Devotional #46, "The Thing About Forgiveness"
15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son.
15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
15:23 and bring the fatted calf, [and] kill it, and let us eat, and make merry:
15:24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
15:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
15:26 And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these things might be.
15:27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
15:28 But he was angry, and would not go in: and his father came out, and entreated him.
15:29 But he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and [yet] thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
15:30 but when this thy son came, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf.
15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine.
15:32 But it was meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive [again]; and [was] lost, and is found. (Luke 15: 11-32)
About nine years ago, my family found out that I am a B.L. and most of them disowned me from that time on. My father and my niece are the only family members who will speak to me or have anything to do with me now. Of course I had wronged them by fighting with my brother and injuring him badly, but then they paid me back by taking literally everything I owned and either selling it or keeping it for themselves; and then most of them made the decision to never speak with me again. It has been one of the saddest chapters in the history of my family and I am sure that the sadness is felt on both sides. What is the source of this sadness? Well, certainly it started with the collective wrongs committed all around, but the greatest source now is a lack of forgiveness. Recently, however, I have discovered some things about forgiveness which have helped me.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the son returns to his father after having sinned against him in some very bad ways. He blew his inheritance and wound up destitute enough to turn to feeding pigs to try to stay alive. Considering the fact that it was a terrible sin to even LOOK at a pig (well, maybe not that extreme but you get what Im saying), this story was a shocker on the highest order. But Jesus needed to shock is audience in order to show how seriously his Father takes the whole matter of forgiveness. For the father in the story to forgive his son the way he did was, in a word, miraculous. With open arms and open heart he forgave the boy and this is how God forgives us. It is also how we must learn to forgive one another and ourselves. So how do we do this?
Here is a definition of forgiveness that is probably the best I have ever heard: Forgiveness is making a decision to quit punishing the person who has sinned against you. How do we continue to punish those who wrong us? A few ways are to keep talking about what they did, to continually bring up the matter with them or other people (who probably quickly get sick of hearing about it). Also by wishing bad things will happen to that person and then by rejoicing when bad thing DO happen to them. Also by actively doing things to hurt the person or even by angrily rehearsing the sin over and over in our minds. When we make a decision to forgive the person, we also commit ourselves to quit doing these kinds of things.
Another thing I have learned about forgiveness is that it can be done without actually ever receiving anything back from the person I have decided to forgive. Thus I have been able to forgive my family, regardless of whether or not they accept or even acknowledge what I am doing. But that is the subject for another time.
Dear Father, you are my ultimate teacher in how to forgive. You made a decision to forgive me, along with every other sinful soul, on this planet. What an amazing thing to do, what an amazing God you are! Please help me, dear Father, to be able to always make the decision to forgive others when they sin against me, no matter what the circumstances are. I know there will be times when it is a very hard thing to do, but let me always remember your example, and I am sure it wont be difficult at all.