What is there to Forgive?


When contrasting arguments are laid out it is easier to distinguish the path and outcome. When it comes to a life filled with emotions and complications, it is not always so easy. The last blog started on the adventure of trying to increase vigilance to remain on the path that leads to life.

This series of blogs is not presenting a way of living that earns salvation, but displays the path of Jesus. Jesus is the way the truth and the life, the only way to the Father and life eternal is through him. This implies the path of life placed before us through Jesus is narrow. It is walking as he does and abandoning the path of death that we walked before knowing him.

The paths before us lead us either back to death or continue us along the path of life with Christ.

The paths of forgiveness and unforgiveness like that of humility and pride split into the same two paths. Forgiveness, like humility, can be found on the way to life and unforgiveness, well you can probably figure out where that leads.

Jesus highlighted this contrast in his teaching with a parable. He went as far as to say that our own forgiveness is tied to the forgiveness we show to others. There is no wiggle room on this theme; it is life or death that lies in front of us.

Jesus then models what to do in one of his last acts on the cross with the words “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness does not keep memory of hurt. It lays no foundation on which to build future wounds or slights. In so many instances division or separation comes as a result of a build up of events. Anger at a first time offence is very rare. Usually it is triggered by memories of past wounds that are still raw, or lightly scabbed. When Jesus responds to the man saying to forgive 70 x 7 he is not telling him to start keeping a notebook with tallies of how many times he has forgiven people. Without getting into the numerical significance, although I encourage you to explore that yourself, Jesus is essentially saying to forgive infinitude.

You may have heard it said “time heals all wounds”. Whoever told you that was misinformed. Just take a look at the conflicts in the Middle East, or maybe even the current status of the American people. Time just lets wounds fester unless treated. Like a physical wound, it gets worse and infection sets in if untreated.

It is not time that heals emotional wounds, but God through forgiveness. Healing comes not from just speaking words of forgiveness but acknowledging the pain and handing it over to God. Removing the pain and letting go of any desired vengeance makes room for healing. The memory is not removed but the wound then is. In place of pain comes joy. If that person or situation is brought up in the future there is nothing to trigger, no wound to poke.

Suppression is not forgiveness. Ignoring that something happened does not take away any of the pain, but temporarily numbs us until the pain becomes unbearable down the road. Suppression is used because of the promise of time dealing with the wound on its own.

Like any infection, unforgiveness spreads. It can lead to anger, and a quickness to take offense. What could have easily been overlooked in the past becomes a new wound. Unforgiveness can lead to gossip which takes the place of productive speech and it invites others on that path to death.

Forgiveness can be an active practice through inviting God to reveal any harboured unforgiveness to deal with. A person committed to walking in forgiveness doesn’t wait for disaster, but acknowledges even a small hurt or sin done against them and quickly forgives and delivers unto the cross the wound to be nailed there with Jesus. The practice should in the end never desire another person to be set on the road to death but saved onto the path of life. Forgiveness is the practice that turns hurt into praying for those who persecute you. There is no promise of a future free of pain, just the promise of a past free of it.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:23-35

The choice of forgiveness is not an easy one. There is something inside of us that acknowledges the wrong done and recognizes the need for justice. To make matters worse, if our own health or wellbeing was attacked in the process, we may feel violated. Sometimes we feel as though withholding forgiveness is the only way to hold out for justice.

Can you imagine if God felt this way about our sin towards him? What if he responded to our sin against him in that same way? The justice of God is mercy triumphing over judgement. On the cross Jesus took upon himself judgement that we may receive his mercy. All repented sin is greeted by the mercy of God as our sin is nailed with Jesus to the cross. That which is left unrepented will meet the judgement of God. What is fascinating is Jesus tells us mercy is unavailable to those who harbour unforgiveness in Matthew 18. The parable of the servants is used to demonstrate the seriousness with which God treats unforgiveness. Our being forgiven is placed in our hands as we choose to or not to forgive others.

