Boston Marathon 2013 – Reflections

April 15, 2013 will be a day not soon forgotten in the United States.  As an iconic sports event held on Patriots Day, the Boston Marathon was supposed to typify all that is essential to the American dream.  It was to be a day to celebrate.  Instead it ended in tragedy with 3 dead and more than 100 wounded, with the lives of civilians on U.S. soil rocked and destroyed.

In the past week other tragedies have occurred around the world.  A week ago a bomb blast in Damascus killed 15.  Last night a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the Iranian-Pakistani border, killing at least 8.

What makes this different?  Because it happened at home [for us], and the expectation is of safety at home, and that these things only happen “over there”.  Increasingly however, tragedy is striking close to home, and it is home-grown. Newtown is still fresh in our memory.

The Boston Marathon bombing is another reminder of how quickly life can change, and how we should not put off until tomorrow what we need to do today… particularly in the area of relationships – to God and to each other – in love, forgiveness, compassion, patience, and reconciliation.  Tomorrow may never come.

It is also a reminder of the transitory nature of this phase of life that we live, and that we need to make each day count and not waste it or get hung up on self-absorption.  The way we live each day is how we live our lives.

The challenge, especially in times of challenge and suffering, is to not let the experiences of your past and present to negatively define your future.

We all can, and must, choose to go on.  We all can, and must, choose to respond positively and truthfully, even in the face of danger or tragedy.  As someone once said, “you can choose to curse the darkness, or you can choose to light a candle and dispel the darkness”.

In the summer of 2005, I was in London when the tube was bombed and civilians died. One day we were on a bus returning to the City from Oxford, and the tour ended at Victoria Station where we were to get on the tube.  The tour guide asked us if we were afraid, and then told us not to fear.  England, he said, had endured years of IRA bombings, and did not and would not bow before it… NOTHING would deter us from continuing to live life without fear or surrender.  So don’t be afraid, he told us… get on the tube because this was a new day. We would NOT change our lives or bow to fear.

I had a similar experience in 2009.  I was in Israel on a tour of the Holy Land, and one day we visited the Golan Heights overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), and then went on to visit historic sites under the shadow of the Lebanese border.  The next day, while in Tiberias, we learned that Hezbollah had launched rockets into Israel right where we had been the previous day.  When we inquired of our hosts, they said that they lived with the threat of attack on a regular basis, but that they would not be shaken because Israel was their home and they would not surrender to bombers or rockets or hatred.

In both countries, they have learned three lessons very well. First, as a people, they will carry on, no matter what.  Threat and attack and pain and suffering and loss do not lead to a crisis of faith or of soul-searching or of wondering where God has gone. These lead rather to a strengthening of resolve and, if anything, greater certainty of one’s identity.  Second, as individuals and as a people they have come to recognize that a refusal to surrender to fear is far more powerful than any weapon or any right to bear arms.  Third, they have learned from experience that the threat of terror is home grown, and comes from people who sound like you and look like others in your midst.

These are lessons we need to learn in North America.  First, our identity is not defined by our prosperity or by the crises within our borders. If our identity has been defined in these terms, it needs to be redefined. God is still here in our midst… but we need to better define what His blessings look like, and what a strong, or peaceful, or just society requires of each of us… as in Christian terminology, we are in the business of putting His kingdom and its principles into effect.  American values, or Canadian values, need to be redefined in term’s of God’s values and what He would require of us.

Second, and this is particularly true in America, our response needs to be one where we refuse to surrender to fear or anger or revenge, but rather to carry on, and implement the values of a Godly, just society, not by force of arms, but by strength of character, and by faith.  The response to defend the right to bear arms, no matter what, is no answer.  Qualifying the meaning and context of the Second Amendment, and realizing that the right to bear arms is instead a privilege and a responsibility, is essential. Change will be brought about by a change of hearts and a return to Godly character, and not by the right to carry handguns and assault weapons.  America, like Canada, is not a nation under God at this current time, and we had better realize it and stop fooling ourselves.  To call us a Christian nation at this juncture is to make a faith statement as a downpayment on a future that requires us to return to God and His values, and implement these in our society.

