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How to Stop Abusing Forgiveness

17 Jan
Happy, Sad, Mad, Glad

Happy, Sad, Mad, Glad (Photo credit: katerha)

Hanging out with Christians can be an awesome experience.  They can be so supportive, so full of hope, and so life-giving.  I highly recommend it

… sometimes.

Because hanging out with Christians can also be an awful experience.  They can be so self-centered, so judgmental, and so rude.  What makes it worse is we expect Christians to be… well… like Christ.  So we assume things.

We assume they’ll conduct themselves with love and grace, yet we’re stung in our very souls when they don’t.  Have you ever wondered why that kind of behavior happens in Christian circles?

Forgiveness Abuse

Perhaps this thought has crossed your mind: “I know I will be forgiven, so my conduct doesn’t matter.”  I think I’ve encountered people like this.  The first responsibility to get dropped is the one at church.  After all, they’ll forgive me, right?  If I’m rude, they’ll get over it, right?

And aren’t my Christian friends are there for me to vent on 24/7?  (Which, by the way is true… but is there not also a responsibility for me to be there for them when they need to vent?  Or to encourage them when life gets hard?).

I sometimes get the sense that the word “mutual” has gone missing from the vocabulary of Christian community.  How do I know this?  Because sometimes I’m the guilty one.

While it’s nice for our Christian brothers and sisters to be able to practice forgiveness, we shouldn’t make it our life’s goal to give them constant opportunities.  There are ramifications of disregarding our behavior and abusing forgiveness.

Ramifications

We fail to notice that our actions don’t only impact our Christian brothers and sisters.  While they may actually forgive us, they aren’t the only ones watching.

Consider the impact of disregarding our behavior on outsiders.  As people view our conduct, they are also evaluating Christianity… and even Christ.  Gandhi said it this way:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

At least Gandhi was able to differentiate between Christians and Christ.  Others aren’t able to make the distinction, so they don’t want anything to do with Christ.  In essence, our behavior has turned them away from our savior.  Can you think of any greater tragedy?

Solutions

So how do we solve our behavior dilemma?  I think we start with awareness.  We should recognize that forgiveness is plan B.  It’s a restorative mechanism when plan A gets derailed.  So what’s plan A, you ask?

Romans 12 offers several suggestions for how to live together in Christian community.  I’m particularly drawn to these verses:

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Rom 12:9–10 NLT)

I wonder what would happen if we spent as much time and energy on plan A as we currently do on plan B?  What if we lived in genuine love?  What if we took delight in honoring each other?

I’ll bet we wouldn’t have to spend so much time forgiving each other!

And I’ll bet we’d be awesome to hang out with: so supportive, so full of hope, and so life-giving….

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4 Comments

Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Group Discussion

 

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4 responses to “How to Stop Abusing Forgiveness

  1. Taro Coraspe

    January 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Thanks Bill

    Maru says that we can’t forgive without love and we can’t love without forgiving; they go hand-in-hand… I love it when she talks like that 🙂

    It is about a year now that we discussed love and forgiveness in one of our CG session. That session changed things in my mind to the point of generating hunger for changes in my behavior, the way I looked at people, my approach to issues, and countless other things… And with time and practice, love and forgiveness have become so familiar, the very base for me to build my thoughts. I wonder sometimes if I am using the word “love” too much, but the truth is that I’m probably not using/practicing it nearly as many times as I must…

    I think that loving and forgiving are actions/decisions we do/make ourselves, regardless of their effect on the behavior of the ones we are loving and forgiving. Because we don’t love and forgive for our own benefit, but to glorify God, right? Our own benefit may be a consequence, but it’s not the purpose, am I sort of close here? What does Christ have to say about this?

     
    • billhogan77

      January 18, 2013 at 7:46 am

      Hey Taro! Maru sounds like a wise woman… you should probably marry her! 🙂

      You ask some great questions and share some great and encouraging growth in your life. It sounds like your struggle with using the word “Love” too much could be the difference between thinking about it and beginning to making it a lifestyle. After a bit, I think we stop having to think about loving in every situation because it becomes a part of who we are. (Kind of like learning to drive… when you start, you have to consciously think of everything… but now you can probably get from work to your driveway without thinking out each step because driving has become a lifestyle).

      I love your questions in your second paragraph, and I think you’re on a good track. Let me fan the flames a little more and see if Sunday’s sermon + next week’s study guide will help. (BTW, next week’s study is up at smallgroupscoop.wordpress.com)
      – Is love an option for a Jesus follower? Or is it a choice? (How we answer these two tell a great deal about how we approach forgiveness)
      – Do I forgive because I’m supposed to… or because I want to? (Says a lot about how much Christ is living in us!)
      – Who is forgiveness for? Is it for the other person… for me… or for God? (This is the crux of your last question).

      Christ has much to say about all these, but recommend you start by looking at John 8:1-11 through the lens of forgiveness and what purposes forgiveness might serve. (It’s the story of the woman caught in adultery). As you read the story, try asking all the questions above, especially the last bullet.

      You ask some great questions Taro… keep up the search and the growth; you’re doing great. Already, your life is different… and it’s just the start of great things to come!

      Be blessed! Bill

       
  2. Patricia Walsh

    January 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

    so… did you read Fred’s morning message? It is the same ideas…. that’s the Holy Spirit speaking to us again. Have a great day.

     
    • billhogan77

      January 18, 2013 at 7:48 am

      Hey Patricia! I had not read Fred’s threads that morning… all the more evidence of The Spirit at work, eh? Tell Fred to keep up his awesome calling and his awesome listening 🙂 And as always, thanks for your encouragement and prayers 🙂
      Be blessed!
      Bill

       
 
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