Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pausing to Consider: Where Did That Come From?

Forgiveness:  typical of many truths, we all agree on its merits and very few agree to fully express it.  We all love to be on the receiving end of it, we often hesitate to be the deliverer.  That lack of balance creates some real daily tension in my mind and heart.

The word resentment means to feel again.  It is to recover, review, repeat and relive again and again an old hurt or disappointment.  I came across in reading today this quote from Martin Luther, "Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had in the course of their nine hundred years.   Eve would say, 'you ate the apple, ' and Adam would retort, 'you gave it to me.'"

Forgiveness:  to release, excuse and not pursue any kind of compensation for an offense or perceive offense.  It's the only escape hatch for the pit of resentment. 

Lewis Smedes concludes  in his work, The Art of Forgiving, that God seems to move through stages to forgive humans.  Initially, he sees the humanity of the person who wronged him, but removing the barrier created by sin, then he gives up his right to justice, and a fair response (he takes the punishment) and last he changes his feeling toward humans so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, restored.

That is insightful, but only helpful if we can assume that posture when confronted with real rejection, real violation or even the real irritation.  What does that first stage really look like?  Considering the humanity of the person who launched at me or you?  

Rather than reliving the moment, what about reconsidering the context--what makes that person tick or ticked off?  Why did his or her brokenness come crashing down on me--what is that brokenness?  How can I help them, or what would help them? 

Instead of trying to just love the unlovable,  maybe a first small step of pausing to consider his or her humanity (the comment of Christ on the cross...forgive them for they know not what they do).  Why did he say that?   The second part?  That we did not know we were killing the Son of God, yes.  But was there more to that comment?  We act poorly in ways we don't fully appreciate--unintended consquence or underestimated consequence.

Can I consider that the one who hurt me has no full understanding of that hurt, just as an intial step in the pursuit of gracing others?

This, of course is not to dismiss the necessity of boundaries or the wisdom of creating some space with people who are destructive in ways that I am not equipped to engage--but I started with resentment.  Snake nibbles, not bites, that are an all to common occurrence.

What do you think, what do you think it means to consider the humanity of the offender?

(Luther and Smedes quote pulled from What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey--an incredible book).


  1. I am usually on guard against going down that road, lest I try to justify or excuse the sinner (myself or others) rather than accepting/offering real grace.

    Is considering the "why" of the sinner's actions an attempt to earn forgiveness for them(us)?

    I ask these questions, but when I think about how I approach forgiveness myself, I always think about the other person's motivation/humanity/pain. It softens me.

  2. Good question Jen...and yes I am beginning to think in terms of forgiveness more and more associated with cost (which we estimate wrong) and patterns (not formulas). The idea of earning, I am not sure, I have to think about that--but it fits into my cost thoughts. I am going to dig into this more and more as I am convinced that it, and isolation are things that haunt us and keep us from experiencing grace/freedom.



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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?