Yesterday we looked at our call to forgive as God forgives, in accord with His seventy-times-seven principle. Today we seek to answer the question, “How do we do that?” I believe God long ago taught me a very important principle that must be practiced by choice if we are to achieve the 70 X 7 goal of grace.
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins” Isaiah 43:25.
In a season of struggle in our marriage, reading through Isaiah, I come to chapter 43. Over and over I try reading to the end of the chapter and beyond, but can’t go on, as I keep being drawn back by the Spirit to verse 25.
Finally I say, “What? What, Lord? What do You want me to see?”
Yes, I was that brazen. I was frustrated, not wanting to look at what God was saying. I knew it would require something of me that at that instant I was not sure I wanted. But that question was the first step toward healing in my marriage. And God’s answer has led me to a greater walk of grace toward self and others.
Finally opening up to God’s work in me, I read that verse again and saw the words “for My own sake.”
“What do you mean, ‘for Your own sake,’ Lord?”
Backing up to see what came before, I note that Israel was still in the midst of their sin against God when He penned this wonderful verse of assurance. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”
“Why would You forgive while they are still in their sin, Lord? Isn’t repentance required for forgiveness?”
“For My Own sake,” says He, impressing upon my heart the following understanding. “Israel was constantly falling away from My will for them. If I had not chosen to forgive them from the beginning of time, I would have wiped them from the face of the earth. And I certainly would not have sent my Son to die such a cruel death on their behalf or yours. But from the beginning of time I have been working a plan, to create for Myself a people after My own heart, people I can love and walk in relationship with.
“For My Own sake, so I could fulfill My purpose rather than destroy it, having the relationship with My created beings that I desire, I chose to forgive today tomorrows insult, making My grace ready as a gift to be given. And you, for your part, must forgive as I have forgiven you, for the sake of relationship with Me and with your husband, and with yourself. For your unforgiveness will not only destroy your marriage and My will for you, but it will also destroy your health: mentally, physically and spiritually.”
“I am willing, Father. Make me able.”
We got through those rocky days and will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in August; daily growing more in love than ever before and happily wed we are, by grace. Was it always easy? No. I often had to remind myself, even convince myself that “I forgave that insult yesterday, for my own sake and God’s.”
That lesson has helped me to deal with every insult since, letting others off my hook and leaving them to God so that I can maintain peace within and peace with Him. Now that does not mean that I keep putting myself into the fire. I have a relationship that I had to walk away from. The constant hurt and struggle was destructive. I love that friend dearly, and I am ready when they are to mend our relationship. When I encounter them, my love soars to the heights for them and we relate well together by grace, but I sense release from putting myself into that position of hurt until they are ready to deal with the issue.
Another such difficult relationship is with my daddy. I love him dearly and love visiting with him, hearing all his old stories and laughing together with him. But I have learned that it is okay, when he starts getting into his paranoid accusations, for me to hug his neck and say “so-long for awhile.”
I do not have to sit in the hurt when it is obvious that there is nothing I can do to change the other person’s thinking and beliefs; when the other person is unwilling or incapable of hearing truth or changing their way. It falls out of my sphere of responsibility and into God’s lap when there is nothing I can do about ‘it’.
Now that brings thought of a truth that must be realized. When insult comes from accusation, make sure to sit before God with it before letting it go. It is important to learn to allow God to help us rightly evaluate the accusing words of others. If we find that what they say is true, we need to deal with that, coming into repentance, making amends, etc. If we find the accusation to be false with no conviction of Spirit leading us to some fault of our own, then forgive, forget and go forward without looking back so as to cling to hurt, anger, and unforgiveness. If we can address the issue with the person and get things lined out fine; if not, we have to trust it to God and go on with life.
Jesus taught in His own example in life and in His own words of instruction that there are times when we need to knock the dust off our feet, like with my friend that I do not deliberately associate with anymore. And sometimes, for our own safety and ability to continue our journey in right standing with God, we have to walk out of the situation and go on our way, as when He walked out of the crowd in His own hometown. (Matthew10:14;Luke4:16-30)
So what does it mean to “shake the dust off your feet”? There are two things I know of.
One, according to the passage in Luke, is that it is a testimony against them, bearing witness before God as to the insult to Him and / or self, and leaving the judgment to Him.
And two, it is an act of leaving the anger, hurt, unforgiveness, resentment, etc, behind with the dust. Shaking it off is a refusal to allow the effects of the insult to cling to us so as to harm us: refusing to allow the emotions brought on by such to hinder our effectiveness in Christ, our relationship with God, our ability to relate with the offender or others, or our own health and wellbeing.
This act of knocking the dust off is what is meant by “remember it no more.” That does not mean that thought of the insult never enters our mind again. The memory of the insult may still flare up, but because we effectively knock the dust off, the impact of the insult no longer affects us. Thus, like God, who certainly has an excellent memory, often reciting Israel’s sins to them, we remember the sin no more in ways that would cause us to reenter the hurt and sever relations needlessly.
“So, Darlene,” you may ask, “if we are to forgive today tomorrow’s insult, where then does repentance fit in. After all, we are called to repentance.”
Forgiveness is our part in the discord, and we can choose to forgive as God has forgiven us through Christ. Repentance is the responsibility of the one who sins against us. It is the hand of an individual, reaching out in acknowledgment of one’s need of forgiveness with understanding of the requirement to change one’s ways; thus, being ready to receive the forgiveness given. Like with God, our choice to forgive beforehand makes our forgiveness a gift of grace. Our forgiveness, like God’s, is then found at the ready, gift wrapped with bows of love-filled hope for a better tomorrow in that relationship.
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins,” for I am leaving the dust behind me.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32; see alsoMatthew6:9-15; Mark 11:20-26)