Tag Archives: Forgiveness

To Whom Do I Owe Forgiveness?

To Whom Do I Owe Forgiveness?

My brain keeps coming back to the same topic when I consider what to write about in my article on forgiveness.

For six months we cared for two toddlers through the Safe Family program. We were asked to adopt them a few months into caring for them and we agreed. Several months after agreeing to adopt them, their father decided he wanted to have some custody of the girls. So, the girls were ripped from our home and put back into the care of their mother, who had asked us to adopt them. After all this, their father has seen them four days out of the last month and a half.

So it’s to their father that I owe forgiveness.

If I think of it from the perspective of the girls, I cannot get there, to forgiveness. I cannot push my heart that far up the forgiveness hill. The journey is too far and my heart too heavy.

But, if I think of their father as an individual, a human struggling in this world, it’s more possible to find forgiveness.

I too am a struggling human in this broken world. I make all kinds of rash choices. I have made plenty of messes for myself and others to deal with. I cut people down. I’m short with my kids and husband. I am selfish and want what I want regardless of how it affects others. When I finally turn my head to look fully in the mirror, I see a lot of mistakes and poor choices and sin.

Thankfully, the Lord can wipe that away and replace what I see in the mirror with His image. Pure beauty and love and truth.

Thankfully I don’t have to push my heart into forgiveness. All I have to do is open my hand to find the gift of forgiveness already inside my fist.

And so, I can offer forgiveness to their father. He is a human, struggling just like me.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Lindsey know.

    I Used Up the Coffee Creamer

    I Used Up the Coffee Creamer

    Every time we are asked to write articles on the theme on forgiveness, my brain hits a blank and full writer’s block hits hard.  I feel like I’ve told all my good stories of forgiveness, and all that are left are my dumb stories of forgiveness.

    You know how in the Bible there are the MAJOR prophets like Isaiah and Daniel, and then the MINOR prophets like Nahum, Amos, and the other little ones that are hard to name?

    These are my MINOR forgiveness stories.

    Like today—I was moving baby from my arms to my shoulder and my fingernail snagged her nose and scratched her, resulting in instant tears and momma saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetheart! Mommy didn’t meant to scratch you.”

    Or yesterday, I accidently dried my 9-year-olds favorite hoodie after lecturing him to never dry it because it would probably shrink and not fit anymore. Oops.  I had to tell him and apologize.

    Earlier this week, I had the table all setup for dinner—burger buns √, ketchup √, baked beans √, mustard√, plates √, chips √.  We all sat down to dive into our burgers and had no drinks, napkins or silverware.  A minor irritation, but still resulted in an, “I’m sorry.”

    This morning I dropped my curling iron which bounced from countertop to floor, making a giant CLUNK orchestra on it’s escapade to the floor in the upstairs bathroom.  It woke up two of the older boys earlier than needed.  “I’m sorry!” I quickly professed to them.

    Sunday, I gave the worship team one set of words, and another set to the tech team. They didn’t match. It caused confusion. I’m sorry!

    I spilled my coffee on the carpet…

    My lunch exploded in the microwave and I left the mess for someone else to clean up…

    I didn’t fill the Keurig for the next person…

    I didn’t return a text, email, voicemail in a timely manner…

    I shut my office door because I’m not in the mood for people…

    So many minor things that require a quick and easy apology.  Small, but not to be overlooked.

    Or this article—it’s technically 17 days late and I’ve been whining about having writer’s block without really even trying.  So Jennifer—I’m sorry! I’m going to double proofread it so you don’t have to fix too many grammatical errors!

    I often picture forgiveness as this big life-altering event that will radically change the course of events. Sometimes it works that way. But maybe, more often than not, it happens in the little moments, the silly mistakes, the ‘oopsies’ and day-to-day grind. And perhaps these little moments prepare us for the big, life-changing forgiveness narrative when it comes.

    By the way, Rick, I used up the rest of your favorite coffee creamer this morning.  I should have seen it was low and used less so you’d have some when you got up.  My selfish self wanted all of it. I’m sorry!

    Leah Carolan
    Director of Worship & Media


    Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry, or learn something new?  Let Leah know.

      The Practice of Forgiving

      The Practice of Forgiving

      Jesus said some very challenging things about forgiveness. 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). That is a tough one. It ranks up there with loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. These difficult sayings make it easier to talk, or think, or write about forgiving – anything to divert our attention from the actual practice of forgiving.

      Forgiving is hard and I suppose that is one reason for the parable of the unmerciful servant which came after Peter asked: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 

      “No, not seven times,” Jesus says, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)

      We are the kind of people who forgive and I, like you, am working on it. I’ve appreciated the novelist Ann Lamott’s advice from her book, Traveling Mercies, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” 

      She also wrote, “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person.”

      Another piece of Lamott’s advice stuck with me. She suggested that if we are just learning how to forgive then don’t start with Adolf Hitler. Start with something smaller – like the guy who cuts you off in traffic, or the neighbor whose dog wakes you up in the morning, or your kids.

      Now, stop thinking about forgiveness, and go practice forgiving someone.

      The Lord be with you,

      Kent Landhuis
      Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

      Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Kent know.

        Hogging the Legos


        Boy 1: “Mooooooom! He just kicked me in the leg!”

        Me: “Are you bleeding?”

        Boy 1: “No.”

