14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Forgiveness: Freedom, Blessing, and Wrath
When it comes to forgiveness, I have exercised this out of sheer obedience to God. He really has broken through to me in very clear ways and has had me do this. The first time was way back in 1992, I think. This was at the beginning of my memories breaking through and I only knew the shadows of what had happened. Still, God led me to a book by Stormie Omartin where I learned of the power of forgiveness for the first time. I learned that doing this is not to let the offender off the hook, but it is to free me to move on. I was so amazed at this insight that I shared it with my husband in the kitchen. Right when we were talking about this there was a knock on the door. It was the mailman delivering a package. The package was from my sister. In it was a lapel pin with a lamb on it and words that said, "Forgiveness heals and renews". There was also a card that said "I was praying the other day and the Holy Spirit told me to tell you to forgive our father." So I prayed forgiveness to my father. I didn't "feel" it. I just did it. I told God I could not do this by myself, but that he needed to make it manifest within me.
The thing is, I didn't even know the half of it. I only had inklings that he probably sexually abused me and had a couple of memories of his wife doing so. I did not know what I would come to know later: that he had sold me into human slavery. That is the most succinct way to put the very complicated things that have come out of my memories over the years. That is the only statement that sums it all up. So forgiveness has been an ongoing thing which I have had to do over and over. Honestly I don't see how it has helped me move on, unless it somehow has helped facilitate the moving deeper within myself to discover more horrors. Because that is all that has happened. I have not been able to "put the past behind me" because I keep discovering more. I don't "feel" like it has set me free. Maybe if God could show me a picture of where I would be if I had not done it I might more clearly see how it has helped me, personally. For now, I do it out of obedience and I believe, in faith, that it makes some kind of difference in the spiritual realm. Otherwise, God would not have ordered me to do it, and made it clear through his Word that we are to do this.
In more recent years, I found a passage in the Bible that has helped further my understanding of what forgiveness does and which makes it easier for me to forgive the scores of people who have been added to the long list of perpetrators of abuse to my person over the years.
The two big things I got from this passage were 1. that a radical addition that God wants us to do beyond just forgiving is blessing. Now that is radical. I have to bless my enemies?? and 2. One of the reasons we are to forgive is to "give place to God's wrath". In other words, when we forgive others, really what we are doing is releasing them from "owing" us. We remove ourselves as judge over them. When we put ourselves as judge over someone who has harmed us they owe us, not God. Well, how much power, really, do we have to exact payment from these people? Well if we are to live as Godly, law-abiding people, none. We have no power to make them pay. But The Lord of the Universe does have that power. When we remove ourselves from the place of judge over these people, God can step in and bring judgement on them.
Have I seen that with the people I have forgiven? With my Dad yes, I have. When he was dying in 2009 I found out about many unfortunate circumstances that had happened to him in the last 15 years or so. I had no idea these things were happening as I had cut off all relationship with him long before. But I believe that at least some of them were judgments from God because I had released his obligation to me.
Back to blessing those who have offended us. When I first heard about this I was floored and thought I could not do this. I stepped out and did it out of faith in the case of one of my main perpetrators of abuse. When I prayed this, I saw a scene where this person was about to commit an abusive act and suddenly she could not do it. Suddenly her eyes were opened and she saw the child she was about to abuse as a human being she was about to do irrevocable damage to. Blessing her with the Spirit of God enabled her (in the vision) to view the person she was abusing with God's eyes and this caused her to stop. I thought, if blessing these people can save another child, I will gladly do it. These two additions to the practice of forgiveness have convinced me even more of its power. But God has had to take me on a long learning process.