Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stronghold Starter #3: Not Forgiving: Show Mercy? I Don't Get Any.

Wow.  This is a tough one.  We have all suffered at the hands of someone else.  Someone who knew better.  Someone who violated our trust.  Someone who could have stopped, but didn't.  Someone who wore the Christian label, but acted in ways that were anything but.  Someone that when we sought reconciliation, rebuffed us.  Someone who rebuffed us many times.   

Maybe we sought to take on some of the blame, be humble and offer to make amends, only to be looked at with disdain and contempt for appearing to be so weak.

Yuck.  Forgiveness is a touchy thing; I don't think Jesus would have taught on it as much as He did if it were easy-breezy to do.  Think quickly, and multiple verses pop up:

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12) Yeah.

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col. 3:13) Ouch.

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matt. 6:14-15) Whoa.

"So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3-4) Yikes.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Eph. 4:31-32) Alright already...I get it. 

Inescapable, right?  Yes.  Hard to do?   Yes.  Why?  Because at the core of unforgiveness is pride.  Pride provides the perfect starting point for Satan to come in and start building a stronghold.  

Wait a minute!  I was hurt by that person!  Shattered!  Abandoned!  I am the victim here!

True.  Satan loves it when our hurt is real.  He exploits it to get us focused on ourselves.  We pull in, nursing the hurt, and all the while Satan is fanning the flames of our wounded pride.  

Notice the above verses:  They redirect our focus back to the outside, away from ourselves and asking us to reestablish community.  Sometimes it is dangerous to reestablish community with our violators; but Jesus wants us in His community, with His people, seeking fellowship, prayer and healing.  

The last thing Satan wants is our healing.  Healing does not happen in isolation; it happens in community with loving, compassionate people who come alongside us, pray for us and then walk with us towards wellness.  

But pride says, Hey, I received no mercy when I was being hurt/abused/wronged/shattered...so why should I be the one to forgive?  I didn't receive any mercy--quite the opposite--I don't know what mercy looks like anyway.  I am sure not going to learn now.  My life has worked so far (self-protection is my name and unforgiveness is my game) and though deep down I am terribly unhappy, I will not let you see that.  I won't allow that kind of vulnerability to be visible.  I hate weakness.  I will act strong, that I've moved on, but don't cross me.  The unforgiveness is right below the surface.  I do life by myself, thank you very much.

I know of someone who is like this.  He is a pastor.  He knows the Word like no other.  He has benefited from excellent training in the ministry.  But he doesn't want anyone to hold him accountable.  To see his hurt.  To see his pride that has roared up, leaving a debris trail of broken relationships behind him.  Being in community with other believers who are his equals threatens him.  He is only comfortable when he is around those people whom he sees as spiritually inferior.  

I learned a lot from listening to his teachings.  He got me into the Word and excited about it.  My trust in him, however, eroded as I watched his pride take over.  He did not show compassion.  He scorned those who he saw as weak, especially as they battled an illness.  He sees weakness as being caused from a lack of faith.  He has told people, "I never get sick," which implies his faith outshines everyone else's.  

He was terribly abused as a child; his hurt and his wounds are real.  Despite his contention that God has "taken everything away," his wounds still influence his life on a daily basis.  

He didn't receive mercy as a child.  He did not receive compassion as a child.  It was not modeled and although he may intellectually know what mercy is, his hurt drives him.  This has lead to bitterness and a contempt for others.  

I have seen a lovely part of him break through--the Jesus part.  His smile is a joy.  His enthusiasm is contagious.  He loves the Word.  

But unforgiveness is a toxin to the soul, slowly but surely paralyzing it until a person feels dark inside and then acts dark.    

My heart longs for reconciliation.  I tried early on to repair a breach in our relationship, but I was met with accusations (that were proven false, but to no avail), anger (how dare I question him), followed by silence (my name is only mentioned to others with contemptuous tones).    

But, and this is HUGE:  I have to be equally as forgiving as I expect him to be.  Equally compassionate as I wish him to be.  Equally laying pride aside and not nursing the wounds, as I would like him to do.  

In other words, we both need to lean on Jesus. 

Satan would like to sabotage this.

Jesus would like to heal this.

It is his choice.

It is my choice. 

That is forgiveness and that starts to dismantle the stronghold. 

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