Discipleship, Personal Development, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Forgiving Is Not Forgetting

Peter once asked Jesus, “How often do I forgive someone who sins against me? As many as seven times?” The rabbis of the day taught that you only had to forgive a person three times. Peter may have felt he was being quite generous. He wasn’t a second-chance person or even a third-chance person. He was a seven-chance person. 

But Jesus’ response was as radical then as it is today. He said, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Some versions even translate this as seventy-times-seven (which is 490 times…unless you’re into subjective math). This was a very Jewish way of saying that there should be no limit to the number of times you forgive someone.

God’s grace is boundless. He’s not a second-chance God or a seven-chance God. He’s a seventy-seven chance God. And if we truly follow Jesus, there should be no limit to our forgiveness.

Some believe that forgiveness is showing weakness but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Forgiveness is powerful. When somebody deeply wounds you that person has power over you. As long as you hold onto what they did, the wounds from that person will continue to dominate your life, colouring your perception and controlling your participation in relationships. They will stall you from healing and moving forward. When you forgive someone, you are engaging in a very powerful act. You are taking back control of your life, taking the power back from the person who has wronged you. You are saying, “I will no longer allow this to control my life.”

Forgiving someone isn’t condoning what they’ve done. You’re not saying what they did was okay and you’re not being passive about what happened. In fact, you are being active about what happened. You are acknowledging that something wrong has happened. Otherwise, there would be nothing to forgive. God forgives us but that does not mean he condones our sin.

A common misunderstanding is that forgiveness is forgetting. To forgive someone means to no longer hold them to account for what they’ve done. It means that you wipe the slate clean. But it doesn’t mean you forget. In some situations, forgetting what someone has done could be dangerous or destructive. If the person you are forgiving is toxic, dangerous, or abusive, you need to remember that. What happened should make you wiser about the future.

It is a huge theological misunderstanding to say that God forgives and forgets. You might wonder about verses that say, “I will remember your sin no more” (Isaiah 43:25). But these are misleading translations. The original language more accurately carries the idea of not bringing something to mind or not holding someone to account. The point is that God is not going to keep bringing up past sins. Besides, can an all-knowing, omniscient God really forget something? And keep in mind that at the final judgment, everyone will be judged according to what they have done. God forgives but he doesn’t forget.

Recently Rachael Denhollander released her book, “What Is a Girl Worth?” where she accounts her story of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor. This courageous step inspired two-hundred other women to come forward and testify against Nassar. In her statement to the court, Denhollander asked the question: “How much is a little girl worth?” She pleaded with the court to impose on Nassar the maximum sentence, “because ‘everything’ is what these survivors are worth.” She forgave Nassar but didn’t confuse forgiving with forgetting. “But we are here now, and today that message can be sent. With the sentence you hand down, you can communicate to us, to every predator, to every little girl or young woman that is watching — how much a little girl and woman is worth.”

Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Sometimes a person will have to face the consequences for their actions, even when forgiven. These could be legal consequences. They may need to make restitution for what they did. And whether they pay or not, you can still forgive them.

We must forgive. Forgiving is not forgetting.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, Leadership

Honour the Emperor

It’s the morning after and many Canadians are suffering from a 2019 Election hangover. Nobody’s really happy with a minority government as it indicates progress for some, regress for others, and distress for anybody who wants to get anything done. As for me, I choose to be publicly non-partisan.

I was nudged this morning to consider that no matter who is in charge of my country, I have the opportunity to follow Jesus with gladness. In his first letter, Peter writes these words:

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.   (1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV)

How are we to relate to our government leaders? The general posture here is one of deference, which is mind-blowing when one considers who Peter is referring to. The leader of Rome at the time is none other than Nero. Peter likely wrote this letter just a couple of years prior to Nero’s public persecutions. He would blame followers of Jesus for the fire in Rome and launch his campaign of mass arrests, tortures, and public burnings. Nero’s decision didn’t come out of nowhere. Persecution was already escalating against believers when this letter was written.

Followers of Jesus are free. When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. We are free from the power and bondage of evil and corruption. Yet we are still servants of God. We have exchanged the tyranny of sin for a new Master who surrendered his life for us. And so, “for the Lord’s sake” (v.13) we are to live in glad submission under our government as God’s servants. Peter says this is how we serve our ultimate Lord.

I understand that this raises questions and potential exceptions. But the general posture still remains.

Fear God. Honour the emperor. And be glad it’s not Nero.

Discipleship, Leadership, Personal Development

Monday Rewind: Trust Accelerator

Trust is the accelerator in all relationships.

I’m not the first one to frame this concept. You can read about it in Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of TrustAll relationships move at the speed of trust. This includes our relationships with people as well as our relationship with God. Without trust, relationships move ahead as fast as a car spinning its bald summer times in a snowbank. (Yep, a shameless Edmontonian cultural reference.)

Trust in every relationship tends to move incrementally. We’re cautious creatures. So trust isn’t given automatically. It takes time to build trust. This includes every kind of relationship: friendships, work-groups, sports teams, marriages, even the political sphere.

You might remember the story of Paul in Acts 7. He began as a young religious zealot, dragging followers of Jesus from their homes into the streets and then putting them in prison. Then one day on the road to Damascus, he met the resurrected Christ. The encounter erased all doubt from Paul and several days later he was baptized as a new believer in Christ. Paul stayed in Damascus with the other disciples and began to boldly speak about the resurrection. He was so convincing that his fellow Jesus plotted to kill him. Paul had no alternative but to flee back to Jerusalem.

But now the church leaders in Jerusalem faced a dilemma. What were they going to do with Paul? It wasn’t long ago that he was beating and imprisoning them. How could they TRUST him? And here we pick up the story in Acts 9:

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.

In this account, trust was gained incrementally. It didn’t happen automatically – it took time. Paul lingered in Damascus, proving that he was legit. Barnabas was his advocate, making time to convince the disciples that Paul was the real deal. If you’re going to build trust with others, don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Generally speaking, trust is gained slowly and lost quickly. One author writes that it’s like putting chips into a ‘trust bowl.’ As you build any relationship, you’re essentially putting trust into this bowl one chip at a time.

It’s always easier to break trust than to make trust. And there are lots of ways to break trust: making mistakes, not keeping your word, being a jerk-face, and so on. A sure-fire way to break trust is through betrayal. This includes things like cheating, stabbing someone in the back, destroying someone’s character, or a huge moral failure.

Betrayal is taking your bowl of trust, turning it upside-down, and dumping all the chips on the floor. Trust is lost and the relationship grinds to a halt.

Trust moves incrementally. It is gained slowly and lost quickly.

Which surfaces a really important question, perhaps the most important question in human relationships. Am I a trustworthy person?

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.