5 Steps to Navigate the Path of Forgiveness

5 Steps to Navigate Forgiveness

All of us have experienced rejection, betrayal and offense in some manner. Walking through the process of forgiveness occurs step by step. To navigate the path of forgiveness, we intentionally take several difficult but rewarding steps. From time to time, we must revisit these godly principles, ensuring freedom from the lingering residue which otherwise may hinder our Christian progress.

Success, on so many levels, depends on our ability and faithfulness to conquer the treacherous terrain of forgiveness. Forgive, in Hebrew, means to “absolve” or “release fully.” It first appears near the end of the first book in the Bible.

” . . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”
Genesis 50:17

Joseph spent fifteen long years in prison and slavery, being harshly and unjustly treated, because of his brother’s jealousy and anger. Separated from family and alone in a foreign land, Joseph had plenty of time and reason to harbor bitter resentment against them. But he didn’t! Now, at the death of their father, they only vaguely confess, stating their father wanted Joseph to forgive them.

Steps to Forgivenss

The Hebrew word, שָׂ֣א (śā), also means “to lift, bear up, carry, and endure.” Rarely do people openly apologize. Usually, dealing with offenses occurs in seclusion — a yielding to God the wrongs done to us by others.

The Unforgiving Servant

Jesus’ disciple, Peter, asked Jesus,

” . . . Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:21

By the standards of any day, Peter might seem extravagantly generous to forgive someone so many times. We, like Peter, often feel there must be some kind of limit to forgiveness. Jesus clearly explains that grace goes much further.

” . . . I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:22

In reality, Jesus said, “Seventy times seven times!” In other words, “Don’t count! Just forgive!” He used the opportunity to explain forgiveness more fully through a now familiar story about two men — one willing to forgive and the other unwilling. A servant owed his master the equivalent of twenty years of wages. (Before deducting living expenses!) Of course, he had no way of repaying his debt. The Master mercifully forgave the entire amount.

We encounter five key steps on the road to forgiveness. These godly principles endure through all circumstances, generations, and cultures.

Step #1 Desire

The Master in Jesus’ parable was no ordinary master. This Master, the King of Heaven, the One we have all insulted, betrayed, and violated, approached the indebted servant, wanting to settle the outstanding debt.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Matthew 18:23

The first step in forgiveness requires a searching of our own hearts and intentions. Do we legitimately desire to forgive? Are we willing to “carry or endure” the pain of offense, even if the offender has no desire to resolve the issue.

Climbing

Neil Anderson often reinforces the truth, that forgiveness is a decision, or crisis, of the will. It begins with a decision within us. Forgiveness never implies that the offence doesn’t matter or gives room for continued disregard for another’s wellbeing. In forgiving, we acknowledge fully the depth of the offence and the pain we have endured.

Both the Master and the servant were clear about the extent of the harm, but forgiveness involves mercy.

Step #2 Mercy

In the parable, the deceived servant believed he could somehow reconcile the debt. The King knew the impossibility of his claims. Whether the offenses done against us are small or great, no human effort repairs the damage. In forgiving, we recognize that reconciliation is not always possible, or favorable.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
Matthew 18:27

Mercy requires NOT giving someone what they deserve.

Instinctively, when someone wrongs us, we choose either to retreat or retaliate. We desire to either withdraw, avoiding further injury, or fight back, giving them a bit of what they’ve handed out to others. Jesus calls us to a different approach; He calls us to compassion.

The Greek word used for “pity” means “compassion in an absolute sense — feeling deeply for another based on emotion rather than on intellect or reason.”

Climbing Mountain

Talk about a massive boulder plopped in the middle of the path to forgiveness. Not only does Jesus call us to forgive, He calls us to a deep level of compassion for our offender.

While serving on guard duty, I have to position my heart free from critical judgments over the incarcerated. I see them at their worst. I watch over them during extreme times of crisis and intervention. Only God fully knows the twisted paths that have brought each one to this place.

Forgiveness doesn’t ignore or deny someone’s cruel behavior. It acknowledges the painful consequences we endure from their actions.

Forgiveness reaches across the chasm of personal pain to empathize with another, facing the blunt force of that pain head on. It looks the offender in the eye and says, “Despite what you have done, I forgive you. I no longer consider you indebted to me.”