When it is presented this way, how could we question the significance of unforgiveness? To receive the deserved punishment instead of the forgiveness offered to us because of our own inability to forgive is a price I am unwilling to pay. It is too steep!

As we saw in the last blog, the path of life takes vigilance. On it we find the fruit of the spirit but it takes discipline to stay on it. There are influences both external and internal that try to pull us away and off the path. Regarding forgiveness, we must be quick to forgive but also be sure to expose our hearts before God to find if there is any remaining unforgiveness.

The Lord knows the capacity and timing needed. Steps on the path must be taken in order. The grace of God pulls us along revealing the next obedience. I have found after asking the question “Is there any person I have not forgiven?” the Lord doesn’t withhold but protects me until I am ready to face a past situation. I remember a moment when God dealt with my inability to receive love from others and a floodgate of memories came in accompanied by an awareness of unforgiveness. This was after years of asking this question of God regularly.

When unforgiveness is held it is like a weight pressed upon us. We can ignore the pain by suppressing the memory or hold resentment but as soon as another situation touches the previous wound it adds another weight on top of the old one. Over time that weight grows to a point of unbearable pain. That last event could be very small but because of the built up weight it causes us to lash out and end relationships. If we go our whole lives without practicing forgiveness many old wounds with stacks of weight on them will be triggered. We become fragile from a life of unforgiveness. The Holy Spirit can lead us through memories of situations and people we harbour unforgiveness against. Through forgiveness and giving God the pain, those weights are removed leaving us free to embrace any future situations fresh.

This is why forgiving 70×7 times is possible. The pain is not felt all at once as the past wounds have no bearance on the future. Imagine how many relationships could be saved if there was no build up of unforgiveness and the past wounds had no impact on the present reality!

When we forgive someone, it doesn’t snap them right back into a category of trust. When there is no repentance on the side of the other person, it gives us awareness of where they stand with God. We may very well have to practice turning the other cheek, but it is not out of blindness but obedience that reconciliation happens (if beneficial). The presence of unrepentant sin will continue to separate us after we have forgiven the other person. Our forgiveness does not cancel their need to repent, and as always sin separates us from God and others.

I was reminded by a friend this week that pursuing reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ is the call. At times the vulnerability of that pursuit is difficult for me. Taking another punch and forgiving again without sharing how it impacts me is easier for me than sharing the impact with the one who wounded me. I often need the reminder that God actually desires I be loved by those he has chosen to walk with me. Without pursuing reconciliation, that option is not on the table.

There was a moment in my life when I had a word from the Lord to not trust another leader. I ignored this word giving him the opportunity to create difficulties, division, and sin in the lives of the people I led. God was so gracious in healing those wounds, but it didn’t have to go as it did. There are people that are compromised by sin and lies. These people cannot be trusted. It does not mean we have grounds to withhold forgiveness, but it does mean we should withhold trust and partnership.

Forgiveness is a command and not a choice on our behalf. The decisions which follow are not always as clear. How we manage the relationship after forgiveness requires discernment, obedience and an understanding of whether the heart of the person is repentant. I am sure a future blog is in order to focus on how to navigate those relationships, but for now we need to see the clear choice of paths.

There is no option on the path to life but forgiveness. Unforgiveness will always take us on a hard turn off the narrow path and bring about disaster in our lives. As all sin does, unforgiveness takes root in the heart and spreads to corrupt everything within us.

My Covid Response


It has taken me awhile to sit down and write about this Covid-19. Although I have more time on my hands, I always write out of lessons God has walked me through. I write when I feel freedom and clarity to share the lessons I have internalized. I also wait until I get a sense it is the time to share those thoughts with the world. Social Media is my medium for more spontaneous revelation in these days (of which God is sharing in abundance!).

