Saturday, February 2, 2013

Forgiveness = Losing?

On Wednesday, I asked my Bible Study leader to pray for me and a friend of mine. Our relationship has been headed south and I wanted guidance on what to do. I had been praying and praying for months without a clear answer. I asked her to pray because I didn’t know anything else to do. 

On Thursday, at a Bible Study at my school, one of my friends, Jason, taught a lesson. He started it by saying, “I’m going to teach on forgiveness today.” I immediately scanned through my life and decided that I didn’t have anything that I needed to forgive. I almost closed my ears to the lesson, but something, like a whisper through the walls of my soul, made me listen.

He used part of Tenth Avenue North’s song Losing and he spoke on forgiveness:

I can't believe what she said

I can't believe what he did
Oh, don't they know it's wrong, yeah?
Don't they know it's wrong, yeah?
Maybe there's something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It's wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

Well it's only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that's mine
Seventy times seven times
'Cause Lord it doesn't feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it's not that much
When I think of what You've done.

Before that, I knew what forgiveness was –receiving mercy, grace, and having your faults let go of and forgotten – but I realized that forgiveness didn’t wait for the “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness is given before the other person is ready to be sorry. They may never be sorry. Forgiveness means you don’t expect an apology.

I had been expecting an apology.

For months.

I discovered, as Jason was teaching on forgiveness, that I hadn’t forgiven this other friend for even the things he had apologized for. 

I had been holding on to the anger and the wrong he had done to me. And because he had continued to do wrong to me, my feelings were renewed and strengthened. I was angry. Angrier than I thought.

It didn’t feel right for me to turn a blind eye. I had been wondering how he would learn to say sorry and how he would learn what I didn’t like if I always forgave him without him asking. It didn’t feel right to lose the pain that was mine. 

Jason also used a Bible verse in his lesson:

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.Colossians 3:12-14, The Message

Be content with second place.  He kept saying that. Forgiveness is being in second place. Forgiveness is being happy with–and choosing–second place. Forgiveness is not winning, but losing. Losing, at least, according to the world’s definition. But to God, forgiving puts you at the front of the pack. The world’s last becomes God’s first.

Jason used the Super Bowl as an example of “losing.”

“Say the Ravens lose the Super Bowl. Think about if the Ravens go into their press conference praising the 49ers and how well they played, you know, “They played really well today and their teamwork was awesome. They’re a great team.” People will think they’re crazy. People will be like, ‘You lost.’  That’s like what forgiveness is.”

Forgiveness is crazy. It’s totally against our instincts. Our self-preservation tells us not to forgive, but to make the wrong-doers pay us back. But Jesus practiced forgiveness, even up until his death and then even after.

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 
–Matthew 26:28

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. –Colossians 3:12-14, NIV

Now, my plan of action with this friend of mine is to forgive. No matter how much more he hurts me, I will forgive him. I won’t care how many more times; I won’t care what it is exactly that he says; I will forgive and then I will forget.

7x70, baby. 

Do you think forgiveness is crazy? How do "normal" people view forgiveness?

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