Living in Community: Un-Forgiveness
Living in Community: Un-Forgiveness
It’s already the last Sunday of the first month of 2020. We will conclude a series of messages dealing with the anti-Christ behaviors that we learned while we lived as a member of the world and tend to drag along with us into our new life in Christ. The scripture teaches that when we believe the gospel, each of us is incorporated into the body of Christ. Each believer is a vital part of the whole. Christ is the head of the body and every member is part of that body. The spiritual reality is that we belong to one another and we really need one another to be healthy and whole.
The first anti-Christ behavior that we tend to bring along with us in our new life as part of the body is self-centeredness. We explored that attitude best described by “Its All About Me” with its slogan “Feed Me.” Self-centeredness causes the whole body to suffer.
The second anti-Christ behavior that we tend to infect the body with is Disrespect. Disrespect is viewing and treating someone as inferior. When we don’t concern ourselves with the welfare of a brother or sister in Christ, we are spiritually spitting on them. Spit on one, we spit on all, we spit in the face of Jesus. Being disrespectful causes the whole body to suffer.
The third anti-Christ behavior that we tend to damage the body with is “Passing Sentence.” We judge someone as unacceptable and reject them. We shun the one who doesn’t measure up to our standards. “Passing sentence” causes the whole body to suffer.
There are many more anti-Christ behaviors that we fail to recognize as a problem because they are just the status quo of the world. A shortlist includes:
1. Apathy: In the world, we learned to be passive so we don’t take a stand and just tolerate anything in society that doesn’t directly affect us; that partakes of an anti-Christ Spirit. There is a refusal to speak the truth in love. Apathy also shows up as not doing anything in the body except to feed off of it. Who cares? When you don’t do, the health of the body is sapped. Michelle S. Lazurek
2. Busyness: In the culture, you are taught that your personal significance is tied to how busy you are. So you cram your schedule. Often we spend our time on things that are urgent in favor of what is really important. For instance, the daily practice of the seven habits of a disciple becomes a good intention instead of something you actually do all because you are just too busy. Michelle S. Lazurek
3. Lack of Consistent Church Attendance: This is really the worldly tendency not to commit to anything. Those who consider themselves followers of Jesus are likely “to attend church when they don’t have another activity vying for their time.” There really is a category of brothers and sisters who are only present on Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day. They have fallen into the habit of not meeting together and the whole suffers for the lack of one of its parts. Michelle S. Lazurek
4. This is one that the whole church seems to completely ignore. So here’s stepping on toes. Remember this is a non-judgmental, no shame zone. We cultivated the desire to acquire from living in the world. We tend to drag Gluttony into the body. Gluttony refers to more than just being an overeater, the issue deals with every type of overindulgence. Think of things you binge on. Think consumerism. The acquisition of more. I was once asked in a History of Christian Spirituality course if I had clothes in my closet that I no longer wore. I said yes. Do you have things in your garage that you don’t use? I said yes. Do you throw the leftovers out? After a week, yes. Then I was asked why I was stealing from the poor. Gluttony hinders love and the whole body suffers. Michelle S. Lazurek
5. Another anti-Christ behavior is Abuse. In the world abuse is commonplace. Physical, mental, and emotional abuse of another person is a grievous sin that radically damages the person who is afflicted. This goes for marriages, for parenting, for elder care, business relationships. If you are still abusive after being reconciled to God you are out of control and your behavior sickens the body. Michelle S. Lazurek
Apathy, busyness, inconsistent attendance, gluttony, and abuse are all anti-Christ behaviors that we perfected in our lives before Christ and there is a tendency to drag them into our new lives with Christ, when we do so we weaken the body, we clog the Divine Blessings Conduit, we discourage the welfare of all. We continue to create hell on earth, this time in the Church.
Today we are going to wrap up these observations about the bad behaviors we take along with us into our new life with a consideration of un-forgiveness. Refusing to forgive devastates the body. What people don’t realize is that the failure to forgive harms more than what needs to be forgiven. It harms you, it harms the body.
What we learned as we lived in the world is when someone messes with you “don’t get even, get one better.” Those who hurt us need to be hurt back: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” If we don’t forgive we go for revenge. Revenge is “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands; the desire to inflict retribution.” https://www.scienceofpeople.com/the-psychology-of-revenge/ You become a debt collector seeking to make the one who hurt you pay.
