FORGIVENESS IS HEALING FOR OURSELVES
Jim Glennon, one of the premier teachers about Christian healing can tell you in a heartbeat the importance of forgiveness to healing. It was through forgiveness over a period of time that enabled him to receive his own healing, and he has shared that revelation with many since that time. I am one of those.
The flow of life is dependent on the flow of blood in the body. The flow of love in the Body of Christ is as important to health of the Body and its members as the flow of blood in the body. There can be no flow of love where unforgiveness is present. Forgiveness is one of the primary tenets of the Faith. We are taught to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." There is no room to receive forgiveness from God when we have our hearts filled with unforgiveness for others.
Forgive or Excuse?
A lot of the people I have met believe that to forgive someone means to excuse what they have done, and to continue to relate to them in some sentimental sort of love. "Forgive and forget" is the phrase that is often used. The problem is that when we forget, we will have to forgive again until we take seriously the fact that the one we forgive is capable of the behavior that made us angry in the first place.
I recall hearing the Lord say one day, "Forgiveness is the elasticity of my love. It is what enables you to stretch to love a person who has broken the image in which you had held them." It is not simply to excuse someone who made a mistake. It is the decision to love someone the way they have shown themselves to be, rather than the way you thought they were.
To excuse someone implies that they could have done better if they had tried harder. The truth is that anyone will choose to do what they believe will best fulfill their lives at any given moment. That applies as well to the murderer as to the saint. We may change our belief system tomorrow; but we will use the one we hold at the moment of decision.
To forgive means to recognize that reality and accept the person as is. It may well mean that you report a person to the legal authorities when you forgive them. It does not mean that you exonerate them. It means that you forgive them and follow forgiveness with love.
Love is not a Feeling
Love is not a feeling but a decision to relate to someone in God's will. Love is not something that we can define. It is something that God reveals. Love is not a generality. It is a particularity.
CS Lewis's book, The Four Loves, clarifies a lot of misunderstanding about love as we banter it about in our culture. He speaks of Eros, the love between man and woman; Philos, the love between friends; and Storgy, the affection with which we love the unlovable. All of these are human, and all hold a reciprocal demand when they are extended to another.
Eros and philos demand faithfullness from the one to whom the love is extended. Storgy demands that the object of the love not change. The first two become contracts, the third becomes codependency.
Agape is the love which God has shown us in Jesus Christ. It is a love that offers itself to everyone, even those who are not willing to receive it. It is never imposed. It must be received, as given. As we receive that love from God, we are able to give a like kind of love to others. Freely we have received, and we are to give just as freely.
Agape is not something that we can define without the revelation of God in our lives. Jesus was in constant consultation with Abba about what it give to each person He met. He called one to sell all that he had and give to the poor and come follow Him. To another who wanted to follow Him, He said, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you." Mk 5:19
I cannot truly love you without being in touch with the Lord who is able to define love in our particular situation. I can forgive you, and leave you in God's hands, then I must ask Him how to love you. A great deal that has passed for love in the past generations has been seen as "enabling" by this one. To forgive is to accept. To love is to become the incarnate presence of Jesus for the person that you have forgiven.
It is vital to remember that Jesus always took His direction from Abba, not from the person with whom He was relating. Prayer becomes an essential element in the process of forgiveness and love
Will, Feeling and Ability
I must be willing to forgive. There is a difference between the will, the feelings and the ability. That is a truth that I learned from my friends in AA. I know none in AA who do not will sobriety. I know few who do not feel that a drink would be nice. I know none who were able to attain sobriety in their own strength.
When I am willing to forgive, I can turn to God and ask for the grace to forgive the one I am seeking to forgive. When I am not able to do it myself, I pray, "Lord, I know that you forgive them, and I ask that you forgive them through me, in order that I might get in on your forgiveness, and be set free to forgive."
Forgive in Self Defense
We have a tendency to carry the people we do not forgive around on our back or somewhere in our body. We are literally punished by the sins of the one we condemn until we forgive. I have no idea how my unforgiveness affects the other person, but I know that it makes me sick. I forgive to set them free, so that I might be set free in the process.
I turn loose the grasp in which I hold them that I might turn that hand to God to receive the forgiveness that He extends to me. I cannot hold both in the same hand, and I would add in the same life. I must release to receive, and so I forgive in self defense, to receive the healing power of God's love into my life to banish dis ease, and embrace the healing power of His love.
Published by the Order of St. Luke the Physician
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