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Forgiveness is Job One

The first duty of all men if they want to know God

Selling forgiveness is tough work, not just to individuals but whole societies.  Many in Judaism do not forgive as a matter of established doctrine.[1]  Genocide, the Islamic position against the State of Israel, is unforgiveness nourished over 3,000 years; and the Chinese told me frankly “I will never forgive the Japanese” for what they did in the 1930s. 

Forgiveness of others is hard work for most alcoholics, not the least in forgiving themselves, and many late-middle-age people today have not forgiven the United States military for their mismanagement of the Vietnam War.  When a well-known minister said in the newspaper that he would never forgive the man who sold his teenager drugs, he found his congregation slacking off.  People know instinctively that this is wrong.

But now to the gift.  A decade ago after being hired in a job I soon discovered I was being sabotaged.  I won’t go into detail, but perhaps you’ve had a work situation like this one.  Eventually, I became physically ill and was forced to leave.  That was a convenient, honest excuse since I was baffled not knowing the source of the problems. 

While boxing up my goods an employee told me quietly and privately, “You are the 4th one in this job to be driven away.”  So in the end I knew who it was but not why.  Subsequently I went into business for myself, and as the story goes, lived happily ever after, putting the whole thing behind me.  Three years later I learned this man was having an affair with the very same employee who was my supervisor.  No doubt his guilt frightened him into thinking anyone too close to the situation might expose him, so we were all sent packing.

Now a decade later while living in China I learned he was up to this same stuff again.  The Bible says that we should confront those who have sinned against us.  So I contemplated contacting him despite the 12,000 miles which separated us, but I finally put the idea out of my mind.

Then one day sitting alone at my computer God gave me a vision, as the scripture says, “in the twinkling of an eye.”  For a split second I was ushered to the Great White Throne Judgment, a sight so frightening I can remember the details to this day.  God was excoriating this same man for what he had done, not just to me of course, but the four others and even more after that. There is no way to put this into human terms because it was, after all, God and the Day of Judgment.

The Great White Throne

It was as though one stood stark naked in front of 100,000 people.  The withering rebuke was like nothing I had ever heard, and while I was only a spectator, I was thoroughly frightened.  I can understand why the Bible says in Revelation that there is total silence in heaven for one-half hour.  I was speechless. When we fail to forgive we take on God’s rightful position.  When we fail to forgive we take on God’s rightful position.  He alone gets to decide on payback, sometimes using governments through the Civil and Criminal laws to carry out His will or eventually the Day of Judgment.     

Forgiveness opens up Vengeance  

But as to the gift.  “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  I knew that intellectually.  But why would I see this horrid sight.  I can only surmise that if I had not forgiven this man, neither would I ever had this chilling vision.  When we truly let go and let God, we get a Holy Spirit view of reality.  If I had sought or harbored any kind of vengeance I would have seen nothing – at least on this side of the grave.  The gift of revelation was mine because I had completely forgiven.      

The power of forgiveness is a frequent topic of preachers.  Evangelist Jimmy Johnson preached five days on forgiveness at a Christian Retreat.  When people complained about his johnny-one-note messages he said, “When they start doing it I’ll stop preaching it.” 

Every week you can hear on TV Charles Stanley preach on this subject.  Counselors and psychologists, from New Age to herbal homeopathy, from Black Women’s Health magazine and Edgar Cayce, address the power of forgiveness and its benefits to health.  Why spend $200 a hour to learn this – it’s right here free.  If forgiveness delivers us from headaches, stomachaches, back pain, sleeplessness, depression, anger and every negative thought our busy minds can conjure up, what a great gift forgiveness is to our mental health. 

Forgiveness is not a feeling

And you need not “feel” forgiving.  That is a trap.  Just make a decision about it and then take control of your mind and emotions and force yourself to forget it.  Unforgiveness is holding today hostage and the longer you hang on more and more tomorrows are held hostage.  Your freedom, your life is at stake. 

The gift you give yourself is the freedom from the depression and souring of your personality that unforgiveness brings.  And in my case I also had a chance to see the problem as God saw it. 

A leading psychiatrist said, “To know all is to forgive all.”  Not so.  God does not forgive everything just because He knows everything. All individuals must face a day of accounting, but He does it with His own parameters.  And that Day of Judgment also includes praise for duties and obedience met well, or ever better than that! 

Judgment is not simply a negative event.  There is no universal salvation which is what this shrink implies.  But neither is there universal damnation, because we know that innocent children before the day of accountability are accepted in His Kingdom. And of course there is also universal opportunity to settle our books with God before we need to face our accountability. The Bible says so.  The Day of Judgment also brings rewards.

Discussion questions:

1.         Do you know anyone who has made themselves emotionally sick (or even you) with unforgiveness?  How did they break free?

2.         Much of politics, and slanderous politics advertising is based on unforgiveness.  Can you think of some recent examples?

3.         The author says that unforgiveness holds today and tomorrow hostage.  What does this means?  Have you seen this happen to you or to others?

4.         Do you know of a case of physical illness caused by unforgiveness?

5.         The author brings up the issue of universal salvation.  The name of this doctrine is Ultimate Reconciliation.  How do you understand this issue?  What does the Bible say about this?  Why do you suppose people believe this?

[1]For an interesting approach to this see http://peacecenter.berkeley.edu/research_forgiveness_cohen.html.  Here the conditions and requirements of Judaism are exactly opposite from Christianity. God cannot forgive until (1) the perpetrator repents and (2) the victim forgives, which makes forgiveness for murder impossible.

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