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Forgiveness Is Not A Self-Help Therapy (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird writes about forgiveness, observing that forgiving others is not something we do for our own therapeutic benefit.
Followers of Jesus forgive because we have to pass on the forgiveness that has been given to us.
From Bird’s post:

What does it mean to forgive? For the Christian, it means simply this: to see all sins and all sinners in the crucified body of Jesus. And I do mean “all.” From the Nazi guard to the pedophile priest. From the petty criminal to the gossiping octogenarian. From the racist to the road-rager. All. None excepted. Jesus on the cross was all humanity compressed into one person. The one righteous man became all unrighteous people to atone for us all.
Just as we believe ourselves to be forgiven because God sees us in Christ, so to forgive others is to see them as God sees them in Christ. To forgive, in other words, is to put God’s eyes in our eyes and our eyes in God’s eyes. And those divine eyes see humanity only through the cross of Jesus.
For this reason, Paul tells us, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, to clothe ourselves with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12-13).
Note that last phrase: As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. It echoes the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Notice the order: God’s forgiveness of us leads directly to our forgiveness of others.
But here is where something crucial emerges: the forgiveness we give is not truly ours. Forgiveness is not our personal possession. We don’t own it or control it or (worst of all) manipulate it. Forgiveness has one name written on it: Jesus Christ. He is the sole proprietor of this treasure because he is the sole cause of its existence. All true forgiveness flows from him for he is the one nailed to the cross of atonement. Absolution is the gold he mined on Calvary.
When we forgive, we do so as the Lord has forgiven us. The better we know ourselves, the deeper our awareness of the selfish, horrible, shameful thoughts and desires and words and deeds of which we are guilty, the more we know of what the Lord has forgiven us.

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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 51

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 51

126.
Q. What is the fifth petition?
A. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is: be pleased, for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to charge to us, miserable sinners, our many transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us. We also find this witness of your grace in us: that it is our sincere intention heartily to forgive our neighbor.


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Resilient Relationships And Daily Repentance (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about the final prophetic promise of the Christian Old Testament, and how that foreshadows the Gospel hope and the creation wide need for it.

The final words of the Christian Old Testament are quite amazing. The Hebrew Scriptures are arranged so that the prophetic literature is in the middle, but the Christian Old Testament has the prophets at the end. The last book is Malachi, and the next-to—last verses foresee a “great and terrible day,” the day of judgment and the second coming of the Lord. It will be a time when all that has been wrong will be set right. The example that Malachi gives is astonishing. At the last possible moment, he turns away from the language of wrath and flames to something very unexpected. This is the way the Old Testament ends: “Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah [that would be John the Baptist] … He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”
The worst thing in the world, the prophet seems to be saying, is estrangement within families. It is given as the sign of the final judgment of God, his worst curse upon the human race. If you are a young person here today feeling miserable about your parents, if you are parents here today worried about your children, then this message is for you. God does not desire this situation. His will is for reconciliation. Family breakdown is a sign of the old age of Sin and Death. Reconciliation between parents and children is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Maybe you don’t have these kinds of problems yet in your family, but every family, over generations, will have some kind of wrenching, heartbreaking trouble. In every case, the fracturing of the most basic human connection is the antithesis of what God intends for his people. And reconciliation, when it happens, is one of the clearest of all indications that God is at work. Therefore the most important way that we can participate in the life of God is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation is hard work. It requires daily repentance. For a number of years, I have had two distinguished psychoanalysts as teachers. I asked both of them a fundamental question: What is the most important ingredient in a strong marriage? They gave the same answer. One of them is a secular Jew so I was very surprised to hear him say, “The most important ingredient is asking forgiveness.”
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pp 291-292.


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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Rachael Denhollander: Where Justice And Forgiveness Meet (via Murray Campbell)

Murray Campbell writes about an extraordinary victim statement that was spoken by Rachael Denhollander in the US.
Rachael and many others were subject to sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment by the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.

In her statement Denhollander spoke these words, an amazing Christian testimony, that fully addresses the need for justice and forgiveness:

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.

Read the rest of Murray’s reflections here, and look for Denhollander’s testimony online.


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The Resting State Of God (via Ed Welch)

Some helpful thoughts and a turn of phrase that appealed to me (…That is his resting state) from Ed Welch.

You are preaching to people with real problems and needs. Guilt is, indeed, a real problem, forgiveness is a real need. Yet competing with these is a popular myth. It suggests that Jesus is nice. But the father—he is persistently peeved. He is just waiting for us to get out of line so he can vent a little of his wrath. To borrow a biological image, his resting state is one in which he is suspicious that we will sin very soon and he is already upset about it. I mention Romans 5 because it can potentially silence this myth by taking us directly into the character of God. Though the practical living sections of Scripture have their allure, it is here—knowing God truly—that sermons have their impact.
So though Scripture does speak of God’s wrath against sin, it is not the main emphasis. Scripture’s emphasis is that the triune God is inclined, by his very nature, to forgive. That is his resting state. His plan has always been to turn his wrath away from us and onto another, and he does this as an expression of his character rather than a response to our contrition.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)

Love comes to sinners. Wrath has been turned away because God—Father, Son and Spirit—want it that way. Sin separates us from God no longer. He has attached himself to us. We cannot argue with the blood of Christ shed for us.
How can we discern whether or not this reality is pressing in and reshaping us? Life under a persnickety god is joyless. Life under the God who has revealed himself most fully in Jesus feels like hope rising and joy is our calling. Perhaps a simple “thank you” will keep us headed in the right direction.

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On Forgiveness And Forbearance (via Simone Richardson)

Simone Richardson writes about an unhelpful tendency to mistake situations where forgiveness is extended when what should be properly offered is forbearance.
Forgiveness is what’s needed when God’s standards are breached.
Forbearance has more to do with when it’s our standards that are not being met.
From the article.

Forbearance is what is needed when we are confronted with the frailties of another human being: their annoying mannerisms, their forgetfulness, their inability to say the right thing in a certain situation, their incompetence at tasks we feel they ought to be able to manage, their frustrating messiness, the way that they do not live up to my standards. In these situations, we need to stop forgiving and start forbearing.
For many of the frustrations that we experience with our spouses, friends and colleagues are not directly caused by sin on their part. Often we think that they can do better, or ought to be able to do better if they tried, but forbearance remembers that they, like us, are human. Weakness is built into the core of our being.

Read the whole post at the Gospel Coalition Australia.