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Always Forgiving
'...bearing with one another, and forgiving each other...just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.' Colossians 3:13
Everything else I’ve written also touches on forgiveness. I know you have heard everything about why we forgive and the consequences when we don’t forgive. But let me share this with you.

Over the years I have become convinced that sometimes forgiveness is not a one-act play; sometimes it’s a journey. The goal is not necessarily to get to the end of the journey, since that will happen when we arrive in heaven. The main purpose is to stay on the right path; i.e., do the right thing. That's what this article is about.

I drive a little all-wheel-drive Honda. I love that thing. I think I’ve used the all-wheel-drive four or five times in the 12 years we’ve owned the car, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Walking in the Spirit is a little bit like having all-wheel-drive on your car: you don’t necessarily always need it (I said it’s a ‘little bit’ like it; of course we always need the Holy Spirit!) like when the road is clear and smooth and it’s a bright sunny day with little traffic. But every once in a while, for whatever reason, you get detoured onto rough, steep, muddy terrain—and then it’s worth its weight in gold.

Well, sometimes forgiveness is like that: for whatever reason, you detour into rocky, rough territory. I don’t think that why you’re there is nearly as important as what you do once you find yourself there. Maybe you hear a song that reminds you of a difficult time, or you see someone who hurt you ages ago that you haven’t seen for quite some time. That’s an unexpected detour: you didn’t plan to go that way, in fact you tried to avoid it, but now you see that you are actually prepared for it. The forgiveness you gave years ago might not have been needed when the object was ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’, but you’re suddenly forced off the smooth highway onto a rock-strewn brush-covered mountainous goat-path! And the choice you made to forgive is desperately required now. The all-wheel-drive is automatic, like the Holy Spirit leading us when we’re not fighting Him.

Our minds can easily stray off the main path—the right way of thinking. Satan knows our weaknesses and is always prepared to exploit them; then we can get really messed up because we’re on the wrong path. We’re not thinking the way God wants us to be thinking, the way we agreed to think about things—which is the way He thinks about them. (Philippians 4:8-9) What is necessary is to slow down, maintain control, and however haltingly, head back to the main highway. If we allow ourselves to stay out of control we’ll follow that goat-path right over a cliff. That’s also maturity: that when you see you’re going the wrong way, you can immediately change course to get back on track.

There are many areas where we choose whether or not to act maturely. Even some Christians who have been saved for many years are emotionally very immature; they’ve never learned to put aside those childish ways of dealing with things and become a grownup. (I Corinthians 13:11) They know Scripture, they go to church, they understand their purpose—but they cannot fulfill it because they are still acting immaturely, like little children. The problem with being deceived is that you truly, honestly, sincerely believe with all your heart that you are right! Only you’re not right; you are terribly wrong. 

Come away from those childish things. One high school friend used to say, 'Don’t hold grudges--they give you warts!' Let go. Let go of all those old hurts and pains and trespasses. They are very familiar, yet you must not maintain your friendship with them. They are not helping you; they are holding you back. You are being held hostage! And yet you hold the key to the chains that bind you.

Remember the promises: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live!" Deuteronomy 30:19

I know you want to really live. Choose life. Choose blessings. “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Now you need to grow up and put away childish things. "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." I Corinthians 13:11 It is childish to continue to dwell on old offenses; it is mature to dwell on what is good. It is mature to be filled with thankfulness; it is mature to forgive.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:12-17

One more thing, by way of illustration. I can forgive the fox who gets into my henhouse and kills my prize chickens, even if he doesn’t get caught by the law. I can usually come to understand his actions and realize perhaps he didn’t know better, or he was starving. I can even repent of my part in leaving the door unlocked, making it more tempting and inviting for him to do what he did. But I never, ever, have to let him near my hens again. I can learn my lessons and double check my locks and even refuse to invite him over anymore, and still forgive him. Perhaps I may find myself wanting to give him a chicken, if he’s really starving. But I won’t let him on my property by himself, and I especially won’t let him in the henhouse.

And that’s not what God expects, either. Forgiving does not mean erasing everything and pretending nothing happened before, it just means that whatever happened before no longer has a hold on YOU; it’s not ‘bugging’ you, it’s not grating on your thoughts and your nerves, it doesn’t control how you treat him or react to him. If the fox repents and makes restitution for his misdeeds and proves himself over time to be trustworthy, by all means invite him to dinner. You might still want to check the locks, though, and that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven him: it means you’ve learned about human nature and the natural order of things in a fallen world. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Start today. Let God work in your life. Think what is right. Be thankful. Grow up. And remember that sometimes forgiveness is a journey. If you struggle with this continually and find that you are losing the fight in this area, please get help! Talk to your pastor, or a Christian mentor, or a godly counselor, but don’t just walk away. God loves you so much. I pray that He will bless you immeasurably as you continue to walk and grow in faith.

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