Forgiveness and the Health of the Church
"Then the Master called the servant in, "'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all the debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'" Matthew 18:32-33
"Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive . . ." (C.S. Lewis)
You have felt the pain before. Someone, perhaps your boss, a fellow employee, a child, a parent, your spouse, or a fellow believer, wronged you in some way. No matter how hard you tried you couldn't escape the cyclical recording in your head, "I've been hurt. I am justified in my hurt. That person is bad news. I'll never trust that person again." Along with the mental anguish came inexplicable physical symptoms -- heaviness of chest, tightening of the neck and back muscles, grinding of the teeth. How do you mend the hurt that you did not deserve? Then, when you were in the presence of the offender -- the clipped conversation, the fake smile that felt as though it would break your jaw, the nervous laughter, the lame excuses to get out of their presence.
How am I doing? Have I come close to describing a typical scenario of the aftermath of the offense? I think so. And the reason I'm so good at describing it, is because I have had many stays at the castle of unforgiveness -- where the sleep is restless and the food is gruel!
The issue of forgiveness climbs to the very top of the mountain in the myriad of concerns that face a church. We enter into a relationship with Christ because we need forgiveness, and once forgiven, we offer that message of forgiveness to others. Yet so often, we who have tasted the sweet fruit of forgiveness from God are lacking in our application of that same grace to those we call brothers and sisters in Christ. The great burden of the ministry lies not in prayer or in preaching, or in defending the Faith against the attacks of skeptic ...
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