Talk about forgiveness dredges up painful memories out of the mucky, muddy bottoms of our souls. The evidence of that is the discussion taking place in the comments section of my last post about my own conflicted feelings about extending forgiveness to someone that's flipped my life upside-down.
Here in Eureka, I live less than a mile from the very shallow Humboldt Bay. During low tide, most of the bay is a smelly mud flat. From time to time, the bay needs to be dredged so that boats can pass safely through channels. Dredging also provides an environmentally friendly flow of the tides. Moving that mud around is good for harmony and balance. And it smells.
When talking about forgiveness, the discussion inevitably turns to the topic of family members who have wronged us. A family is supposed to be a refuge of peace and harmony in a world that is incredibly competitive and hostile. So when our supposed refuge becomes a place of hostility and competition instead place where peace flows, expectations are shattered and injuries inflicted cause great confusion and instability. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are never supposed to exist in a refuge of peace and protection.
That's why when these violations occur, the wounds are infected with unforgiveness for years, sometimes decades. So the children of wounded children are affected by the transgressions of their grandparents. Someone has to break the chain.
Relationships with each other matter more to God than the junk we've done to each other out of selfishness or revenge. I'm personally motivated to forgive family. I want an on-going, growing relationship with the people that share my name.
Because we will wrong the ones we love the most, forgiveness must be free flowing within the family. Parents to kids. Children to parents. Jesus assumes that kindness to a son from a father is instinctive even among the most wicked among us. Everybody loves their kids. Dis-owning a child is unnatural. Remember the story of the prodigal son? Even when the child dishonors the father, the father celebrates the return of the wayward.
Forgiveness flowing from children to parents is a little tougher. It's not a given. In fact, that's why a commandment had to be given in the Old Testament and a reminder in the New Testament pointing to the command. "Children, honor your parents so that you will live a long life." No other conditions are mentioned. We all have our parents' sins on record. My entire generation are offspring of parents who have parented and tried to hold marriages together through some of history's most tumultuous years. We all have many things we could hold against our parents. I come from a broken home and, quite possibly, you come from a broken home. We're a generation raised by alcoholic parents or absent fathers. This is a recipe for bad parenting and bad memories.
But God has instructed me to both honor my parents and not keep a record of wrongs. I refuse to dishonor my parents by making them acknowledge sins committed against me more than two decades ago. I was under their authority. Under it. They don't answer to me. They answer to God. I can't make them answer to me.
So how can I have a healthy, functioning relationships want to have a healthy functioning relationship moving forward? Yep. I can raise my kid's with all the fear of God and love I think should have existed in the house I grew up in. That's what I have in my power to do. I think that will produce at least two results: 1. that will allow me to share, live, express the gospel and the benefits of living in obedience; 2. it could cause them to want that for their lives. Parenting kids through their teen and young adult years has caused me to have much grace toward my parents.
My parenting has given me more opportunity to share the gospel with my parents than anything. What a pleasure it is to tell your mom and dad that God has good news; Jesus is willing to wipe out wrongs and guilt if we turn to Him.
That brings e to the original reason for my post about being conflicted about forgiveness. I don't have the same motivation to forgive someone outside of my family that has caused me tremendous pain. I don't want to be a friend. I don't want to move forward with him.
But I rarely get things the way I want them. And since I believe God is in charge and He's brought this situation to my doorstep, the reality is He may want me to have a change of heart. I'll allow Him to do that. I think it's a process, though. I'm His servant and I'll do what needs to be done.
Jesus said on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." But Jesus didn't tell both thieves crucified with Him that they'd be in paradise with Him. According to the record, Jesus only had one conversation with one person that day that ended with a promise of paradise. An acknowledgment of who Jesus was needed to be made in order to follow Him where He was going in eternity.
If you are not in my family, I need you to acknowledge the wrongs you've done me if you want forgiveness and a relationship that moves forward. Otherwise, there is no foundation, basis, or grounds for you and me to have any kind of a relationship. And quite frankly, that's no skin off my nose.
Or is it?