Unpacking Forgiveness How Should I Go About It?

Last time I wrote about the book  Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers to Complex Questions and Deep Wounds, we discussed whether or not we should just get over offenses rather than bringing up what angers us with the offender in every situation. Author Chris Brauns suggested questions that we can ask ourselves in order to decide:

1. Before confronting, ask, "Have I examined myself yet?"
2. Before confronting, ask, "How sure am I that I am right?"
3. Before confronting, ask, "How important is this?"
4. Before confronting, ask, "Does this person show a pattern of this kind of behavior?"
5. Before confronting, ask, "What do wise people counsel me to do?"
6. Before confronting, ask, "What else is going on in the other person's world?"

In response to this a couple of you responded that you really liked Brauns' advice to choose your battles. I liked it too. In fact, as a result of reading this book, my perspective on forgiveness is changing. I'm learning that it's okay to ask the above questions, to choose my battles and to just let things go.

Now comes the hard part. What do we do when we actually have to confront someone?

I've told you in previous posts that in my younger years, my church taught the process correctly - about going to the person you're having a problem with and explaining the entire thing.  After a while, however, it just got too embarrassing, especially when people got angry over the fact that I could actually have a problem with their behavior. Because of this, I withdrew and held those feelings inside. What happened was that these people made me feel like the issue was completely my fault. They claimed no responsibility, nor did they value my feelings, or me as a person for that matter.

It can become easier to either let everything go or to just let go of the friendship, and eventually it becomes easier to remain an introvert and not get close to anyone. Or, allow anyone to get close to you. You may have "friends" on the surface, but really they are acquaintances. You do not share who you really are with them.

Matthew 18: 15 - 20 has some good advice for settling conflict.  Jesus, as we know, was very wise about handling and settling differences. Of course, this passage in context applies to church discipline, or how conflict is supposed to be solved within the church body - the people not the institution, but Brauns wrote that "... it is a mistake to think of these verses only applying to church discipline. The principles in these verses apply to other relationships as well."

Brauns' interpretation of what Jesus said in Matthew 18: 15 - 20 is in italics below.
First, if possible, settle matters privately ... Keep the circle small. In other words, don't tell everyone you're going to talk to so and so and then give a full account of the issue. If necessary, talk to a mature Christian then go to the person who has given offense in private. Do not write about the issue on Facebook. Do not call the prayer chain. Do not talk to your group of friends. Keeping the matter private will solve a lot of problems before they start.

When you speak to the person, be gracious. Being gracious means that you are kind and courteous. Your manner is "marked by tact and delicacy," according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Interestingly, an obsolete definition of being gracious is "... to be godly". So, when you go to someone, pray that you will be like Jesus to them.

Take no revenge, not even a little. As a young person, I learned that revenge, or getting back at people, could indeed be sweet. There was nothing like returning a snappy comeback or seeing the look of shock on someone's face when I unexpectedly returned their ill treatment of me. However, in God's kingdom that kind of behavior is unacceptable. We are to let God deal with people in his way and time. This does not mean that we become doormats; however, we must be humble and prayerfully consider the situation when people hurt us.

Listen first and be prepared to ask forgiveness yourself. Your actions may have provoked the offender. Or, if you are accompanying another person in a confrontation, you may also have to ask forgiveness, Brauns writes. The situation may be more convoluted than previously anticipated.

Take the other party at his or her word. Don't try and evaluate motives.

Choose the time and place carefully (Proverbs 27: 14).

Choose your words carefully (Proverbs 25: 11).

Be patient and have modest expectations. Do not expect the person to respond positively. Give them room to take in what you are saying.

Follow the scripture. If the person does not respond to the first attempt take one or two others along. Then, if a third attempt is needed "follow formal church  discipline," Brauns writes. By other relationships in the quote above, I'm not sure that step two applies to those outside the church body. Step three - applying church discipline - certainly does not. His suggestions that I listed above are wise to follow in any relationship.

Next Thursday, we'll discuss the chapter "What if I Won't Forgive?"


A prayer request ...

Hello, everyone. I haven't written anything on this blog for a couple of weeks so I thought I should try today.

I've taken an unintended break and for those who have been looking for the series on Unpacking Forgiveness, I apologize. That series, good Lord willing, will continue this Thursday as previously scheduled.

The reason I have taken a break is because I was setting up another blog for the Create in Christ team on Etsy. For those who are unfamiliar with the way Etsy operates, the shop owners and some customers form teams according to their interests. These team members promote each other hoping that it will result in sales and/or contacts. The Create in Christ team is a group of sellers who want to uplift Jesus in their work. Our products are not all religious, but we hope to create an environment of support and encouragement for each other so that we will all do well on Etsy. Shortly after I joined the team, the leader asked me to work on the blog. It was one of those situations in which the Lord smacks you on the back of the head and says, "Do it." How could I not after that?

So now that the Create in Christ blog appears to be running smoothly, maybe I can refocus on this one a bit more. I did not count on taking a break but that's why I did.

Is anyone out there who will pray for me? At first, this blog served as an outlet to express my frustrations with the church. Now that I've moved past that a bit I want to make it a place where people can read about spiritual formation as it pertains to the Christian life. I want it to be a place where God can minister through his Holy Spirit.

Because of the Internet, this blog has reached places I probably will never go. We've gone into China, Russia, Eastern Europe, even Iran and Iraq at times. As someone who grew up in the 1980s, before the Berlin Wall fell, it's been incredible to see the places the Internet takes Yahbut. However, I can't do this without your prayers.

So I ask again. Is there anyone out there who will pray for me as I write this blog?

If so, will you let me know in the comment section? Thanks.


Don't forget. Have faith.

"We want water!"

Moses had heard enough. The people were whining again. They seemed to do that whenever they encountered difficulty. They were like children on a road trip: "Are we there yet?"

“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The journey from Egypt was long and the people's constant griping had made it even longer. I'm sure Moses wondered many times how a people could gripe so much, especially after God had delivered them from slavery under Pharaoh in such a miraculous way.

"Is the Lord among us or not?"

Could they be serious, given what the Lord had already done for them?

Unfortunately, they were. Check out a portion of Psalm 95:

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

God was angry for 40 years?  That's a long time. Yet, as a parent I can understand his anger. If one of my children ever said that I had not done anything for them and doubted me every time they needed something I believe that you could describe the emotion that would surge through me as anger. Here, God had delivered the children of Israel from the grip of cruel slavery by sending ten plagues on their captors; he had divided the sea so that they could cross ahead of the Egyptian army and then drowned all of the soldiers; he had provided meat for them because of their whining. He had made their daily bread fall from the sky. He had done so many things and yet they accused God of deserting them when they needed water. Yes, I think if I were God I would be mad. 

 This portion of Psalm 95 with its poignant reminder of the Israelites constant griping, sends a strong warning to my heart, "Don't forget how God has blessed you. Have faith. Don't worry."   If God has helped me in times past, he will do so again. There's no reason to doubt when trouble comes.  Yet, sometimes I forget and the mountain of trouble seems too difficult to cross. It seems there are no streams of life-giving water. The heavens become a glass ceiling through which my prayers may not pass.   And then, in his goodness, God makes water flow from the rock. I am humbled. I tell myself to remember next time; to quit forgetting that God never leaves me even though his presence is not evident.    

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6.

We must endeavor to think the best of God no matter what. That is faith. This pleases God. How is your faith?        

a.Psalm 95:8 Meribah means quarreling.
b.Psalm 95:8 Massah means testing.