There are two thoughts that keep swirling around in my head. They have become the focus of a lot of phone and video conversations. The first is that this time came as no surprise to God. He has been aware of this moment and season for all of us as individuals, as a society (global and local) and as the church. He has a grace for this moment to usher us into what he has planned for this time. The second thought is that I do not want this season to pass us before we experience the good things he has for us.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:27-28

This thought that “God is not surprised” brings me such peace. His view is not linear like ours. That is why we can receive prophetic words from him. He shares with us in part as a preparation, but he sees in full. There is no death, job loss, financial crisis, gift, or victory that surprises him. He is sufficient in all of these situations. He is prepared to supply all that I need in any situation. He is sufficient and blessing us in this moment we are in. What he asks is for us to call upon his name and ask for him to provide what we need.

This crisis is doing something extraordinary. It is pulling away those things in this world we cling to for support. Our health, our wealth, our friends and family, our ability to travel and yes, our independence (maybe read back to my last blog). It is revealing the things we think bring freedom and happiness and exposing them as fraudulent. Even movies and TV shows aren’t calming people or giving them life.

There is a beauty in this moment that is stripping away the things that take the place of God in our lives. Those idols we cling to are being shown as worthless and lifeless at this time. Realizing God knew this was coming leads to the beautiful revelation he is ready to take on being God in this moment. As all of those other things aren’t able to provide in this moment, God is. As all of those other things can’t silence the fear, God can bring peace. As all of those idols give no clarity on the future, God brings hope. As all of our healthcare systems are overburdened, God is still our healer, and our future can be secure with the knowledge that eternity is with Jesus!

He is prepared to be the place we turn to.

I have been spending the majority of my scripture time in the story of Moses from the point of the plagues in Egypt to the time that Moses is forced to lead his people in the wilderness. It is interesting God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to letting the Israelites go. There is something God wanted to accomplish in the season before freeing Israel (Exodus 6-12).

“But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.”
Exodus 9:12

We might think the best thing would be for God to soften Pharaoh’s heart so Israel could leave Egypt right away. But there was something the Israelites needed to learn before their exodus. They needed to see who their God really was. They needed to see his power and his care for them. I think of how he instructed them to put blood over their door frames to be protected from the death that awaited the Egyptians. God was teaching them, there is nothing I can’t do, and you can look to me as your protector and provider. This season became a point to look back to for generations to come as a reminder of who God is. What could have been a quick moment of deliverance, became a lasting reminder of who we can turn to, and that he knows the ending before we do.

The people of Israel didn’t fully learn the lesson and we get a picture of Israel turning to an idol of their own creation when Moses is gone too long (Exodus 32). The high priest himself enabled this rebellion against God. Instead of just glancing over this, God told a whole generation that they couldn’t enter the promised land because of their rebellion.

“because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12:6

Is this because God is a jealous God? Yes and no. Yes, he instructs us to turn from all idols, but it is not out of vengeance but grace that Israel must wander the desert. Like any good parent, God disciplines those he loves. He does this so they (and future generations) will learn to trust him and his ways. Discipline is not a pleasant thing but it is always good from God. Discipline looks like long suffering until the point that we get it. His grace will always sustain us in the suffering and we will turn to rejoice in it.

The dangerous thing about this season is if we let it pass without embracing it, we will be left behind. This is not because God isn’t gracious but because we have refused his love. God does not abandon us, but our rebellion (sin) creates a chasm between us which removes us from his presence. The good news is that at any point we repent that chasm is filled by the cross and we are invited back into his presence and provision. But if we miss that moment of grace we could be left behind until that moment of repentance (or indefinitely).

This is the second thought that has been driving my prayer life. “God, I don’t want to miss what you have for us in this season by your grace. I don’t want this to pass and go forward the same as I was before this. I want your church to embrace the good things and discipline you have for us now! Please don’t let this time end until we have heard and entered into your provision for this season.”

Just like the Israelite in Egypt, I don’t want us to miss the provision of God and be unprepared for the wilderness ahead.