Third, there must be a recognition that the threat of violence against our state and its people is coming increasingly from within, from people who sound like us and look like others in our midst, but who do not live by Godly values or by what is defined in the New Testament as the fruit of the Spirit, the outworking of one’s faith in practical terms.  This means re-defining our notions of “enemy combatants” or the stereotypes we conjure up when the word “terrorist” is used. It was distressing to hear, even today, that the FBI were following up on a tip, and declaring that they were looking for a perpetrator who was a dark-skinned male, possibly black and with a foreign accent.  In word association, one says Palestinian, you think terrorist; one says Muslim or fundamentalist Christian, you think extremist; one says dark-skinned or black, many think criminal.  This must change… for in most of the mass violent crimes committed in America in the past couple of  years, the perpetrators were white, born in the U.S., speaking English with regional accents, of no particular religious conviction, and only a minority of them had previous criminal records.

Profiling on the basis of skin-colour, ethnicity, language, gender, age or religious conviction must end.  The perpetrators of violent crimes are home grown and come from every walk of life.  There are individuals who do good things and individuals who do bad things, and sometimes they are the same individuals.  It is time for a re-load of American values based on God’s purposes and values.  It is time for a re-load of Canadian values based on God’s purposes and values, to recapture in people’s hearts the scripture carved into the Parliamentary building: “and He shall have dominion from sea to sea”.

It is fallacy on the part of the NRA to desire to place armed individuals in our schools… as if arming ourselves with weapons is the answer.  They say that “good guys with guns don’t commit crimes”.  The enormous flaw in that argument is the pre-supposition that you can tell the difference, by looking at someone or talking to them, whether they are a “good” person or a “bad” person.  You can’t.  And despite the popular revisionist approach to reconstruct the past lives of perpetrators to see how they were bad all along and “the signs were there”, the fact remains is that good people have often done bad things.

In a similar fashion, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, there is an intense hunt on to track down the bombers to bring them to justice.  I hope they succeed.  But success will not be defined ultimately by catching these perpetrators, or by intensifying security or by arming ourselves.  Success will be defined by a paradigm shift in our corporate and individual identities, to return to values based on the Word of God in our actions and in the actions perpetrated by our governments, and to not be moved from this no matter what comes.  We must not give in to fear or recrimination or revenge but instead establish a just society in which peace, order and good government is not maintained by legislation and by force of arms but by the change of heart and action in each of us.  Building this just society means that we can no longer turn a blind eye toward the increasingly desperate plight of the lower classes, women and visible minorities.  We must recognize that the American dream does not remove us individually and corporately from caring for the least in our midst, and indeed if we are to call ourselves a Christian nation once more, there is a moral imperative to ensure that no one leads a life of desperation or fear or hate, or a life of personal abundance at the same time as so many have no hope.  Desperation, together with a departure from Godly values, does far more to create violence at home than anything else.

For the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, today is a day to mourn.  Tomorrow is a day to bring the perpetrators to justice.

But of far greater import in the coming days, and by far the harder task, will be to implement a paradigm shift in our values and our actions, based upon the foundation of faith in God and His plans and His values, to implement a new and just society.

Borrowing a quote from the movie “The Matrix”: –  “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. It is time for you to choose.”

It is time for each of to choose.. and there is really no choice about it.  We all must take the red pill, and walk in our new identity, based on Godly principles, and work together to implement a truly just society with no one left behind.  It will be a long and hard but edifying road, and be one that will please God.

Just sayin’….

The Passion, or Pascha, or Yeshua’s Pesach, or… easter

This weekend is commonly known in the West as Easter, a significant commemoration in Christianity of the crucifixion, death and ultimate resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) the jewish Messiah.  Elsewhere, particularly in Greek (Orthodox) or Latin (Roman) liturgy and practice it is referred to as Pascha (Πάσχα) from which comes the reference to these events as the Passion of Christ.  The origin of the term was the hebrew word Pesach, or Passover, as Yeshua was crucified during the Passover week.

