I don’t confess to being prophetic. At the weekend away when we were praying for the Spirit to come and Jo invited anybody up who may have something to share with the Church I sat quietly praying, enjoying the silence. Then my thoughts were interrupted I received the word forgiveness, not once, but repeated three times in my head.
I ignored it. Bit random. Other thoughts tumbled in and out, but it came back again; forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness! I was torn. Do I stay put and shut up or speak out? It came again, more persistent. So reluctantly and with uncertainty I got up and walked to the front, not really sure what I was going to say other than those three words. As I reached the mic I was given more. As I reflect, it’s interesting that I had to step out in faith, but with uncertainty and doubt before I was given anything else.
As I reflect, it’s interesting that I had to step out in faith, but with uncertainty and doubt before I was given anything else.
So, the first forgiveness relates to us.
In order to be effective in our individual ministry we need to be able to forgive ourselves. It may seem a bit strange, but all too often we can carry burdens of things we’ve said or done wrong that weigh us down. They can actually render us ineffective. We may have even asked for forgiveness; but then not accepted it! Negative thoughts spring to mind. I’m not good enough. How can God possibly use me? Yet, we need to remember we have totally, unequivocally, been forgiven. In fact, Christ died on the cross to make sure of it. Don’t be held back by the inability to forgive yourself.
The second forgiveness is within the church.
We may not have an issue with forgiving ourselves, but what about others in the Church? Lack of forgiveness for those we go to Church with can also impact our effectiveness. We need to work together to have a greater impact where God has placed us. Oh, how we can sometimes hurt each other with thoughtless actions, or words of wit and wisdom. Often words said in jest, but not received that way, can open up deep wounds and divides in our Church. Yet, if we have broken relationships in Church how much harder is it for us to be good witnesses as the ‘body of Christ’, particularly if different parts of the body are at odds with each other. We need to be quick to forgive and show a little of the love, grace and mercy that we have ourselves been shown. Working together we can be a powerful force for good.
Finally, the third forgiveness.
We need to demonstrate forgiveness for those not yet part of the church, who may from time to time hurt us. Doing this can often be the greatest witness of all. It’s the last thing anybody expects. People today are quick to demand justice. An eye for an eye. That is what is anticipated, but we can and should be ‘counter-cultural’ (in the world not of the world) and not bear grudges or say hateful things but forgive. As followers of Christ we are asked to be salt and light in our community. To be different. To do this we need to refrain from being drawn into bitterness and the palpable hatred that can so quickly overtake our thoughts and actions. We should pray for people and situations when we have been hurt, extend our forgiveness and never cease to grow and demonstrate Godly characteristics. Forgiving others will warm people to you, give them a taste of God’s love and could bring them to know Him in the future through their connection with you.
Unforgiveness can eat away at us, our fellowship with others in the church and our witness to the wider community – making us detached, guarded and uncaring – rendering us ineffective. How many times did the Lord say we should forgive, seven times, seventy times? Or was it until we have totally and properly forgiven others as we ourselves have been forgiven.