I was thinking about forgiveness the other day, which is nothing new for me. The ideas and “convictions” are legion, but the Bible is very clear on the benefits of giving forgiveness, and also of accepting it when appropriate. In most human events where forgiveness should be given, the one who gives the forgiveness, whether or not the other accepts it, is the primary benefactor. That is the premise of my book Outrageous Forgiveness in 30 Days.
That the dynamics of forgiveness are complex goes without saying. One is hurt, suffered some sort of loss, the other did the hurting, on purpose or inadvertently, but the hurt is there nonetheless. The “axeman” often swings a look, a word or deed without thought and damage is done. In other situations a business deal goes wrong. The list could go on, but why? Right now you are thinking of someone who caused pain in your life. Or, you just may be thinking of a wrong or wrongs you have done to others.
An African proverb addresses the tangled web of hurt with this, “The axe forgets what the tree remembers.” It’s too true.
A pastor friend of mine went through a really tough time years ago as pastor of a church in the state where I have lived now for 39 years. He left with bad feelings about the way the people had treated him and they with the same about how he had treated them. He went on to pastor a thriving church in a Western state and in the course of years was called by the Lord back to the Eastern part of our state. In the strange way that God can work and often does work, the Spirit moved and on a given night the church, the current pastor and my friend had a public reconciliation meeting. I know there was more than a few old fashioned hallelujahs sent up and I feel certain an angel or two rejoiced with the people.
Something like the above cannot be worked out on a reasoning basis, but God can and is willing to override past mistakes, past sins, and certainly via the blood of Christ wash away and bury the differences. He did just this in the above case. My friend has been with Jesus now for several years, and the church where he once pastored and then enjoyed true reconciliation is prospering. This is as it should be.
In real life, the “axe” may forget the pain, while the tree remembers and oft points to the scars. Both the axe and the tree, offender and victim, will be better off when the hatchet is truly buried without the handle sticking out. In Christ all Christian offenses and pain can be reconciled and should be in the name of Christ.
In most any city there are at two churches of like or similar faith that are bitter toward each other. It’s almost as if one is named Hatfield Baptist and the other McCoy Baptist. It’s not limited to a particular group. This must stop.
I had the privilege of meeting Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran Pastor who suffered horribly at the hands of the communists in Romania. He spoke in our churches on three occasions and when I pastored for a short time in Maryland, I had the joyful privilege of flying him to several different meetings to share his story and then back to our base. The stories he could tell in the privacy of 20,000 feet were priceless and I will always remember them. He said, “In the communists prisons we did not fight about the things everyone wants to fight about here. We were busy surviving.” Wurmbrand a dignified, erudite Lutheran pastor, told of holding hands, while naked, on the ice with an illiterate Pentecostal, singing with all their heart, Amazing Grace. Many of my Baptist Friends will say, “If I were standing naked, on a frozen lake holding hands with a Pentecostal it would be because hell had frozen over.” Could it be this is why our churches are as cold as a mother in law’s kiss?
The differences we have are not bad. I think for the most part they are essential. I can tell you from sad experience, when you are sitting naked in some prison cell in a foreign land, or in our own United States, you will gladly welcome the prayers and songs of prisoners in the same boat, whatever their preferred persuasion. Or yours.
You may be the axe or the tree. Whichever, get over it.
Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
Copyright © 2014 Larry Lilly
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