        Me: “Send your brother in here so I can talk to him.”

        Other brother begrudgingly appears.

        Me: “Why did you kick your brother?”

        Boy 2: “He pushed me off the chair first!”

        Me to Boy 1: “Is this true?”

        Boy 1: “He was trying to steal my Legos! He started it.”

        Boy 2: “He’s hogging the Legos and never lets me play with them!”

        And on and on and on… until finally:

        Me: “I want you two to look each other in the eye, say ‘I’m sorry’ and then other say ‘I forgive you.’”

        They hate that part, but it usually settles the argument and life goes on as before. Even if they don’t mean it, the mere words “I forgive you” end the dispute.

        I cannot count the number of similar conversations I have daily like this. The beautiful part is that childhood disputes *usually* are that simple. A fight, some words are tossed, an apology, and back to playing like normal.

        I don’t know when adulthood-sized arguments start to work their way into life. The drama is amped up, the injuries more severe, the grudges held longer, the wounds are deepened, and the reconciling conversations are held off for days, months, years… if ever at all. Maybe it’s the absence of a grand ‘mom’ figure in the picture to put us back in line. Or maybe in our maturity we toss off the need to be held accountable to a ‘higher power’ like mom who would normally step in. Maybe we grow more stubborn in our ways and master the art of revenge and quiet stewing.

        But I do know forgiveness still isn’t an option. As adults, we are accountable to Christ who commands us, “Forgive as you are forgiven.” It’s a serious offense.

        I, Leah, in all my detestable ways of sinning and turning away from God… have been FORGIVEN.  No drama, no grudge, no revenge. No stewing in the corner or years of silence.  Freely offered by a loving God.

        Wounds run deep but, I believe in the restorative power and grace of God—for even the deepest wounds and most egregious offenses.  Just say it. “I forgive you.” Even if you don’t mean it. Say it again. “I forgive you.” Every time you are reminded of the hurt. “I forgive you” again and again and again until it becomes easier.  1x, 7x, 70×7 times….

        Leah Carolan
        Director of Worship & Media


        Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry, or learn something new?  Let Leah know.

          Forgiveness Through Jesus’ Work

          Forgiveness Through Jesus’ Work

          In high school I spent many hours late into the night with my good friends Drew and David. We had fun getting into and escaping trouble together. Sometimes Drew drove the getaway car, other times I did. David hardly ever drove. Because we spent so much time together, my parents considered them brothers of mine.

          In college it continued and we started venturing into the world. I met Lindsey and Drew seemed happy for me but I know he was wanting to find his special lady, too. When I asked Lindsey to marry me, she tasked me with finding six groomsmen! David accepted the best man role, but I didn’t hear back from Drew. As the wedding drew near, he declined stating that he wouldn’t be able to make it. It hurt, but we were wrapped up in plans and I had to find another friend to stand in.

          Later in life he revealed to me he’d become addicted to heavy drug use and didn’t want to pay for the tux. Now he was in a 12-step rehab program, confessing much worse offenses than this. The best part however was he had found Jesus! I was so glad to hear this and was happy to forgive him. At that point I had recently come back to my faith. If I hadn’t known forgiveness through Jesus’ work, I may have “forgiven” him out loud, but perhaps not truly “in my heart.” He’s since gotten married and we were able to attend and send him off to California a few years back.

          Karl Ungs
          Leader of Parenting Together


          Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Lindsey know.

            When Tired, Take a Nap

            When Tired, Take a Nap

            I’m wired for self-critique, judgment, and condemnation. I’m not sure why, but I am hard on myself. One evidence of this is a denial of my need for rest. The tape playing in my head tells me, ” can keep going, push a little more, don’t quit yet.”

            If you phone me early in the morning, rouse me from a deep sleep, and then ask, “Did I wake you?” My knee-jerk reaction would be, “No, I’m awake.” Ditto if you catch me napping. Just resting my eyes.

            Truth is, I get tired. Sometimes very tired. And that makes me normal. One of my favorite verses in the last couple of exhausting years has been Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

            I’ve been seeking rest recently from the burden of self-condemnation. We are the kind of people who believe in forgiveness. The most difficult person to forgive can be ourselves.

            We are also the kind of people called to love our neighbors as ourselves. My mentor Ray always reminded me that we can not love our neighbors boldly until we love ourselves properly. Proper self-love is free from self-condemnation and shame.

            The path to forgiveness for many of us begins with recognizing that we are far more loved – even in our brokenness – than we ever realized. We are forgiven. If God forgives us then we should feel free to forgive ourselves and that should lighten our burden.

            So, when tired, take a nap.

            Kent Landhuis
            Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

            Did you enjoy this article? Did you laugh, cry or learn something new? Let Kent know.



              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!

              Steve Poole
              Director of Youth & Young Adults

              What did you think of this article? Let us know.

                Lake Failure is Filled By Pride

                Lake Failure is Filled By Pride

                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.

                Lindsey Ungs
                Connection & Communication Architect

                Did you enjoy this article? Let us know.

                  Forgiveness Is a Practice

                  Forgiveness Is a Practice

                  “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.

                  Gary Sager
                  Ambassador of Care

                  Did you enjoy this article? Let us know.

                    How Much Forgiveness Is Too Much?

                    How Much Forgiveness Is Too Much?

                    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.

                    Kent Landhuis
                    Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

                    Did you enjoy this article? Let us know.