In the West, in particular in the past few centuries, the Christian commemoration of the Passion has been blended and unfortunately eclipsed by the frenzy of chocolate eggs brought by a rabbit.  Yet this was not always so… from ancient times the egg has been synonymous with fertility and life, and the use of eggs, painted red to symbolize the sacrifice of the Christ, was adopted by early Christians as a visible reminder of the empty tomb and life through the resurrection of Yeshua.  Today the most famous of these eggs are the Ukrainian easter eggs, or pysanka (origin: Pascha).

As a disclaimer, this post will not wade into any of these controversies:

  • that Christians were nowhere in scripture commanded to commemorate either the crucifixion (Good Friday) or resurrection (Sunday)
  • that the anti-semitic early church as forced by the anti-semitic “christian” emperor Constantine, separated the commemoration of Pascha from the jewish Pesach
  • that the new date corresponded to a pagan festival celebrating the Babylonian/Assyrian fertility goddess Ishtar from which the English word Easter is derived;
  • that much later, the Passion commemoration aligned with the pagan spring celebration of Eostre (April) or Ostara named for the anglo-saxon goddess of the same name
  • that the above reasons invalidate any christian commemoration of the Passion, because it is represents disobedience to God and amounts to pagan worship

These controversies, and more, rage around the internet, and elsewhere.  Of these, the one that definitely is true, and confirmed by reputable scholars, is that anti-semitism grew in the early church, with long-lasting effects. Repentance is needed on this front.

The unfortunate result of these controversies and conspiracy theories is that any discussion of the significance of the Passion events – crucifixion, death and ultimate resurrection – get sidelined. We need to talk about and testify to these with our words and our very lives.

This post will instead focus on the more important significance of these Passion events…. and why we need to talk about them.

Historical Context

Prior to the first century, and not surprising for a people long under oppression and occupation, from Greek to Seleucid to Roman, hope for the promised for Messiah was heightened, and other messianic movements and would-be Messiahs had risen, most notably within the Maccabean period.   These movements were routinely crushed and their leaders killed, thereby ending that particular messianic movement.   Yet the yearning remained, and as the centuries passed under foreign rule, belief in the Messiah as a conquering hero to rescue ethnic and national Israel and throw out the goyim (non-jewish nation) invaders grew.

At the same time, in jewish eschatology (the Sadducees being an exception), the mainstream view was that at some future date there would be a corporate/mass resurrection in bodily form of Israelites who had died and would be raised at that future day.

Thus when Yeshua spoke of the kingdom of God, and in what we call the Lord’s prayer “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, his followers understood this to mean Yeshua as Messiah who would lead them into victory and a restoration of the promised land and the overthrow of the invader.  Instead, he was betrayed, beaten, scourged, condemned and killed in the most brutal fashion possible, in collusion between jewish religious authorities and the occupying and hated Roman goyim.  To the disciples, this represented the end.  The hoped for Messiah, and his movement, and all of their hopes for the future, were now dead.

Yeshua had also spoken of his own pending death and resurrection, but his disciples again did not understand: “destroy this temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up”.  Their understanding of the Messiah and of jewish eschatology simply had no room for a Messiah who would be beaten and killed, and no room for a Messiah who would rise back to life in bodily form before the expected corporate bodily resurrection of jews who had died waiting for the restoration.  This explains the disciples’ reaction to the empty tomb, and why they did not recognize him in resurrected form.  It was simply not expected.

This also explains why the disciples missed the reference “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  They did not understand (how could they?) that as the Messiah, he had to die, he came to die, and what his absolutely necessary death would accomplish.

Compare these beliefs in Messiah and resurrection – and the disciples’ disillusionment and despair at what they saw as the end and the repudiation of all they had believed in – with what resulted days and weeks later.

They testify, as seen in the Book of Acts, to an empty tomb and to a bodily resurrected Messiah Yeshua, whose bodily resurrection has preceded the expected future event of the corporate bodily resurrection of the departed.  They testify to a kingdom already established, not in military or political terms to an ethnic national Israel, but as the beginning of heaven come to to earth, for all peoples and all nations.

This was a substantial paradigm shift for his followers, from believing in a dead jewish messiah whose death would have invalidated his movement and his teachings.  Something real, a foundational transformation, had occurred between Yeshua’s condemnation and crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb.

Crucifixion and Death

Yeshua came in human flesh to fulfil messianic prophecy.  Messianic prophecy also predicted the suffering and death of the Messiah, for the transgressions of his people.  Yeshua came to die.  He did not come merely as a good man, and as the tender, gentle figure (typified in movies) who was unjustly beaten and slain by hateful oppressors and colluding jewish authorities. He also was not hated and rejected by the entire jewish nation.  He came to die. He came to be pierced for the transgressions of his people.  He came to bring about a new relationship between God and man, between God and all of creation, which could be made possible only by his death.

In the early centuries of the church, this essential truth was misconstrued or forgotten, and anti-semitism took root, viewing the entire jewish nation, now scattered, to be guilty as “Christ-killers” – even though Roman authorities had colluded, even though he was executed using a Roman method, even though not everyone rejected him, and even though he came for that express purpose.  This grew into efforts which cauterized jewishness out of the gospel and church practice, and into teaching that the church had somehow replaced Israel as God’s people.  Others, misunderstanding the significance of Yeshua’s death and his resurrection, have preferred to see him as a good man who set an example for us to follow, who was unjustly and unfairly killed.

The truth is… He came to die.  He did so willingly. He had to die.  And here is why.

The existing relationship between God and mankind was broken.  Sin and death had entered the world through the actions of mankind, identified in Genesis as Adam and Eve.  Repeated temporary blood sacrifice, of lambs and goats without blemish, brought atonement for sin before God, yet the brokenness and the bondage remained.  In essence, through sin, mankind had entered into a covenant of death with the Adversary (identified in scripture as Satan or Lucifer, a fallen archangel).

Yeshua’s death, as the perfect lamb of God, was the all-encompassing once-for-all blood sacrifice that replaced and did away with the temporary sacrificial system.  His death, in exchange, freed mankind, those who choose to believe, from the power and bondage of sin and death.  By taking this upon himself, our sin was paid for before God, and he in effect freed us from covenant with the Adversary and put himself into subjection, even unto death.  We could now enter God’s presence, being reconciled to him, because of the blood sacrifice of Yeshua.

His death, understood in terms of sacrifice, atoned for sin.  This was entirely consistent with first-century jewish thinking on atonement, blood sacrifice, covenant.  What was completely unexpected, in first-century context, was that the Messiah would die and be this sacrifice.

Yet his death was not enough.  As a result of his sacrifice, He was in death and bondage. Yet messianic hope, as confirmed by prophecy in Isaiah and Ezekiel and Zechariah and other places, was not just founded upon the suffering servant who took the transgressions of his people upon himself.  It was also founded upon the establishment of Messiah’s rule over his kingdom.  A dead messiah could not rule over anything.

To misunderstand or deny the significance of the death of Yeshua the Messiah is to miss the entire context of sin, separation, sacrifice, atonement, reconciliation and covenant.  His death broke the power of sin and death over you and me.

Resurrection and New Life

Hence the essential requirement for the resurrected Messiah and the empty tomb.  God the Father exerted his power and raised Messiah from the dead (impossible to do, if he wasn’t really dead), raising him back to life not just in spiritualized, disembodied, luminescent form, but in full bodily form, the firstborn from the dead.  This was absolutely necessary as well.  Yeshua’s death paid the sin sacrifice before God for all mankind, but with the Adversary, Yeshua exchanged himself for us, freeing us from the covenant of death and bondage to sin, and taking our place.  After the crucifixion, he was in a covenant of death and had in essence become sin.  We were freed, but he was not.

With his bodily resurrection, two things simultaneously occurred.  The Adversary became a defeated foe, and the covenant of death and sin was irrevocably broken.  God the Father had raised Yeshua to life and freedom from bondage.  The second thing that occurred is that Yeshua the Messiah assumed his kingship, and his role as the mediator of the new covenant.  His kingdom on earth was inaugurated in the very moment of resurrection, and began to be established on earth as it already was established in heaven.  Its full consummation – the new heaven and the new earth, the new Jerusalem – awaits his final return, the full consummation on earth as it is already fully consummated in heaven.

He is Risen. Because of this, He has taken possession of His kingdom. It is established.  Because of this, and by your faith in who He is and what He has done, you have now become a full-time servant and a full-time ambassador for the kingdom.

What Followed

This is why it is essential that both his death and his resurrection occurred.  This is why it matters, and why, no matter where or when or how we do it, that we commemorate the events of Passion, the Pascha, the Pesach, both the crucifixion and death, and the resurrection of the Messiah.

This is why these events come into powerful effect only for the one who believes when they believe.  This is why on profession of faith the one who believes has to repent of and renounce their sinful state, symbolic of crucifixion and death, and why the one who believes has new life, not just in spiritual terms, (resurrection) and should have such joy and thanksgiving that they daily shout from the rooftops about their new life in covenant with the Messiah.

This is why the distinctive character of new covenant (“christian”) belief developed, with a bodily resurrected Messiah, king of an already established, but not yet fully consummated, kingdom here on earth and throughout all creation.  This is why we are to live now, not for ourselves or to accumulate kingdom benefits for ourselves, but to go out and establish his kingdom now, to be fully established and consummated when he returns, with part of that future event including the fully bodily resurrection of all of the departed (waiting) saints.

For All of Us Now

It is essential for us to recognize, because of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), that our lives belong to Him.  We are free from the covenant of death and bondage of sin, but we are not free.  We are His.

Also, it will change our perspective on the role we now play as his covenant disciples and followers.

We are called to more than to just blend in with our culture.  We are called to more than just be against things that we don’t like.  We are called to more than to be afraid of “the world” around us, pulling back and abandoning a corrupt and dying place that many believe will destructively end and which we will escape from.  We are called to be more than just passive bystanders.

Instead, we are called to be active participants in every facet of our own lives and in every facet of the world around us.

His kingdom was inaugurated on the day of His resurrection, here on earth.  And we were charged, through His teachings such as the parables and what we call the Lord’s prayer, and through His commandments such as the great commission, to be His ambassadors of His kingdom sharing in His inheritance (the peoples of all nations and renewed creation itself).

As His kingdom representatives through the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are to establish his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven as far as we are able, while we wait for His promised return and the full consummation of His kingdom here.  We are to bring the attributes of heaven into every area of life where we have influence, to go change our world.

This is far more than just the spiritual saving of souls to be in personal relationship to a loving Saviour… it is a commitment to transformation inwardly (holiness – “be holy even as I am holy”), and to transformation outwardly (extend the kingdom of God, not through legislation or military might, but through kingdom living and Godly character – grace and lovingkindness and the fruit of the Spirit).  “You will do greater things than I am doing”.

Today and Every Day

This weekend is the special time that we remember the Passion of Yeshua (the Christ).

Commemorate. Celebrate.  Know who He is.  Know who you are.  Daily shout it from the rooftops.  Live with visible evidence the attributes of heaven.

And go change your world!

Forgiving and Forgetting

In the kingdom of God, He chooses to forgive and He chooses to forget our sin. We are taught in this world that the ability to remember things is very powerful, but in the kingdom of God, the opposite is true… God’s greater power and sovereignty is displayed by His choice to forgive and forget.

Yet forgetting is not quite what we think… does God truly will Himself to forget? Maybe… although I think the picture of forgetfulness is that He knows, but chooses to not hold it against us any longer. The scripture “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12) is thus that God chooses to remove the sin from the list of charges against us in the dock.

The difficult part is that, in the kingdom of God, He calls us to do the same.

A very challenging commandment, just after what we call the Lord’s prayer, is “if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

The difficult part is that He makes no exceptions to this.
The helpful part is that He will enable us to do so, but we have to be a willing and active participant in the process.

