Recently I posted on my Instagram account asking people for their suggestions on blog topics. I got a lot of good responses, but one topic was consistent: LOVE.
Recently I had my own run in with offense. I had a choice to make. Was I going to let this situation dictate the rest of my day/week, or would I forgive? Something that I have learned is that offense always comes in through unmet expectations. Since I expected this person to act a certain way, I was then surprised by what they did next. I trusted them and they broke my trust. I believed them and they lied. Have you ever found yourself in that situation? Usually the closer a person is to you, the deeper the offense can go because they have such an intimate access to your heart. Anyone who can love you a lot also has the ability to hurt you a lot. I'm not saying that you should have trust issues. I'm just saying, getting hurt or offended happens. But this one scripture always helps me get right - Ephesians 4:32 "...forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." However, forgiveness can be difficult. So, how do we forgive?
The more I have grown to understand what God did for me by forgiving me over and over, the easier it has been for me to forgive others. Love is what saved us as Christians from sin. Love is why God forgave us. Love is why Jesus died for us.
Love is not the excuse for sin, love was and is the forgiveness of sin.
Love is not the excuse for sin, love was and is the forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness doesn't mean that what they did to you is ok, but it does meant that you will not be controlled or plagued by what they did to you any longer. No more negative thoughts. No more talking about them behind their back. No more subtweets or shade-posts. No more plotting your revenge. That's what love is. It's a higher law, because it's from God. God is love. One neurophysiologist even stated that over 75% of physical and mental illnesses today are the result of negative thoughts. It has also been scientifically proven that forgiveness can help to heal your body and mind. Wow. I believe it is because hate, unforgiveness, and resentment connect you with the Enemy, and whatever is connected to him is connected to what he represents: death.
Now you might be thinking David that's nice for you, but you don't know what they did to me. I deserve to be bitter towards them. They don't deserve my love. You're right. I don't know what they did. But God does. And notice, He did not alter his command of walking in love just to accommodate your situation. Love is the power that makes forgiving possible. We are all commanded to walk in love, regardless of the conditions. That's what unconditional agape love is...it's love without conditions, neither earned or deserved. Love is a debt that can never be paid - so you will be paying on it every day for the rest of your life! (Romans 13:8)
LOOK WHAT HATE HAS DONE TO US
Unfortunately, the tactic of offense is being used right now by the enemy to bring division in this county (USA). Pastor Steven Furtick recently said it like this:
The enemy's agenda is to destroy. His strategy is division. His tactic is offense.
Movements that bring awareness, if not fueled by love, will stir up emotions of retaliation.
Even movements that aim to bring awareness, if not fueled by love, they will eventually stir up the emotions of hate and retaliation. We is happening in society with racial profiling and violence against different people groups is terrible. I don't like it at all. It's unacceptable. There is a scripture in Proverbs that says "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins" (Proverbs 10:12). Wise words to remember.
However, when I am asked for my opinion and what I think people should do, I have a simple answer:
"But I say to you, 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"
That's it! That's love! That's what Jesus said and did. They hated him without a just cause too, so he knows something about being targeted for no reason. He knew what it felt like to be a victim of the prejudice of others. He had every right to be upset with others. He was only doing good in the community...but he chose the MORE POWERFUL response - love. We must understand that true forgiveness doesn’t need to be sparked by an apology from someone, because it flows from love in you. The fact is, you may never get an apology.
My dad (Dr. Bill Winston) recently wrote this powerful statement in an open letter to America:
Many people around the world are in a state of pain, shock, and mourning from senseless acts of murder and violence. But we must not allow hate crimes to create more hate, and heinous acts of terror to produce unrestrained acts of revenge. Now more than ever, Christianity needs to be demonstrated and the supernatural kingdom of God needs to be manifested. When confronted with two courses of actions, we must draw from God’s love and power that are within us, and choose the better part.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it this way, “That old law about an ‘eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing. I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” (Click Here to read the full letter...it's pretty awesome)
But what about people who are not "blind"?? They know exactly what they are doing. Someone might be making decisions on purpose to hurt you. So what should you do? Love them anyways. Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t make sense to our natural minds…(just like God’s love for us, salvation, and faith) because it is a spiritual act. If you need help forgiving, here are three simple steps to help you:
3 STEPS TO FORGIVENESS
1. Repentance - Ask God first to forgive you and ask Him for help in forgiving those who hurt you. It's not always easy, but it's necessary. Say this outloud:
Father, please forgive me for not loving as I should. Your Word says that I am made in Your image; therefore it is my desire to love as You do. Right now I tap into the anointing to change, which is made available to me through Your love. I pray that the atmosphere of my life, my home, my community, my school, and my place of work will change as a result of Your love demonstrated through me. Let it begin today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
2. Decide to forgive and release it - This can be done a series of ways. You can go to the person and ask forgiveness. If you can't do that, or this is not appropriate (ex. restraining order), you can write it down in a letter. In our youth ministry we do something called forgiveness proxies where we have one of our leaders stand in proxy for the offender. Then we have the teen forgive them as if they were the offender. (It works very well.) Find whatever method works for you, and then let it go. It is important to name exactly what you are forgiving them for.
3. Receiving healing for the pain of that situation - Forgiveness starts with a choice, but healing is complete through a process. This can be a very challenging. Many people have forgiven, but have never gotten healed from the situation. Take the time to heal. I won't go into detail in an effort to keep this short, but I have something even better! Check out this video I did that outlines the steps to inner healing! (The Steps to Emotional/Inner Healing)
Many situations may come in life, and we can't control them. But one thing is always absolute. We can control how we choose to react to every situation that comes our way. Forgiveness is always a choice 100% of the time. It's true that you may need strength from God to forgive them, but you must because love says so. You can never move forward in life if you are tied to your past. So, how will you choose to respond?