Step #3 Revoking

In the same verse, Jesus tells us that the king “canceled the debt.” Can you imagine forgiving someone for twenty years of continued indebtedness, twenty years of insult and injury, twenty years of negligence and abuse? Some who are reading this relate all too well. The offense against you may span much longer — years have flowed into decades.

In this step, the sheer rock face of personal pain impedes our movement. To press through requires nothing less than the grace of God.

We know our offender owes us —
        owes us apology
                owes us restitution
                        owes us recognition of what they’ve done.

I wish every offender, including me, would quickly see their error, apologize, and make restoration. Unfortunately, few seldom do.

Team Work

Only by writing “PAID IN FULL” across the bill of their indebtedness will we overcome and conquer, moving toward full forgiveness, restoration, and personal freedom.

God called Job to forgive his friends, who turned into harsh critics.

” . . . My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly . . . After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before . . . The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Job 42:8,10,12

Praying for our offenders provides the strength and wisdom to take the step of revoking the wrongs done against us. Through prayer, we release our assailants to God. Then, and only then, can God freely restore blessing to us.

Step #4 Let Him Go!

In practical terms, “letting him go” means refusing to dwell on the situation any longer. When I allow myself to regurgitate past offenses, I become stuck on the plateau of self-pity.

The plateau of pity appears quite pleasant — honestly, way too comfortable. No risky routes around boulders. No knuckle-whitening grips up granite cliffs. Parking in the pleasurable place of pity perhaps presents the greatest peril.

The Peril of Parking

The longer I park, the better it feels, the more self-righteous I believe I am, and the more critical I become of others. Pity deceives and lures.

Interesting how the right kind of pity, a compassion for others, sets our grand course. Yet, this misdirected pity and self-seeking gratification keeps us from reaching the destination of forgiveness.

“Letting him go” releases not just him, but us! It sets us free from being held back by the poor behavior of others, releasing us to reach the pinnacle of our destiny and purpose.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15

Parking in pity is a luxury none can afford!

There is one more point Jesus makes in the parable.

Step #5 Release Judgment

God judges justly! When we master the narrow path of forgiveness, extending mercy and compassion, considering another’s debts “PAID IN FULL,” and releasing our offenders completely from their wrong, God still holds them accountable.

Forgiveness never belittles or denies the incredible pain of offense. Only through the act of forgiving comes the power to walk free from it. Earthly powers lack ability. Even monetary recompense fails to satisfy. Only through the cross of Jesus Christ does justice reign.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven

Jesus paid for every offense on the cross, We measure the weight of sin on faulty human scales. Sin is sin to God. Only He sees the full picture. Only He judges justly.

“The LORD arises to contend
And stands to judge the people.”
Isaiah 3:13

As we listen to the voice of Jesus, leaning into His heart, and choosing the path of forgiveness, we will find He is with us, guarding our steps. With Him, we will overcome every obstacle, reaching the high place of forgiveness, where someday we will view all things from the Kingdom of Heaven perspective.

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Jesus – It is Finished! Bringing Justice Through to Victory

The joyous declaration at Christ’s birth proclaimed love, peace and joy. It was the magnificent prelude to a mighty shout, “Justice has been brought through to victory. It is finished!” Or is it?

Lately instead of echoing It is finished!“, I have been asking “Is it finished?”

“Where is the victory?
Where can justice be found?”

Both triumph and struggle mark my daily reality. The battle within and around me is often intense. I see defeat in lives around me. I hear pain in weighted voices while mock smiles camouflage hurting hearts.

Matthew echoes Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus,

“I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.”
Matthew 12:18

Through His life and death, Jesus completed this and over 300 other prophecies.”…the odds of anyone fulfilling this amount of prophecy are staggering. Mathematicians put it this way: 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies = 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000; 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies = 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power; 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies = Only Jesus!”

In His own words, Jesus says,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come.
I did not come to abolish the law of Moses
or the writings of the prophets.
No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
Matthew 5:17

Justice

The World

The original quote in Isaiah puts it this way,

“A bruised reed he will not break
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice,
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.”
Isaiah 42:3,4

Without question, Jesus has the power and ability to use force to break the bruised or snuff out those whose passion has grown cold. Yet, “he will not”! Three times Isaiah declares this truth, “he will not!” 

