Introduction And Meditation On James 3:1
It is with some hesitation--even fear--that we post such a study. For ours is a rather "cushy" experience compared to some who have had much evil done to them--such that we have much less to forgive. The last thing we want is to be flippant about what we have not plumbed the depths of. At the same time, we do feel God has given us some wisdom here that might be of use.
Even so, there seems to be something lacking in this particular Bible study. If you have any suggestions for improvement (as always), please let us know. Our guess as to what is lacking is that forgiveness can only be taught so much--and the rest must be learned in experience.
Added to this fearful sobriety is the fact that if we rightly understand what we here put forth, will not our "knowledge" be tested? Might we be given more to forgive in the future?
So we are not approaching this academically (and nor should you) but with a view to encourage those whose shoes we may be in next.
Let Us Follow Jesus
John 5:19 (NKJ) Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner."
Thus the emphasis that forgiveness is not humanly possible. Can we really look at the evil done, and the hurt inflicted, and at the SAME TIME feel no desire to strike back and actually feel love for the perpetrator? We are not talking about play-acting here, but really. Well, if this happens, then it will be a miracle. Only God can forgive. Let us have His life and qualities and feelings coursing through us, rather than that which leads to death. In this sense, and most vividly, the Scripture rings true.John 15:5 (NIV) "...If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Context And Application
What we are NOT talking about here is dealing with the petty offenses and mistakes people make from time to time. We would put these in the category of "long-suffering" rather than forgiveness. For of such no miracle is needed, just common sense and understanding. If I cannot see that "so an so" has a tendency to put their "foot in their mouth" and I get in a major snit over something they said, then I have only myself to blame--and need not be a Christian to overcome this lack of basic living skill. This is simple immaturity and over-sensitivity.
Here we are applying forgiveness not to mistakes, but to real evil and exploitation and greed and malice. If I have been raped, or abused, or slandered, or "spitefully used" in some other way, or someone I love has been hurt by a wicked person--now that is going to take something other than "common sense" and understanding to deal with. The more I understand, in fact, the more it makes my blood boil. There is no excuse, there is no common sense, there is nothing in human nature that can deal with this without denial or play-acting or a sell out to abject hatred and bitterness. And the pendulum--from denial to bitterness--swings in ever wider swaths as we try to cope with mere human resources.
Who will save us from this wound? Who will save us from this body of death? It will take a miracle, in fact. A miracle of forgiveness.
Let us be open to the possibility of actually loving and forgiving our very real enemies. It will mean we will have to give up our thoughts and feelings, and enter into God's. Let us be quick to step into this obedience as God provides the opportunity, and not flinch from it by the offense it gives to our carnal reasoning.
And if forgiveness "works" in these big issues, the rest will be very easy indeed. Thus the approach of this Bible study. Once we see who is really doing the forgiving, then even in the little things we can acknowledge God. For He often carries us and gives us obedience though we do not give Him credit at the time, only to teach us better later. Let us acknowledge the source to whom we have for too long not given glory.
God is lavish in His grace to us in this regard. For He is the great forgiver. If He is in us, then we will do as He does. It will be easy... an easy yoke.
He sees all the evil that we only see in part, and He will make the sun rise tomorrow. May we be more and more like Him, who is the source of life.
God's Original Idea And Prerogative
Gen 15:19-21 (NAS) But Joseph said to them [his brothers who had sold him into captivity], "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Mat 18:18 (NAS) "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."
Acts 7:59-60 (NRS) While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
The Authority To Forgive
Ps 51:4 (NAS) [King David:] "Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight."
Really? What about Uriah, Bathsheba, and their families? Was David being daft here, or was he piercing through to a spiritual truth? For all offense is ultimately to God, and thus all forgiveness must come from Him as well. If we see this, and acknowledge Him, then we can flow in forgiveness all the more.
Christ In Us: Love And Forgiveness Instead Of Hatred And Bitterness
1 Jn 2:5-6 (NIV) But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 Jn 3:24 (NIV) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Is Prayer (Or Some Other Distraction) a Sin When Forgiveness Is Required?
James 4:17 (NIV) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
Luke 6:46 (NRS) "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?"
Breaking The Cycle...
1 Thes 5:15 (Phi) Be sure that no one repays a bad turn with a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large.
John 6:63 (NRS) "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."
We all, from time to time, get "in the flesh". When we have gone through seasons where we have been rather "fleshly" in our instincts (judged by fruit; Gal 5:22, Eph 5:9) we have a discipline that we use that might be of help: During these times, whatever your fleshly instincts tug you to do, do rather the EXACT OPPOSITE. (If you feel like running, stand your ground. If you feel like slugging, give a hug instead. If you wish evil for the person, give them some money or a nice present. If you feel like complaining or venting, think of an honest compliment instead.) Essentially, this is like nailing rampant flesh to the cross in a violent act. It is much better, to be sure, to have the life of Christ naturally flowing through us. But if/when "the flesh" is winning the day, give it a body blow by ACTIVELY doing just the opposite of what the carnal man would desire. It may sound crazy (and may well be) but be open to the Spirit's leading in this way in the future. The idea is not to be hypocritical, but rather to allow ourselves to be jolted back into the life of Christ.Rom 8:6.13 (NAS) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace... for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
2 Cor 7:1 (NAS) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Rom 12:21 (NIV) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
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