When God Won’t Forgive

As if stabbed in the heart, I clenched my chest in pain. I curled up into a ball as tears soaked my pillow. I dreamt of throwing my offender against the wall. Eventually, I awakened in less pain, yet a dull ache of rejection remained. I have experienced this more than once, taking days, months, and sometimes years to release the offender into the hands of the Father.

Have you been here? Have you struggled with forgiving someone who has wounded you deeply?

Several years ago I grieved as someone I loved dearly was falsely accused by someone else who had held onto unforgiveness for too many years. I didn’t just grieve, I stewed for months, attempting to find the right words to confront the slanderer. But the accuser’s unforgiveness served as a stark warning to my own struggles in that department. It prompted me to examine carefully Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:15:

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).

I grew up hearing that other than the “unpardonable sin”, Jesus always forgave us. Could unforgiveness be the blasphemous sin mentioned in Matthew 12:31? Why is our Father unwilling to forgive us if we don’t forgive others? So, I applied some deductive reasoning to Jesus’ warning.

To believe we can’t forgive someone is to say that person is unforgiveable. If that person is unforgiveable, then Christ’s death is not strong enough to forgive that person. If Christ’s death is not strong enough to forgive one person, then His death is not strong enough to forgive any person, including me. I am, therefore, without hope.

Not Enough

On the converse, if Christ’s death is enough for me, it is enough for the person who has offended me. When it comes to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, it’s an all or nothing deal.

Frankly, I believe that deep inside we don’t question whether our offender is worthy of forgiveness nearly as much as we doubt our own worthiness. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize we think Christ’s death is not strong enough for US.

Unworthy

So maybe it’s not really about whether or not our Father in Heaven forgives us, but whether or not we receive it. Because once we have received God’s forgiveness deep into our core, we can extend it to the those who have wounded—even betrayed—us.

It really does boil down to a faith issue. A salvation issue.

Is Christ’s death enough for you? Truly? If not, get on your face before God; get into His Word; seek counsel; walk this out in faith. None of us deserve forgiveness—at all. But God offers it to us anyway. Believe it. Receive it. Extend it.

Forgiveness

copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson

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That’s New?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 NKJV).”

How in the world can this commandment be new? The law of loving your neighbor had been foundational and the focal point of life for thousands of years before Jesus’ declaration (Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19:18). The qualifier in Jesus’ new commandment is the phrase, “as I have loved you”. Oh. So how did Jesus love others? The context of John 13 reveals some poignant examples.

1. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus was the master of the group yet he performed a duty reserved for servants. Humility, shown in acts of service to those below your rank is a new kind of love.

Now I know moms sacrificially serve their children every day in a multitude of ways. But maybe you could try something new. What if at some point in the next few days you did one of your child’s assigned duties and said, “I’m doing this simply because I love you.” They may not deserve it, but remember, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, knowing full well Judas would betray Him in a matter of hours.Jesus washed Judas' Feet

2. Jesus loved His betrayer. Right after Jesus washed the disciples feet, He informed them that someone there would betray Him. Jesus then fed that very person and sent him on his way. This was an enactment of Jesus’ earlier instruction: “… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … ” (Matthew 5:44).

Who in your life has betrayed you? A close friend, family member, church member? Someone you have served with loving humility? Someone you have fed? What do you do when such a person is responsible for your demise? This is the kind of love that Jesus COMMANDED us to offer. It’s not an option.

But how? How can you love someone like this?

I truly believe you have to return to that fact that God is love (1 John 4:8). Sometimes, it is humanly impossible to love certain people. But God does. He loves them enough He died for them.  Sometimes, all you can do is pray, “God I need You to love them for me. I need you to change my heart because I haven’t a clue how to love them on my own.”

You have to be open to that change of heart. That’s where we start.

It might help to recognize there is a big difference between love and trust. Did God trust Hitler, Ted Bundy, or Al Capone? I don’t think so. Did He love them and die for them? Yes. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to make them your bff. Remember, offenders are wounded people. They need healing. Like you, they need someone to believe they matter.

3. Love sometimes means confronting and releasing. After Jesus washed Judas’ feet, He fed him; He called him out; and then He released him. We usually think of love as something warm and huggy. We know it includes forgiveness and thinking the best of people. But it can also means letting them go.

Your enemy may never change. If you have done all you can to forgive, serve, and confront that person—demonstrated righteous love every way you know how to—it may be time to release them. Be careful. You don’t want to cut them off too soon. Jesus, after all, spent three years with Judas. But you also don’t need to hold close someone who is causing damage.