I have been hurt deeply many times by other people, and the worst of it is, often from others who call themselves Christians.
Yet the imperative to forgive still applies… and is sometimes a process… even though it is the most difficult thing that I have ever done. And He has given me the strength to do so. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive, and there is no offense so great that I am released from forgiving the person who committed the offense.

On many occasions I have held onto the offense and chose not to forgive. Yet this puts me in a dangerous place before God, and moreover, my life will get stuck in a holding pattern until I forgive (no forward motion).

On rare occasions, as He and I have covenanted to forgive another’s offense against me, He has given me the grace to actually forget the offense. Strange as it might seem, I cannot remember the details of that offense.

But the normal case is that I choose to forgive, even though it is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and it is a process. He gives me the strength to forgive. But I still remember and I do not forget.
But let me clarify… when I say I do not forget, it is like what I said about Hebrews 8:12 when God forgets our sin. I still remember the details, but I no longer hold the offense against the other person. Thus I have “forgotten” in kingdom of God terms, even though I remember what happened.

We need to be quick to forgive. The longer we nurse an offense (and I am not minimizing the hurt of an offense), the harder it becomes to forgive and “forget”. Also, refusing to really forgive actually gives the offense continuing power over us.

Forgiveness is not just an intellectual exercise. It involves the spirit, the mind and the body. It requires action, not just to release and forgive the offense, but actually do the opposite of the offense. This might even mean engaging in positive and practical activity toward the person who committed the offense.

For me, this is the litmus test of whether I have forgiven or not.
Does the remembrance of the event, or a fresh encounter with the person, recall fresh offense or bitterness, or can I remember the offense without being re-offended?
If I can remember the details but “forget” the offense, if remembering or encountering the person who caused the offense does not cause continued bitterness or fresh offense, then I know that I have truly forgiven.

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But I have to choose to forgive, and will myself to forgive, and He will enable me to do so. He calls each of us to this, and there are no exceptions, either in the offense that we must forgive, or in His strength which enables us to forgive… and “forget”.

Forgiveness – It’s in You to Give

There are many difficult things that each of us will face in our lives.  Burying a loved one.  Loss of job.  Broken relationship with someone.  Bankruptcy.  Betrayal.  Persecution.  Bullying.  Sickness.  Just getting through another day.  And we can wonder why these difficult things happen to us.

These difficult circumstances that we face will stretch aspects of our character – demanding of us to show unconditional love, to trust people again and continue to trust that God really knows what He’s doing, to be patient with annoying and difficult people, and to persevere when everything and everyone around us says we should quit.

Yet the most difficult thing we will ever have to do – and we do have to do it – is to forgive someone, and to forgive them in the same way and to the same measure that God forgives us.  Now that’s hard.  But He enables us to do it in His strength, and expects us to put forgiveness into effect, no matter what.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asked Jesus how many times was he to forgive someone who hurt him, and Jesus repled, “seventy times seven”.  The parable indicates that, when someone begs for forgiveness and mercy, we are to give unconditional forgiveness.  Jesus also taught that, if we refused to forgive others, that the Father would not forgive us.

Such a difficult teaching… and even if we can intellectually get our heads around it, putting it into practice is an entirely different matter.

But it is so important to put it into practice – beyond the spiritual consequences that Jesus warned about, there is a very pragmatic result: until you and I forgive – not just intellectually but practically and tangibly live it out – you and I will be stuck in a holding pattern, and God will be unable to move you forward until you do.  And the forgiveness in you and me has to be real and unconditional with visible inward and outward evidence.

It is most difficult when the object of your unforgiveness / forgiveness is someone of whom you have regular reminders, or with whom you have regular contact – especially when they repeatedly re-offend.
I have been in this situation many times…

As a side note – If you are in a dangerous situation, physically or mentally, by all means remove yourself from it for a time.  But this practical requirement does not remove the need and instruction that you and I MUST forgive.

The need and instruction to forgive – even then – is unconditional.

To put it in terms which may offend our Canadian, post-modern, secular sensibilities – unforgiveness is a SIN.  No mitigating circumstances are given in scripture where it is deemed “okay” to live and breathe another day in unforgiveness.

