There are no conditions on God's Grace, yet we clearly put conditions on what we are willing to forgive. Why is that? Even though I don't belong to a denomination that rates sins on a scale of 0-100 or venial to mortal or whatever, I would be kidding myself and lying to you if I claimed that I didn't order sins. Some sins just seem worse than others. And those "worse" ones are much, much harder to forgive. At least, they're harder for me, or for us humans, anyway. They are no harder for God to forgive, in case you were wondering. A sin is a sin is a sin to God.
So as Renae pointed out, there are a multitude of situations throughout your daily life during which we, as humans, have to choose to be granters of Grace. And we probably don't even realize how often we are granting grace. If you have kids (umm...or a husband) I promise you it's a bunch.
But what about those "worse" sins? How do you go about forgiving those? Why would you even want to offer Grace to someone who has abused you? Where do you even begin? Often after a murder trial you will hear about the family of the victim publicly stating that they have forgiven the killer. WHAT?! I mean HOW?! And WHY would you even need to?!
The answer to WHY is painfully simple. BECAUSE HE FIRST FORGAVE US. We forgive because God forgave us. It's right smack in the B-I-B-L-E. There are SO many verses about forgiveness. I love this one:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
What the heck? By my math (which is awesome these days because I teach it to 3rd graders...oh yeah...don't be jealous)that is 490 times. Ok, so He's not saying that's the exact number of times you should forgive. There's no Grace ceiling. But He's saying, you need to forgive as many times as someone sins against you. AS MANY TIMES. ALL OF THEM. He says it right smack in the BIBLE!
Ok, so now you're saying to yourself, "I get this. I know it's right. I can forgive people who do daily dumba$$ stuff that affects me or my family. But my human heart just can't offer Grace to an abuser or a murderer or a rapist. That's just unthinkable."
Well...I'm here to tell you that you can if you believe it's right. It all starts with a prayer...asking God to help you forgive. You have to understand from the beginning that you do this for YOU and not necessarily for the person who committed the act against you or your loved one. You have to forgive in order to heal and be a whole, healthy person.
A LACK OF OFFERING GRACE WILL EAT YOU UP FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
I know this because I lived it. There's no reason for me to go into details right now, maybe some other time if I feel it could be of help to someone, but suffice it to say that I have experienced having a dad who was not 100% of the father I needed. I also went through a first marriage that was extremely abusive, more on the verbal and emotional abuse side rather than physical, but nonetheless...you get the point. I had some of that "worse" stuff to deal with.
I can write those sentences without guilt, pain, anger, or hate because finally, after years of hurting, I chose to give it to God and offered them Grace. Only through asking Jesus to HELP ME get through this, He did. When I forgave, when I let it go, something in me changed. It was almost like a black cloud inside the middle of my body was blown through and out of me like a strong wind. And then it was gone and light just poured out of my soul and I was free again!
Does this mean that you continue to let someone hurt you? No, it does not. I could write a book for you on how to stay away from toxic relationships. But once the damage has been done, the key to healing is, I promise you, GRACE.
So what does this long, serious, not even one bit funny post have to do with training up hearts? Offering Grace is one of the most important pieces of character education we can ever teach our children. I can only hope and pray that my kids see me day by day offering the not-so-tough Grace in everyday situations. We talk about forgiveness and Grace and God's love and I hope and pray that it sticks. In the years ahead, there will be time for very serious talks on boundaries, respect, choices, and more. I will have many experiences to pull from, both good and bad. But what I know is this:
HE MAKES ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR MY GOOD.
Praise God! He knows me! He loves me! And he works it all out in the end. My job is to try, TRY, to be a little more Christ-like each day and a little more of who HE wants me to be.
So go ahead, just start with a prayer. Let God have it. Let His Grace flow down until it washes over you and flows right over the person who has offended you, whether it was a 1 or a 10 or a 999. Let it go. Let your heart be free.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.