If Jesus came as a baby over two thousand years ago to “establish justice on the earth”, I’m sorry, but it is hard to see! The rich become richer and the poor poorer. Horrific levels of injustice and discrimination flourish unchecked in nation after nation. In cultures void of God consciousness or respect for life, justice appears absent.

Mercy

Regardless of what I witness around me, Jesus completely fulfilled the mandate of establishing justice on earth.

Finished

Connie Inglis, an Inscribe writer, reminded me of another three point emphasis. The Greek root word telos is used, not just once, but three times in reference to Jesus’ death on the cross.

“Later, knowing that
all was now completed (teleō),
and so that the Scripture
would be fulfilled (teleioō),
Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’ …
When he had received the drink,
Jesus said, ‘It is finished (teleō).’
With that, he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.”
John 19:28, 30
Powerful words! Completed! Fulfilled! Finished! When the writers of scripture stated something three times they were giving it the strongest possible emphasis. Like a holy shout, they were ensuring we wouldn’t miss the point.
It is finished!
“When you were dead in your sins
and in the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made you alive with Christ.”
Colossians 2:13-15
Alive
Since the fall of Adam, sin holds all mankind in the legal grip of death. Through Christ alone, the dead receive life! It is finished!
“He forgave us all our sins,
having cancelled the charge
of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us’
he has taken it away,
nailing it to the cross.”
Colossians 2:14
All righteousness has been fulfilled! Jesus paid the price for our freedom, not just from sin, but from the resulting guilt and shame. The cross is more than enough. Salvation is complete in Him!
“And having disarmed
the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross.”
Colossians 2:15
What was the final act of justice? While Satan powerfully bruised Jesus’ heal, Jesus crushed his head inflicting a fatal blow. Through the cross, Jesus executed judgment on our enemy creating a path for complete restoration for each of us.

Follow Through

“It is finished!” Everything Jesus came to do, he accomplished!

Now it is our turn! God desires justice, fully and freely blended with mercy, to influence every person and invade every area of our planet. Today! Here! Now!

“This is what the LORD Almighty said:
Administer true justice, show mercy
and compassion to one another.”
Zechariah 7:9

Poverty

Mercy, (Hebrew – hesed) refers to active care. It is loving kindness and compassion demonstrated. Justice (Hebrew – tsadaq) refers more to fair treatment and equity. Mercy and justice partner together, like the left and right hand working in unison.

Brad Jersak explains it like this:

“Mercy is like the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff,
ready to help those who fall off.
Justice builds a fence at the top of the cliff
to protect them from falling in the first place.
Mercy wipes the tears from the eyes.
Justice asks, “Why are you crying?”
Mercy welcomes the hungry
to gather around God’s banqueting table.
Justice addresses why
some are under the table aching of hunger…
Mercy seeks and saves those lost in darkness.
Justice asks, “Why is it dark? Who is keeping it dark?”

Continuous Completion

In the Greek, the verb choice for “finished” is in perfect tense. It is a past action but the effect of it continues into the present. Whenever the broken are made whole, the lost welcomed home, the sick healed, relationships restored, tormented minds find peace, “it is finished” again, and again, and yet again… The past action of Christ’s finished work continues unending!

For unto us a child is born!

This past year alone I witnessed the continuing triumph through Christ at work as

people discovered personal relationship with Jesus,
many set free from destructive
or addictive behaviours,
traumas erased, lies exposed and minds set at peace,
medically confirmed miracles occurred:
brain lesions from Multiple Sclerosis disappeared;
“frozen shoulder” instantly healed;
unborn baby without a heartbeat born healthy;
those unable to conceive conceiving;
cancer disappearing;
and so much more!

When we welcome Jesus into a situation, He comes in triumph! The answers don’t always look like we hope or expect, but Christ is the answer for every hopeless situation.

Victory Triumphs

Jesus carried “justice through to victory.”  His work is complete, fulfilled and finished! Our work, through the Holy Spirit, as we follow in His footsteps, continues! Finished but ongoing!

“…And this is the secret:
Christ lives in you.
This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”
Colossians 1:27

In His footsteps!