Don’t hold yourself captive to their response. You must find your sense of security in Jesus’ love for you. We all have people who misjudge us, slander us, and reject us. It’s a part of life and it never feels good. But our Father in Heaven ALWAYS loves us! So when you feel the sting of rejection and the stab of betrayal, RUN to the arms of your Father. And remember, Jesus knows all about betrayal.

4. God’s plan is always bigger than betrayal. Moments after Jesus issued the “new commandment”, He and the eleven disciples went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus was betrayed. A few days later, He was crucified, bringing salvation to the world.

Recovering from a betrayal can seem impossible—the rend in your heart so searing and deep, it won’t heal.  But remember, Jesus demonstrated with His very life that betrayal can always lead to redemption.

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5. This new kind of love means laying down your life. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). We’ve all heard stories of heroes taking the bullet for someone else. I believe if called upon, most of us would do the same. Yet few of us will ever need to. But what about laying down our preferences, our entitlements, our agendas for others? This, too, is great love.

As a mom, you have done this countless times. If you question your ability to love, then I encourage you to review the times you have put others’ desires ahead of your own. I’m not advocating being a doormat. I’m saying that most moms forget, sometimes, how loving they really are. It’s not always a feel-good job. You’ve endless chores to accomplish, arguments to resolve, and discipline to dole out. It is no wonder you often feel more like a monster than a mom. So, give yourself some credit as you grade yourself in the love department.

Yes, this is a different kind of love than the disciples had ever before considered:

            Humble service, even to those who don’t deserve it;

            Loving your enemies;

            Releasing those unwilling to receive your love;

            Forgiving your betrayers in faith that God has a greater plan in mind;

            Laying down your life.

You can’t give what you don’t have. So start with receiving Christ’s love for you. Soak it in deep. Give yourself credit for ways you already are loving as Christ demonstrated. Then at the most difficult times work, hand-in-hand with the God of Perfect Love, and walk out this new kind of love by faith.

 

copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson

Wha-a-a-a-at is Love?

Christians often look to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as an accurate description of love.

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I remember years ago talking to God one day, concerned that I wasn’t a very loving mom. I couldn’t even master the first part of the great love chapter. God reminded me that though I fell short in many of these areas, I excelled in others. I was relieved to realize I really did love my children. Though at the moment that idea brought a needed encouragement to me, I also knew I had to grow in the areas where I was weak. But how?

I tried so hard to be patient and kind. I often excelled at being so. But catch me in a moment of weariness or being on the brink of overload (often as I prepared supper), and pow! Love made a quick exit. I needed some divine insight here.

I’d like to propose a different approach to this passage than breaking it down piece by piece to evaluate our performance. Since 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love,” should we not read 1 Corinthians 13 primarily as a description of God? Read this passage again and wherever you see the word “love” insert the word “God”.

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Love begins with God. Outside of God we will fail sooner or later. If you want to experience true love and exude pure love, you must first get to know the God who IS Love.

Let me offer some practical suggestions.

♥Use online resources to study names and characteristics of God, especially in areas where you fall short.

♥Read the book of John one passage at a time and ask, “What do I see about God’s love?” Log your findings in a journal.

♥Memorize Psalm 139.

♥Keep an ongoing log of times you notice God’s love. Review it frequently.

We can’t love our children from a vacuum. Even at our best we can’t begin to love as God does. Until our hearts are saturated with God’s love, we have only weak and disabled love to share. We need to quit putting so much pressure on ourselves as moms to meet self-imposed love standards and start allowing the God who is Love to fill us, change us, and overflow us.

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copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson

No Matter What

My daughter reported the following conversation with her 4-year-old this morning:

Medellin Metro Bus 211

I told M… ‘Jesus loves you.’ And she adds, ‘No matter what.’ Got me all teary eyed. Happy mama.

I will not air my children’s dirty laundry, explaining why this conversation is miraculous. But I can tell you God has been faithful in my children’s lives to accomplish His purposes for them.  Not all of them are at the point this daughter is, but they are all on their way.

No Matter What you are facing with your children, God is faithful.

No Matter What they are doing, He loves them fiercely.

No Matter How you have failed as a mom, God believes in you.

No Matter How bleak things look, God is able.

“No matter what” means it’s not up to you; it’s up to God. His power is greater, His plans bigger, His love deeper than anything this world, your mistakes, or the enemy’s tactics can begin to touch.

God loves you. He loves your children, and your children’s children. No matter what!

 

copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson