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We must never give up on each other or on the supernatural potential of Christian community. Jesus has brought “incompatibles” together. No wonder we often fight! We must strive to hold ourselves accountable to practice forgiveness and reconciliation. Our mutual love for one another is how the world will see who Jesus is. (Timothy Keller)
This is the conclusion to Timothy Keller’s article: The Fading of Forgiveness: Tracing the disappearance of the thing we need most. In this article Pastor/Author Timothy Keller makes a case for how the practice and principle of forgiveness is fading from our Western society. The roots come from our culture becoming increasingly post-truth and post-Christian. The removal of absolute truth and morality founded by God and Jesus’ teachings removes the underlying reasons to value forgiveness. People are left asking the question, “Why should I forgive?” When the only truth is our feelings and our greatest purpose is self-fulfillment, there is no reason to forgive. Forgiveness is a self-sacrificing action, it always feels like we are losing something. To forgive we must let go of our “righteous indignation.” We must surrender our feelings of moral superiority. Alan Jacobs describes our current Western culture this way:
When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better. (Alan Jacobs)
This is the struggle of our age. We must fight against the bent toward our culture and away from Biblical forgiveness. We must resist our flesh’s call for vindictive vengeance. Instead, we must reconnect with the heart of Jesus. He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father forgive them…” The heart of Christian forgiveness is Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. We have this natural, tribalistic response to those with whom we disagree, we devalue them and their tribe. In our minds and in our hearts we dehumanize them in some way. We elevate ourselves, and our “tribe,” above others. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies he flips the script. The love re-humanizes them. I love how Miroslav Volf describes this Biblical understanding of forgiveness:
Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. (Miroslav Volf)
The imperative for us as Christ-followers to forgive each other, because we have been forgiven. We see this in Paul’s letters:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
Paul is describing a community that is super natural! We do the unnatural work of forgiveness and reconciliation because of God’s supernatural mercy and forgiveness of us that reconciled us to Him! This is why forgiveness is one of the core cultural qualities we believe in here at Cedar Hills Community Church. We see a great opportunity to shine God’s light into our homes, work places, and neighborhoods by practicing forgiveness. God’s body here on earth must demonstrate that there is a better way to interact with people. This may look like foolishness to some, but a community known for forgiveness and reconciliation will be very attractive to those who recognize their own brokenness and need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult. Forgiveness is messy. However, forgiveness is worth it!
Director of Youth & Young Adults
Tim Keller says, “If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.”
This is where I find myself frequently. With a heart that’s carrying some new failure. The failure might be a conversation turned sour, a connection that didn’t get made, or a message that wasn’t shared clearly.
After reading Keller’s quote last week, I began to realize just how much I still find my identity in things on this earth. As I reflect on the “failures” or the less than perfect way I carry out my ministry, I find that I let the failures weigh too heavily on my heart.
Then my heart starts to wonder about what might be a failure versus what might be a sin.
Separating actual sin from felt failures is a hurdle when I’m carrying burdens instead of letting God handle them.
So is there a sin somewhere in the mix of my failures? If there is, then I need to deal with that directly by naming the specific sin and asking for forgiveness. As my coworker pointed out after reading this article, the specific sin would be pride.
The root of me agonizing over the failures is found in my pride. When something goes right, I want to take all the credit. But when something turns out less than perfect, as things tend to do on earth, I feel the weight of that burden heavily. Primarily, because I look to myself instead of Christ.
When I have my identity rightly placed, both the failures and the successes are in God’s hands. As my coworker suggested, “I can rejoice in both, because they are both from God.”
My focus then, is to ask forgiveness for my pride.
As for my carrying around “failures,” this has to be remedied in moving my identity from my work to Christ. This process is going to take a while.
Connection & Communication Architect
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”(Matthew 18:21-22).
There’s one thing you can know for sure, in the course of your life, you’ll be sinned against. You’ll be misunderstood, falsely accused, and unfairly judged. What do you do after you have been offended? Someone has harmed you emotionally, physically, or psychologically. What do you do? Our first response is to retaliate, but we are told to forgive and forget. Wouldn’t it be better to give them a piece of my mind so that they will think twice about offending me? We can’t seem to forget about the offense so forgiveness seems impossible. How do I forgive someone and why should I forgive people for offending me?
The word forgive means: to give up or release resentment of an offense. The Hebrew word for “forgive” means to pardon or spare. The Greek word for “forgive” means to send forth, lay aside, let go, omit, put (send) away. In general, we can say that to forgive is to release the resentment caused by an offense.
It is not reasonable to think that you will wake up one morning with the disposition to forgive everyone. The only way that you are going to live a life of forgiveness is to practice forgiveness. Here is a few small steps to practice forgiveness:
Build a strong fellowship with your heavenly father. This brings faith and confidence that you will need when you are offended. This should be practiced on a regular basis and not when the offense comes.
Place God’s ability to bless you above the offense. That is, trust God in your life and know that no situation can change what God has for you. This is the attitude that you want to obtain.
Practice the love of God when dealing with people. If you love people, even your enemies (those who offend you), then it will be easy (or easier) to forgive them. You don’t resent who you love (or you can’t for long).
It takes time before the principles of forgiveness and the implementation of them become a part of your normal everyday life. Just start where you are. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a seed. The Kingdom of God grows and it spreads. Great things will manifest in our lives just as the seed process produces fruit. The more you practice forgiveness then the more it will become a part of your normal life.
We live in a broken and fallen world where sinful actions leave consequences – even after forgiveness between people is offered or received. Restitution or reconciliation may not be possible where deep hurt has been caused, but this is not to say that the forgiveness was not genuine. We can genuinely forgive someone and still carry the residue of sin for years to come. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget. Forgiveness means to release resentment.
A mistake that we make is to look at the greatest obstacle in our lives regarding forgiveness and grieve over the fact that we can’t muster up enough energy to just “let it go.” Just deal with where you are and not where you think you should be.
Trust God fully! Believe that He is able to keep you and prosper you. Believe that God can move in your life regardless of the situations around you. Know that He is fully able to keep you regardless of your situations. This doesn’t mean that you walk around inviting people to offend you. It simply means that when or if you are offended, you know that God is greater and therefore won’t have to waste a second being upset or resentful about the situation.
Ambassador of Care
Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
We are the kind of people who forgive others.
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership
When my kids fight, we often know the ‘instigator’ – the one kid who started it, is at fault, and needs to apologize. Once we know who is at fault, they have to say “I’m sorry.” But this is the hard part—they have to say it like they mean it. Not in a short tone. Not in a have-to type voice. Sometimes, we ask them to ask their siblings for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me?” is a hard line to swallow.
I can’t say this process often goes well, but it’s a constant rehearsal for so many things in life coming their way.
What amazes me is that the other sibling 99% of the time is quick to express forgiveness with an, “I forgive you,” response. Sometimes they aren’t ready, but almost always the conflict is over as soon as it began and everyone moves on.
I wish adult conflicts were just as easy. I suspect they are, but our hard-headed minds and hearts don’t have a lingering parent on the scene to intervene and stop a spat before it goes too far.
One of the hardest things I’m learning to do as a parent is to ask my kids for forgiveness. When we’re running late for school (again) and I lose my cool (again), I inevitably have to humble down in my position as mom and ask my kids for forgiveness. For not being the type of parent I desire to be, for getting too frustrated with them and letting it out by yelling waaaay too much. THIS IS HARD. I don’t want to humble myself either. But I’m telling you—this is one of the coolest and safest places to practice walking in forgiveness. I’m learning the quicker I can jump to asking for it, the easier it is.
If asking for forgiveness is a foreign concept, practice it with those nearest to you. Kids are a great training zone. I’m hoping in modeling my need for a Savior, they too will learn to run quickly to the other side of anger and pride and be bearers of forgiveness well into their later years
Director of Worship & Media
Do you have all the answers or are you looking for a few still? Where do you seek wisdom from regarding major life issues?
Starting Sunday, June 6 at 9:45am, a new class will begin. In this class, we will walk through the book The Wisdom Pyramid by Brett McCracken. Ben and Melissa Harkness will lead us through the wisdom seeking process in a Post-Truth World.
Childcare available for all ages upon request.
High School Seniors and College Graduates! On Sunday, May 23 we will be recognizing your accomplishments in the worship services. To be included in the celebration, please fill out the Graduation Form and let us know of your graduation and future plans.
ALL FORMS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY MAY 16 at 3PM to be included in the special slideshow and video presentation.
PICNIC IN THE PARK – Sunday, May 16, starting at 6 PM, you are invited to a picnic at Cherry Hill Park. Cedar Hills will be providing hot dogs and hamburgers and leading some group games after the picnic. Click here to RSVP with the number of children and adults coming from your family and plan to bring a side or dessert to contribute to the picnic spread.
I like to wear a mask. (Not the pandemic kind but the kind I hide behind.) I do this to protect myself. If people really knew me, I’m afraid that they will not like what they saw. I have a hunch that I am not the only one with this fear.
Donald Miller wrote about this in the book Through Painted Deserts: “Relationships aren’t the best thing, if you ask me. People can be quite untrustworthy, and the more you get to know them – by that I mean the more you let somebody know who you really are – the more it feels as though something is at stake. And that makes me nervous. It takes me a million years to get to know anybody pretty well, and even then the slightest thing will set me off. I feel it in my chest, this desire to disassociate. I don’t mean to be a jerk about it but this is how I am wired. If I coil, I’d probably have formula friends because that would be safe.”
Real, authentic community is not safe. We take risks when we disclose who we really are. We risk exposing our mess. We risk entering into another person’s mess. We risk taking off our masks. We are the kind of people who leave the safety of the cover-up. We do life together.
Romans 12:15 invites us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We can only live like this if we all take our masks off and live in authentic community. Will we be real? Or live like imposters?
Authenticity Requires Grace
It seems like every day I hear more outrage. We live in a polarized world where opinions fall on opposite ends of every issue and many of us take delight in proclaiming our differences. Over time these disagreements turn to anger and outrage. How can “they” be so wrong?
Outrage creates fear and breaks down relationships. When it is not safe to say what we really think, we stop talking. Outrage kills authenticity. To know each other and be known by each other does not require agreement, but it does require safety in disagreeing. Authenticity requires grace.
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership