortunate we are to have received grace (forgiveness), we then should be led to respond by offering the forgiveness to others in our lives.  This is the second important step.  Our gratitude for what the Lord has given to us is demonstrated in the way we offer grace to others.  Instead of talking about forgiveness and yet failing to forgive (MIXED MESSAGE), we talk a little about forgiveness and we demonstrate it in a huge way by our actions toward others.

It is time that the community of faith (the church) stop sending a mixed message regarding forgiveness.  It is time that we live out a central component of our faith.  It is time that we open our hearts and arms to others, especially those needing forgiveness.  We need to invite the broken lives to become one with our life.  Then will the church truly become the body of Christ on earth.  After all, the Apostle Paul reminds us:  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  So if we are in such a great need of forgiveness, then we are no different from anyone else.