April 13, 2015
This Week’s Study
The focus of our study this week is from Hebrews 12:12-17, which is the last of the “Warning Passages” in the epistle. The exhortation from the writer to the Hebrews centers on our ability to “live at peace” with others, to guard ourselves against the evil fruit of bitterness, and to finish the race with integrity. The Old Testament comparison is from Esau, who profaned the Lord by trading his birthright for a one-time meal. He satisfied the flesh at the expense of everything.
One area we all struggle with, and where the flesh can rule, is in the area of forgiveness. Bitterness can take root. In this issue, we will examine how we can practice a life of forgiveness that will allow us to live a peace with others.
As you study and meditate on these things this week, may the Lord richly bless you as you spend time in His Word and prayerfully consider what the Spirit is teaching you.
This Week’s R2R Distinctive | What Is This?
Patience (Proverbs 14:29): I take a long time to overheat and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.
Editor’s Note: The introduction to this week’s Compass was written by Michaela Goen.
You can always find medical articles or health statistics that reaffirm the fact that holding grudges or growing bitterness takes a toll on your health. We know this to be true. So why is it still so hard sometimes to let go of these habits and follow the doctor’s orders? Is there some sort of miracle pill we can take for this?
The author of Hebrews knew what he was talking about when he speaks in terms of bitterness being a root that springs up (Heb. 12:15). We can watch others or ourselves act in ways that baffle us until we realize that bitterness is the underlining motivation behind those actions. We can even tell ourselves that what happened in the past doesn’t matter to us anymore, that we are over it. However, forgiveness is the key to rooting out bitterness but if we don’t understand what forgiveness truly is, bitterness will find its way out of the soil of our lives.
Personally, I cannot stand the phrase “forgive and forget.” It indicates that I should just forget how, when, and where a person hurt me. Just erase it from my memory. How does that work exactly? It seems like I would have to have brain surgery or go through hypnotism to get that accomplished. I’m pretty confident that isn’t what God had in mind when He required forgiveness of us in Ephesians 4:32.
How do we go about defining forgiveness if we can’t rely on the quick and witty “forgive and forget” phrase? Well, since we are here to glorify God by becoming more like Christ, I think we can look to God’s model of forgiveness. The Bible says that God forgives us because of Christ and removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Does that mean He forgets them?
There is something else we know about God and that is that He is omniscient, all knowing. He knows everything that has, will, and is happening. It would not fit His character to suddenly have gaps in His memory of certain periods of our life (frequent periods at that). God isn’t forgetting our sins, He is choosing not to bring them against us. He is choosing not to recall them (Isaiah 43:25). For us, that translates into choosing not to recall and dwell on sins we have forgiven. Forgiveness is committing not to bring that sin up again for that person’s harm. That includes not bringing it up to that person, other people, or yourself. That sin may come to your memory, but you choose not to continue dwelling on it. You can thank God for forgiveness and move on to the next thought. This is a tall order and not something we should commit to lightly. We must forgive, but our thoughts must be ready to follow through with our mouth’s commitment.
What about the other side of things that deals more with the emotions? How do we combat the ever popular, “I just can’t forgive them.” We can always strive to keep the Gospel at the forefront of our minds and in this situation that requires asking yourself the question, “Do I consider the sin that was committed against me greater than the sin committed against Christ?” We ask ourselves this question because God chose to forgive us through the death of Christ. Do we see our own hurt being above Christ’s? If Jesus’ blood is sufficient to cover your sins, why isn’t it enough to cover theirs? By God’s grace, with the right thinking, we can forgive.
A practical definition like this is powerful in the hands of God’s people. We don’t have to be under the false illusion that we have to somehow forget that someone has hurt us or pretend that it wasn’t wrong. We do hurt one another, but because of God’s forgiveness to us through Christ, we can choose not to hold bitterness in our hearts that will slowly rot us from the inside out.
We cannot faithfully persevere if bitterness is holding us back, but by looking to Jesus as a reminder of the means of our own forgiveness, we can continue with joy in place of bitterness.—Michaela Goen