Debt collecting behavior takes many forms. Debt collectors can become violent causing physical harm. Open attempts to ruin reputations and businesses can occur. You can verbally attack the offensive party. You can use sarcasm which is just a witty way to vent your anger. You can drag your feet, fail to contribute, complain, just becoming an obstacle, or a Debbie downer, a wet blanket. Slander, gossip and recruiting people to your side can play a part in debt collecting. You can avoid, shun, have nothing to do with them. You can watch and wait, hoping for their downfall, looking for ways to accuse and bring charges against them, rejoicing in their troubles. You might even pray that God makes them pay, hope karma visits them soon, that the Fates cut the string, what goes around comes around. We imagine how one day they will get what’s coming to them. It’s the way of the world.
Debt collecting has negative consequences for you. A failure to forgive results in holding a grudge. Nurse a grudge and resentment turns into bitterness, bitterness turns into hate. Grudges, bitterness, and hatreds affect your mental health; emotional wellbeing, physical wholeness social interactions; it damages you spiritually. You become hyper-aware of behaviors that hint at the ones that hurt you and now you have a hair-trigger and often react inappropriately because you misinterpreted someone else’s intent. Worse yet, it binds your heart to the person who hurt you. You are never free of them. But becoming this dysfunctional person doesn’t matter, you just want to settle the score, you demand justice. This is the way of the world.
We have great expectations when we become part of the body of Christ. Within the body we expect to find love, being loved and loving others, we expect to find acceptance and belonging, we expect encouragement and mutual edification, and we expect companions, compatriots, and those who have your back. We expect to be supported, understood, and cared for. We expect to find friends to connect with. We expect examples and models and the truth being taught and lived out, especially from our pastors and the pillars of the church. We expect to find a place to serve. And we should. Getting hurt should never happen is in the Church. Yet we see brothers and sisters injuring one another all too frequently. When some brother or sister in Christ doesn’t deliver on what is expected, we are hurt.
No one follows Christ perfectly, no one loves perfectly, and no one serves perfectly. To be human is to be vulnerable to sin. So there is a high probability that someone in the body will let you down.
When hurt you can bring the behavior you learned in the world into the body. You can refuse to forgive and become a garbage collector and in the process poison yourselves, poison the body of Christ, and a poisoned body poisons you, so you are doubly in trouble. Unforgiveness is the way of the world, not the way of the Kingdom.
Unfortunately, you can drag the ways of the world into the Church. When we seek retaliation, revenge, engage in some sort of debt collecting behavior it stirs up conflict and contention stealing way the unity of the Church. Maybe you choose to leave a certain fellowship without reconciling the hurt. Please realize that all those who believe are the part of the body. The only way out of the body is to be cut out. So you bring your hurt which rots into bitterness to another location in the body.
Consider the teachings of Jesus:
Matthew 18:15-17 (MSG)
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.
What you have received, and you have received God’s forgiving love, you are to give away to those who hurt you. Now that doesn’t mean you allow yourself to become vulnerable again. Forgiveness is about canceling debt, not reconciling relationships, though forgiveness is the start of the miracle of reconciliation.
Remember that a failure to forgive, to cancel the debt owed you, causes double trouble. First, you get emotionally attached to the person who offended you. The second you sicken the body in which you belong and here’s triple trouble: unforgiveness hinders the forgiveness you need to thrive spiritually.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NCV)
“…if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”
I find myself in constant need for God’s forgiveness. So I know I must forgive those who sin against me. It’s a struggle. The ways of the world are strong. But I must cancel the debt in honor of the one who canceled my debt. Often something will trigger a memory and I start to fall into that debt collecting mode, so I have to cancel the debt again committing the situation into God’s hands, and be done with it. To reiterate canceling the debt doesn’t mean you and the offender are going to be best buds. No, it would be stupid to allow yourself to become vulnerable again to a toxic person. A bank might cancel your financial debt because you can’t pay, but that bank is not going to loan you money again. When it comes to our personal lives in the body, canceling a debt owed, is right and opens the door for reconciliation which is the best outcome for when someone in the body hurts you. Just don’t be naïve.
Leave unforgiveness in the world, don’t bring it in with you into your new life in Christ, in your new body. When you get hurt, don’t stuff your feelings, pretending not to deal with the issue will just embitter your heart. There will need to be a confrontation, to bring it all out in the open. Do that confrontation lovingly as you would deal with a sore toe on your own foot. Deal with the problem in such a manner that you cancel the debt owed you so that the body can thrive.
I urge you in this month of resolutions to resolve to be a forgiver, not a debt collector. The Holy Spirit has already empowered you to forgive those who have hurt you. Release them from what is owed. Get free of them, get healthy. Keep the stuff from the world in the world, you live in the freedom of the Kingdom.