Thursday, August 09, 2012

Resentment And Forgiveness - Part 2 of 3

We talked last time, in Part 1, about how resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. We talked about how toxic unforgiveness is to our bodies, as well as our souls.

Then we looked at a few verses of Scripture which gave us some instruction and some wisdom on forgiveness, forgiving one another, and not holding resentment against others.

OK, now let’s talk about what forgiveness actually is. How can we identify forgiveness, so that we aren’t harboring some unforgiveness or resentment under the surface that will spring up at any old time, or even worse, that will become a root of bitterness, not easily dug out? How do we know if we are really forgiving someone?

We’ll answer that today, but first let’s switch gears, and talk about another subject which may seem unrelated, but is VERY related to forgiveness. It’s SO related to forgiveness, it’s like wet is to water; like dry is to desert; like Abraham Lincoln’s picture on one side of a penny, and the Lincoln Memorial on the other side.

Love and Forgiveness

The subject I’m talking about is Love. And of course there are different kinds of love.

That Loving Feeling

There’s the affectionate kind of love, that anyone may have for another person that they are bonded to, such as a mother and child, or two long-time friends, or a couple getting married who we say are “in love”.

Now that’s a wonderful kind of love. That’s the kind of love that someone was talking about when they said that “Love makes the world go around.” It’s built into most people, and we could say like the old song says, “Everybody loves somebody sometime.”

It’s wonderful. But it also has a couple of problems.

And part of the reason it has a couple of problems is that it is based pretty much on feelings. Nothing wrong with that. Feelings are something God has built into us humans, so much so that if someone for some reason doesn’t seem to HAVE feelings, the psychologists diagnose them with some kind of so-called illness.

So this love which is a feeling is wonderful, but because it is based so much on feelings, it has a couple of problems.

First, it may not last. Now sometimes it does. Many parents keep their affectionate love for their children all their lives, and many husbands and wives grow old still feeling affection for their spouse.

But sometimes it doesn’t last, and the reason is, something has interfered with the good feelings. Maybe one person betrayed the other, or maybe they hurt them in some way, over and over, or maybe they rejected them, or slandered them, or left them, or physically abused them, or just ignored them.

Or maybe they just came across someone who gave them BETTER feelings, and so they stopped loving the one whom they loved before. Whatever happened, it knocked the legs of good feeling out from under the chair of love, and the chair crashed to the floor.

That’s the kind of love that most people talk about when they talk about love. That’s the kind of love that Hallmark and Soap Operas, and 20th Century Fox are usually talking about.

A Higher Love

But there is a higher kind of love than that. I’m not saying it’s better, exactly. And I’m certainly not saying that it necessarily FEELS better all the time. But it’s a higher kind of love, because it’s the kind of love that God has for His children.

And because it’s the kind of love God has for His children, He can put that kind of love into His children, so that they too can have that kind of love for God, and for other people.

Let me say that again: because it’s the kind of love God has for His children, He can put that kind of love into His children, so that they too can have that kind of love for God, and for other people.

And He does that through His Holy Spirit, and that’s why Galatians 5 says that Love is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s a fruit that is automatically produced in us when we are filled with His Spirit, when we walk by the Spirit, or walk according to the Spirit.

And when we do that, and when we have that God kind of love, it will have certain characteristics, which we see in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. You probably know these. Even Hallmark knows these, though they may not know what they mean. Here they are:

“Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Now an important thing about this kind of love is that it has these characteristics NO MATTER WHAT. In other words, it’s what we call UNCONDITIONAL.

It’s not conditional on what the other person does. It’s not conditional on how we may feel, or what wrong may have been committed to us, or who the person is, or whether the person is our family member or whether they are evil or good, Christian or non-Christian, friend or enemy.

Yes, we can even love our enemies, because this God kind of love is a fruit, produced in us by the Holy Spirit. And all we have to do is walk in that Spirit, and we will have that kind of love produced in us.

That’s why the Bible says that "Love Never Fails".

That God kind of love never fails. And that’s why God will never leave us or forsake us. Because He loves us with that kind of love that never fails. Never.

And we can love others with that kind of love. Love that never fails.

And may I say this? With love that FORGIVES.

Forgiveness Defined

Which brings us to our subject. Remember our subject? We are talking about resentment and forgiveness. And now we can clarify what forgiveness really means. Because forgiveness is the other side of the coin of love, this God kind of unconditional love.

And with that in mind, let me take a stab at a definition of forgiveness, as the Bible presents it, and as God desires us to practice it. The kind of forgiveness that is not based on feelings, but on the fruit of the Spirit, which is love.

I’m not saying this is a perfect definition, but we don’t forgive by definition anyway, we forgive by love, so cut me some slack and let this definition sink in a little, and I think you will profit from it. Here’s the definition of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is not holding something against someone as regards your unconditional love for them.”

And we might define Love like this:

“Love is truly, by the Holy Spirit, desiring the best for the one loved.”

This means that when you forgive someone, you no longer hold their sin against them by withholding your love for them, that is, you still desire the best for them, in your heart. You still love them, with the love described in 1 Cor. 13.

Now there’s a lot packed into that little definition.

To use an extreme example, if someone physically abuses you repeatedly, do you continue to let them into your presence and just “put up with it”? Of course not. You take steps of wisdom to prevent that. But you still love them. You still desire in your heart the very best for them. That’s love.

When you forgive someone, you still love them, unconditionally. And love, as 1 Cor. 13 says, “does not take into account a wrong suffered”. It forgives. Forgiveness is merely the other side of the coin of love.

How do we know when we are NOT forgiving someone, maybe even growing a root of bitterness? When we are not acting and thinking in love toward them. When we’re not patient and kind. When we are arrogant, when we are selfish, and so on.

Which is why we need to stay in close fellowship with Jesus. He is our life. When we commune with Him, these things tend to take care of themselves. He is in you, friend, if you are a Christian. Draw near to Him. After all, He's already there.

In another message we’ll look at what forgiveness LOOKS like, and what unforgiveness looks like, and how to forgive, and what hinders forgiveness.

Until then, spend some time with Jesus. Fellowship with Him in some sort of quiet time, and throughout the day as best you can. Walk in the Spirit, and you will see changes in how you love and forgive.

Part 1
Part 3

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