Yet we all try to place conditions or escape clauses on the commandment that we forgive those who hurt us and sin against us.  Here are a few examples of the excuses we make:

a) conditional forgiveness – I will forgive you, but first… (add your own list). We add pre and post-conditions to our so-called forgiveness, but at the first sign of behaviour we don’t like, we bring up the catalog of offences.
It’s time to ditch the catalog and ditch the conditions.

b) payback – payback is closely related to conditional forgiveness, and may sound something like, “I’m going to make you suffer for a while before I forgive you”, or “I’ll let you know when you’re forgiven”.  Our goal in this is punishment, not forgiveness.

c) mitigating circumstances – we attempt to release ourselves from the need to forgive by saying to ourselves, and others, “you don’t know what they did.  If you knew, then you’d understand that I cannot forgive them.”  I tried this one on what is now a very memorable occasion for me, and I complained to God about how badly someone had treated me.  God then reminded me that He DID know and He showed me an image of the crucifixion and the forgiveness He showed. Then He said to me “Now go and do the same”.  Ouch.

d) I’ve forgiven but not forgotten – how many times have you heard or said this?  This is true in human understanding, but this is not the measure to which God forgives.  He says in His Word “I will remember their sins no more“… deliberately choosing to forget.  We cannot do this in our own strength, but in His… and while we will still remember the details of the offense, we will remember the details without re-opening the wound and being offended all over again.  He will enable us to release and forget the offense.

e) they haven’t asked for forgiveness – sometimes we take the Matthew 18 scripture above out of context and say, “Well I would forgive but they need to ask me first”.  There are enough other references to unforgiveness in scripture to indicate that unforgiveness itself is a SIN, and that to hold onto unforgiveness, for whatever reason, puts YOU and I into jeopardy and a position of bondage, sickness, bitterness, etc.  In unconditional forgiveness, you and I forgive even before someone asks, and even if they never do ask.
In unconditional forgiveness lies personal freedom.

f) running away from the problem – we can fool ourselves that, if we run away from the person or circumstance that caused the offense – or who we haven’t forgiven – then it will go away and you and I will be alright.
Nothing could be further from the truth.  Whether it is just the peculiarities of life circumstances, or whether God Himself has a direct hand in it, we will encounter again in someone else or in a different circumstance the same issue we ran away from.  It may manifest differently, but we carry the problem with us because it is you and I that have not forgiven.  And it is time – today – to release and forgive that He might begin the healing process in you.  That way lies freedom.

g) time heals everything – NOT.  Time, by itself, heals nothing.  Time allows scabs to grow over old wounds, but we pick at them and bleed again. Time allows experiences to go below the surface, but under similar circumstance or under pressure, they come back to the surface.  We need to walk continually in forgiveness and stop walking and living and breathing as the walking wounded.  In forgiveness is freedom and healing, in time.

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There are other excuses we make – but all excuses are based only upon unforgiveness – because we find it hard to forgive, or we don’t want to forgive, or we foolishly think that it’s OK with God, given the details of my circumstance, to not forgive.

But there are no mitigating circumstances.  NONE.

Think of the cross and the forgiveness it implies, even to us who didn’t deserve it, who mock it, who didn’t ask for it, who never knew we needed it…  Think of the freedom that resulted.

God’s love, and the measure of His forgiveness that He gives to us, and then desires for us to go and do likewise, is shown in Hosea 3, where Hosea is told to go and love his adulterous wife again who has repeatedly been unfaithful and caused repeated heartache and offense… just as God says He pursues and loves and forgives His people who continually sin against Him.  He forgives even though forgiveness is undeserved.

Forgiveness is a choice we MUST make, IF we are to be free and move forward.

It is the most difficult thing you and I will ever have to do – but we are commanded to do it, no matter what.  He will give us the extra-ordinary strength to do it, and walk it out.  That way lies freedom and He will lead us into healing and restoration.

Who do you need to forgive today? What catalog of offenses are you carrying forward in bondage?  Begin the forgiveness process today – and let Him set you free.