“Confessions of a Bad Christian” – Forgive? No, I’m serious…I don’t wanna.

I hit a nerve with a lot of people with the post about forgiveness. I lot of you thought my ideas fit into the philosophy of  “nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.” My thoughts were addressed to a wounded lamb who identified himself as “doormat”. That post brought a return response from doormat who graciously thanked me for the effort to address his situation.

Thank you for taking so much time to respond to my post. I don’t expect you to go on and on with me. I know the ultimate answer is “Jesus surrendered His rights so who do you think you are?”

First of all, you are welcome. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I have a heart for wounded lambs. I would be willing to go on and on with you if God could somehow use my words to help you heal and forgive. I think you got it partially right about the ultimate answer. Yes, Jesus did surrender His rights and we are all trying to follow Him and become more like Him. But we ain’t there yet. So who do I think you are? I think you are an honest, sincere, wounded lamb trying to do the right thing in the middle of anger and pain. So if I can be patient with that I am sure the Good Shepherd is infinitely more patient with your struggle. I understand that forgiveness is rarely instantaneous. It is a process based on knowledge of God’s Word and faith.

Is a Christian allowed to have an attorney to defend his rights and to maybe even fight for damages on behalf of the wronged person? As a Christian, can I have my own attorney and can I press charges against the pastor who deliberately took advantage of me and violated my rights? Do Christians have the same rights every other citizen of this country has? Must I give up my rights? These questions are rhetorical.

I don’t know your situation. I don’t know how you have been damaged. I do believe it is important to separate your legal response from the biblical response that Jesus taught. I am not going to tell you that you cannot take legal action, that you cannot have a lawyer, and that you cannot seek recovery of damages. Of course you have every right to do that as a citizen of this country. But I have learned in my five decades on this planet that your spiritual peace and joy will be unrelated to the success of your lawsuit or whatever you can recover through legal action. If this pastor or church leader is a danger to others you might well be doing a service by pursuing such action. But your own soul will not find peace until you are willing to forgive. You probably think I have never experienced anything like you are going through and that may well be true. But I would invite you to read the story of the rejection of our infant daughter Katie by our local church. That was pretty rough. But we had to be willing to forgive to be healed.

I don’t think the Father of the crucified Christ imagined that His Son’s death could be one day used to manipulate believers into positions of surrendering their rights out of respect for what Christ did for him. That is the answer, I think.

I am sure that God knew the depths of depravity and the wicked potential of men to misuse the wonderful gift of salvation and grace that Jesus offered. But that is a part of the miracle of the incarnation. Jesus became a man and has walked in our skin. He understands how that betrayal feels and when you take it to Him…He gets it.

I’ve read other posts where people have said that being a Christian has blessings and rewards but this is just not my experience.

I think we have done a disservice in our zeal to tell others about Christianity. We talk about blessings and rewards and how Jesus is the answer and I believe all of that is true. But Jesus never promised blue skies, green lights, and a non-stop giggle fest. He told us this journey would be hard. He said to follow Him. And when we follow Him we will go to some of the places that He visited. Ugly places like betrayal and loneliness. But as we follow Him we can also go with Him to places like peace and joy and comfort in the arms of our Heavenly Father.

I can relate to what Camille said when she referred to her forgiveness coming and going in waves. You can most sincerely have the desire to forgive, deeply and desperately, and you can actually get “there” but the memories come back like a wave and just knock you down and pull you back under. Everytime I read or hear someone comment that Christian leaders should be held to a higher standard I feel feverish and weak, and I ask myself how long before I can get the memory of this A@* hole out of life?

I wish I could answer that.  I have had to deal with these same issues and I argued with God about these very topics. My friend Matt Blackmon tells the story of how he refused to forgive. Matt relates how God seemed to speak to him and asked him are you willing to forgive? His response was a loud, “NO, that is why we are having this discussion!”

Allow me to share a bit more from my book Bring’em Back Alive“.

Mark Twain and I share at least one common sentiment when he wrote that “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” Forgiveness is a foundational condition of growth throughout Scripture. Here are some passages that I completely understand that have bothered me for years.

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. Matthew 6:14 

 Do you think we might have found the link to why so many of us hit a spiritual plateau and just stay there?  But we look for an escape clause somewhere in the contract or a special exemption for our “situation.” Lord, you KNOW how bad the people I have to deal with are and I know that as a loving God you will cut me a little slack. God’s love is revealed in that He does not cut us any slack. Our Creator knows what research is now showing…that a lack of forgiveness is not only a spiritual problem, it can manifest itself as a health risk.

Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephes. 4:32 
 The “as quickly” part is hard enough…the “as thoroughly” clause is nigh on to impossible.

And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive-only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.” Mark 11:25

 Only then? Jesus you must understand how impossible it would be to forgive that offense against me? The truth is that He does understand perfectly how impossible that command is to implement. And that is one more reason that following the teachings of Christ should cause us to give up on self and depend on Jesus to live this incredible journey.
“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Mark 11:25

 Maybe I could manage once or twice but doesn’t continually forgiving make me a fool? Did you maybe misspeak there a little bit? Isn’t it interesting how we will subconsciously negotiate with God about what He really meant? The text seems pretty clear in all of the translations. There are no exceptions for me or you.

And that is the hard truth I have come to in my journey. A post from a person identifying himself as No Name disagrees with me completely.

you don’t have to forgive anyone who abuses you premeditatively and deliberately and who does not even ask for forgiveness especially if that person happens to be your own pastor especially if that person abused his position especially if that person took money that was not his to take especially if that person used confidential information to place himself in the driver’s seat

Before I accepted the unmerited forgiveness of a Holy God I would have totally agreed with No Name. But now I am the one who has been forgiven much . In fact I believe you do have to ultimately forgive no matter how premeditated or whether the offenders seek forgiveness or not. Because when I face the Savior who extended grace to me He will only judge my actions. I am accountable only for me. I can respond (eventually) in forgiveness if I can shift my focus from how much I have been wronged to how much I have been forgiven.

i love to read what dave wrote but oh please people use common sense don’t be pollyannas don’t be stupid

no this is pathetic

No Name

Thank you for the compliment (I think). It has been a long time since I have been accused of being a Pollyanna. The stupid part is old news according to many readers. But as hard as this concept is for me (and you) to accept it is not stupid or pathetic or weak. It is truth. God’s Word makes it very clear what we must do. His grace makes it possible. Forgiveness may well be the missing ingredient to true revival in the church. Clearly our lack of forgiveness is a major impediment to growth. I believe that we attract people to Christ when we behave in a way that is supernatural. From watching televangelists you would equate the supernatural with miraculous healings or speaking in tongues. I am not going to debate those manifestations in this book. I am instead going down the path that Radio Host Steve Brown traveled when he observed. “We can claim to have supernatural love, but it’s only supernatural when one would expect hatred instead. We can claim to be forgiving, but forgiveness is supernatural only when there is no earthly reason for one to be forgiving. Compassion is supernatural when the smart thing to do is look out for number one. Joy is supernatural when circumstances don’t warrant it.”

The truth is I don’t like this any more than you do. But lawyer or not, I don’t see a personal waiver for me in God’s Word. You may need to seek another fellowship. You may need to examine legal avenues. You may need to seek counseling or a support group. But Jesus makes it clear that He expects the forgiven to also be forgivers.