Sunday, March 9, 2014

That's not my job

Now wait just a minute. Don't worry - I'm not trying to take the easy way out of something, and I'm not trying to create more work for you. I'm not falling ill to the entitlement syndrome that is plaguing our society and telling you that I'm above hard work.

No, this is a rather different sort of post.

Today, I saw the movie "Philomena," and my mind has been occupied all day with one of its core themes: forgiveness. I won't spoil the film for those of you who plan to see it, so I'll be vague. Throughout the film, there is a particular injustice that causes your defenses to rise, and you just want to see a certain person (or group of people) face the music. You want to see her/them called to account and forced to face the pain they caused so many people. So, when the opportune moment arises, it almost deflated me when instead of wrath, forgiveness was offered.

After recovering from my shock, I was ashamed. I started thinking through what exactly I wanted to happen in that moment of reckoning. I think the most important thing to me was that this person/these people learned a lesson. I wanted to ensure that there was no doubt of the pain that was caused, and I wanted to see remorse.

But we don't always get what we want. And when we have seen someone experience the consequences for sin, how many of us have felt sick that what we hoped for actually happened? Paul reminds us that God promises He is in control, and we should not take revenge:

"Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God..." (Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened but releasing it and not allowing the cold hand of Bitterness to strangle the life out of your heart. It is not our job to teach others a lesson - it is our job to forgive.

I attended the Prestonwood Women's Retreat a few weekends ago, and was blessed to sit under the teaching of Jennifer Rothschild and Stormie Omartian. I took home so many gems of truth from the retreat that you can be sure you'll hear more about it in the months to come. One of the key take-aways from Stormie, a woman who experienced tremendous trials as a child that grew in her a deep bitterness towards her mother, was about forgiveness. Simple and true, she said,

"Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right - it makes you free."

In the wise words of Philomena, she agreed. Below is the brief dialogue between her and a reporter who had become her companion on a journey to find out the truth about the past. When the truth was discovered, he did not like it...

Philomena: I forgive you (Catholic nun) because I don't want to remain angry.

<Martin (i.e. reporter) exclaims in shock and disagreement>

Philomena: But I don't wanna hate people. I don't wanna be like you (Martin). Look at you.
Martin: I'm angry.
Philomena: Must be exhausting.

Anger and bitterness can turn us into different people, and it is EXHAUSTING. Forgiveness frees us. Once we let go of the selfish desire to be proven right or justified, we are free to heal and get stronger. It's not easy...it never is. But it's what God did for us, and what we ought to do for others:

"Our Father in heaven...forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us" (Matt 6:19-13).

"Husbands...treat her (your wife) as you should so your prayers will not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).

"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the alter in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the alter. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23-24).

2 comments:

  1. Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)- For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses...YES...it IS our job to forgive...otherwise?...we don't get forgiven...

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  2. Jamie - just to be clear, I am saying it's not my job to teach someone a lesson. It's my job to forgive and let God do His work after that.

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