Remember how King Saul lost his anointing? Although he had good intentions, he ignored the instruction of God and didn’t wait for Samuel to offer sacrifices. He offered them himself and then became defensive when he was exposed. It seems like he was given such a short time to repent of what he did, and he lived the rest of his life without the anointing of God. It instead passed to David. I don’t want us to live the experience of Saul! Please don’t let this be us at the end of this season.

I have such hope for the church in this season. My hope is we will embrace a fear of the Lord and a lifestyle of holiness we couldn’t have imagined prior. My hope is we will understand the gospel in a new way and be bringers of hope and peace to everywhere our feet touch. This is the invitation of God. Can you hear it? He has the storehouses of heaven to provide for us. Will that be our provision?

Too Slow to Change


I have been thinking a lot about what healthy change looks like. There are many examples in scripture of an invitation to repentance and a response from either an individual or group. My question is: Is it ok if we delay? Are we allowed to take our time and deliberate, sustaining the old way of life for a time? Change doesn’t happen overnight, right?

The story of Jonah going to the Ninevites has always seemed humorous to me. God sends a prophet who rebels and doesn’t want to go. And when he finally does, his expectation is that the people will not repent and God will bring wrath upon them. He has little expectation of the ability of a sinful nation to respond quickly to God, especially in the face of his own rebellion.

But the response of Nineveh is actually the response the Lord is looking for. They turn from their wicked ways when God shows up and reveals the error of their ways. They don’t delay, but right away change their behaviour and cry out to God. What if they did delay? I think Jonah would have gotten his wish. He would have seen a city destroyed in the book of Jonah.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

What happens when we are faced with our lifestyle contradicting the way of Jesus? What happens when the bible contradicts our beliefs and actions?

I have a tendency to be stubborn. You might at times call me bullheaded. I have a desire to dig in and fight when faced with something contrary to my beliefs or viewpoint. As I have matured, I have become quicker to repent, but at times I stand in my own way when it comes to being transformed into the image of Jesus. This stubbornness trait has a positive attribute alongside it, but for the sake of this article let’s look at the danger.

“27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””
John 20:27-29

Thomas, known to many as the “doubting Thomas” is known for his inability to trust solely in the words of Jesus. He needed visual proof in the risen saviour. I have heard people’s thoughts on the positives and negatives of this but I believe to always approach new revelation with skepticism is a sad reality. I remember someone teaching me once to always receive the revelation from God fully in faith, and then to test everything. This approach doesn’t start in opposition, but a desire to be in favor of that new reality. Thomas started with doubt and demanded proof to win him over. We see a patient Jesus in this scenario but Thomas is not praised for demanding proof.

The Rich young ruler gives us an example of a response of a man who saw the cost of change as too great. The change necessary to follow Jesus seemed impossible for him, so not only did he not quickly change, he decided to change was altogether too much. We have no insight into his future. He might have at some point bought in and given up everything for the kingdom of God. But again, that is not the point of the story. When Jesus told him to give up his possessions, that was the time to say yes.

A heart of repentance, or a heart after God, doesn’t put off the yes when he calls. A heart of repentance does not wait to bury our parents, or until we get that promotion. There is no ideal future for the yes, just the timing he has chosen. We have some stories of unrepentant people but so many other examples of individuals quick to change in scripture.

I love the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22. As the temple is being restored his people stumble upon the laws God has given the people of Israel. These laws have been disregarded for generations and the people of Israel are living in rebellion. When King Josiah discovers this, he cries out to God and changes his ways. He doesn’t stay on the same path or think about how difficult it would be to shift the culture back to what it once was.

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”
2 Kings 22:18-20

As the people of God, we are to be like King Josiah, eager to embrace the plan of God. When that requires change, we embrace it. Change can be for the better or worse, but when it is in obedience to God, it is always good.

Let us not be slow to change. Let us be a people who hang on the very words of God, being quick to jump to his call. I don’t want to miss out on the blessing God has in store, and I don’t want his voice to fall silent in my listening. So for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.