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Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Forgiveness - March 4, 2018

2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Who are those who have wronged you, within the church and outside of the church? Who is it that has wronged someone you loved? Have you forgiven them? and in forgiving them, have you created space for them to be a part of the community? (or family? or work friends?) or have you held them at arm's length maintaining their punishment of isolation without really thinking how long it should last? Have you thought about what might be

needed to rebuild your relationship? Or did you just want to be sure they paid the price for their actions?

Now, whenever we talk about forgiveness, I think it is important to clarify a couple of things. #1 Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. Forgiveness is letting go of the anger, hurt, and resentment over a wrong. Reconciliation is being restored in relationship. Forgiveness can happen from a distance. Forgiveness can happen with someone who has moved away, or even someone who has died. We can let go of the anger, hurt, and resentment of the past even if we never receive an apology. Because that dynamic is really about us and our spiritual health...what are we holding onto that God wishes we would let go of? Reconciliation is a bit different, it happens between is the restoring of a relationship and if a relationship has been broken....the trust building and patching up requires that both people participate in making things better. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. And it may be that God is ready to work on both of them in your life, with particular people. And it may be that God is simply calling you to forgive because God knows the other person isn't ready to do the hard work of reconciliation with you.

The second and related piece of all of that deals with abusers in our life. When God calls us to forgiveness, God is not asking us to put ourselves back into an abusive relationship. God loves you. God cares about your mind, body and spirit. And God knows that forgiveness leads to healing for you. And God knows that there are some toxic people who have done terrible things in our lives. While God does call us to forgive, God does not say, "go subject yourself to more abuse." Or "Go put your family at risk." Some relationships are not ready for reconciliation. Some people are not willing to work on themselves to be better, to be kinder, to be less destructive, and you don't have to stay in their path of abuse.

In one of my early jobs, I had a boss who was destructive. He was a bully. He was full of himself. He was mean-spirited. And if I did anything that threatened him, which basically meant if other people at work liked what I was doing, he would put an immediate stop to it. He would revoke privileges and undermine my authority. He belittled me. He kicked me out of meetings. He was terrible. And I had to endure it for months. As I searched for another job, I finally found hope that I wouldn't have to deal with him forever. And when Lent rolled around that year, I knew I needed to forgive him. It was like I was carrying around a rock. I was holding onto so much pain and it was weighing on me. So I made praying for forgiveness my discipline for Lent that year. Every day I prayed that I could forgive him. I tried to chip away at it, but didn't make much progress. I tried to let it go. And I would get so close, and then he would do something awful again....and I'd hold onto my pain, my rock, as a reminder of all the wrongs he'd done against me. Then I'd work on it some more, and then more awfulness—more bullying, more condescension, more undermining. I don't know how many weeks of Lent it had been, but I was struggling to forgive him....I just couldn't manage to break it apart or put it down on my own. And one day I was talking to my sister about it and she offered a prayer for me and in it she said, "May it be a forgiveness that can only be attributed to God." Her words struck me. A forgiveness that could only be attributed to God. Here I was trying to forgive and asking for God's help and I didn't even really fully understand how a forgiveness that only God could give might be possible. I was doing what I could do but I didn't even begin to understand what God could do.

But, I went back to work. And I kept praying I might forgive him. And he kept being a jerk. And then one day we were giving a presentation and I looked over at him and it had happened. God had done it. All of the hurt and anger and resentment was gone. Just gone. I hadn't done it. Clearly I had been trying. But God did it. God took it all away in a way that could only be attributed to God. It was amazing and it was a miracle. It wasn't me chipping away at the pain of the past. It was God who simply took it from me. My sister's prayer had been answered.

Now, truth be told, he was someone God allowed me to forgive fully in a moment, but he wasn't someone I could reconcile with. He wasn't ready to do the work. He didn't see what he was doing as wrong, and he kept it up for a few more months until I left the job. And even down the road when I'd see him, there was never a "hey, I'm sorry I did all of that" moment. Never an apology. Never a change in behavior that made me believe I could trust him. So I kept him at arm's length. There's a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Some people just aren't ready to do the work. But that doesn't mean I have to carry around the wounds of the past. That baggage wasn't helping me. It wasn't healing me. It wasn't propelling me forward. It was weighing me down. And I needed to let it go.

All of that was a situation that marked me. I wrote down all the things he did, so I could tell upper management. And I kept those documents. I've carried them around from place to place. Somehow I've felt I needed to be able to remember. But really, what happens each time I re-read them, is I pick that rock back up. I start carrying it around again. Now, fortunately, I know it's not worth it, at least not for him, so I put it down again, but generally not until I've had a little time to feel the weight again. But really, I could leave this rock here, at the cross, and not pick it up again. I could let the work God did be the work God did and call it a day. God doesn't need to re-do it, because when God did do it, God took it away completely. It wasn't like a sliver was gone, the whole weight was gone. So why not just let it be gone?

For many of us, we're carrying around the weights of the past. We're holding onto the hurt, anger and if that workout is going to do something for us. We could argue it would make us stronger, but really all it's doing is inhibiting us from being free to do all the things God really does want us to do. Some of us are holding onto our rocks. And some of us are holding onto the anger, hurt, and resentments of those around us who have been hurt. Sort of like the church in Corinth. Some were hurt directly. And others were hurt because their friends were hurt. But all of them were holding onto the rocks, ready to stone the man that hurt them...with some sort of hope that would bring redemption. But true redemption doesn't happen when we're holding stones, ready for revenge, but when we put the stones down and reach out in kindness and grace.

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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary. William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843


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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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