A call resounds for the church to rise. As she awakens from her slumber embracing the mandate of mercy and justice, we will witness on earth the impact of what legally has been completely in the heavenly realm. Oh that Christ would receive the glory for everything He accomplished at the cross.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

Celebration of advent, the arrival of the long awaited Messiah, closed the year! Yet, Jesus’ coming announced the dawn of a new era, bringing justice and hope for all. His life and death shakes the earth, even now, with divine authority setting this upside down world right side up.

Is it finished? Yes! It is finished!

**********

 

3 Godly Characteristics – Justice, Mercy and Humility!

Godly Qualities, Justice Mercy & Humility

An awareness of good and evil resides in us all; with that knowledge comes a tendency toward judgmental attitudes. God calls us to three godly principles: justice, mercy and humility. Personally, justice dominates; mercy is lacking, while true humility is a work in progress.

I was chatting with a preschool teacher a little while ago. She was welcoming new students into her class. They are rapidly learning the behavioural expectations of their new environment. The older students are quick to inform her when one of her new charges is going astray.

 Follow the way!

We chuckled at how easy it is to point out someone else’s faults, even though it may be the only moment in the entire day when we ourselves are actually obeying. It isn’t just children that fall into this trap!

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

He Has Shown You

What does justice look like where the guilty face the consequences of their actions, while victims are restored their rights and dignity?

God has made the distinction between right and wrong clear in His word and even within our hearts. Before we allow intellectual reasoning unruly access, God’s requirements are obvious, even as these little preschoolers demonstrate.

He has shown you!

Act Justly

Justice is an action! It is something one pursues and does!

“But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”
Hosea 12:6

I immediately want justice when it is me that has faced offense or some kind of violation, even is minor. Yet, when I have crossed the boundaries of honour into the quick-sand of indifferent regard, I’m not so fast to press for that same justice.

Hypocritical? Yes!

Act justly; love mercy!

 

The only way justice truly works is when it is mixed with a healthy dose of mercy. The two form the right and left hand of godliness.

“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice;
show mercy and compassion to one another.”
Zechariah 7:9

Love Mercy

Righteousness and justice
are the foundation of your throne.”

That is a verse I have quoted many times; perhaps I should say, misquoted in part! Usually this is as far as I would go! I honestly did not know the rest of the verse by memory. How about you?

“…mercy and loving-kindness and truth go before You.”

Often when God talks about justice, He immediately adds mercy! I must remember that mercy is first of all a matter of the heart, “love mercy.”

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!”
Isaiah 30:18

Walk Humbly

I may seem innocent and humble in my own eyes, at least until the Holy Spirit speaks!

Humility and innocence

In reality my heart has a strong bent toward pride – so do we all!|

The more Holy Spirit uncovers the secret thoughts and condition of my heart, the more disgusting I find it is.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Who truly “knows” my heart? The answer is, God does. Yet, He is willing to look inside and show me the contaminated contents as well.

If my heart lies, I will know it; if my heart accuses, I will know that too; but if my heart is deceived, I will not know it unless God reveals it. It is through humility that lies, accusations and even deceptions are revealed for what they truly are.

We can sometimes misinterpret humility as weakness; it is in fact stronger than justice and mercy combined.

Arrogance and Pride

It is humility that keeps my proud nose pointed in the right direction recognizing my own need for transformation, rather than blindly upward. One of the toughest places to demonstrate true humility is in the face of injustice, where the cup of love of mercy appears empty.

Requirements of Humility, Mercy and Justice

Actually, when I reverse the order and put humility first, when I recognize my security in the Father and Christ in me, humility begins to flow rather naturally. Humility, mercy and justice are more than requirements, they are release agents of God’s goodness.

Arrogance has not room in the Presence of God – none! Out of the relationship of love and mercy, love and mercy finds a free flowing channel to influence others. This sweet delicate flow makes wrong things right! Justice begins to naturally invade attitudes and circumstances.

No matter which way you say it – justice, mercy and humility, or humility, mercy and justice – they form a torpedo sandwich catapulting a powerful momentum of strength and dignity into our lives and the lives of those around us.

A requirement is something that is most needed and wanted; it is a necessary condition. God who made us in His own image, says justice, mercy and humility are necessary ingredients for us to re-present Him to our wounded world.

Necessary? Yes!

Wanted? Yes, Lord!

May my life be one that actively pursues justice, generously loves and consistently extends mercy, and gently walks in humility, that I might pattern Christ more fully.