Formations lesson for Jan. 23: Forgiving is Good for the Soul : Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004
December 30 2004 by Jeffrey Wisdom

Formations lesson for Jan. 23: Forgiving is Good for the Soul : Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004
Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004

Formations lesson for Jan. 23: Forgiving is Good for the Soul

By Jeffrey Wisdom
Focal Passage: Matthew 18:23-35

A pastor friend tells the story of two families in one of his first pastorates. Both families seemed to be in constant conflict. Altercations ranged from trying to outdo the other in everyday situations to more disruptive outbursts usually saved for church business conferences.

The families never seemed able to forgive each other of anything. Instead, they were unknowingly making their situation worse.

A lack of forgiveness does nothing but increase our dependency on the one to whom forgiveness is denied. It diminishes the boundaries that help define who we are.

Henry Cloud and John Townsend discuss this in their book Boundaries. "(Boundaries) define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom . . . (And) nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let them off the hook, or to cancel a debt he owes you."

Unforgiveness only reinforces co-dependency in a relationship already soured, but necessary to keep the cycle of failure and blame going. It denies all parties of what they could become. Being unforgiving robs people of their potential, self-control and self esteem.

"Unforgiving people allow other people to control them." Cloud and Townsend wrote. "Setting people who have hurt you free from an old debt is to stop wanting something from them; it sets you free as well. Forgiving can lead to proactive behavior in the present, instead of passive wishes from the past." Forgiveness, then, is an investment in your future.

In Matthew's Gospel, forgiveness is the focus of the text. Though Peter asks how often he should forgive someone (ch. 21-22), forgiveness is not a quotient. It is not something you do in your head. Forgiveness is a spirit and a trait of Christian living.

In Matthew, a servant is forgiven a sizable debt (18:23-27). He is loosed from a relationship that could have kept him tied up for years. He is set free to explore a new future. Instead, he takes all of his potential and his future and throws it away when he does not offer the same opportunity to another (vv. 28-30).

Although the first servant at first is forgiven, he is still controlled by someone else. He is more bound to those who owe him money then to his liberator. That type of bondage is what ultimately leads to his ruin and self-incrimination (vv. 18:31-34). He is at last thrown into prison to suffer a fate like the one he could not forgive. That is the outcome of un-forgiveness - it twists our fates to such an extent that we become a prisoner of our own making.

Consider how each of us has been like a servant who begs for the mercy of God. Our lives endangered by a debt we owe in order to satisfy a righteousness we cannot afford. We beg until we hear that our case is forgiven, then hold trivial grudges and senseless crusades of personal envy. How can we honestly call ourselves Christian when we cannot let go of other's failures and move into a new future?

If you read the text to its end, it is difficult to profess your faith without living it. Perhaps all any of us can do is beg again "Father forgive my disbelief."

12/30/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jeffrey Wisdom | with 0 comments

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