Tuesday, May 25, 2010

R12: Will you let Christ heal you?

My five year-old son has been asking for the last few days to go to the car wash. An odd request, but you never know what's going to come out of his mouth. I'd tell him no and he'd predictably fuss. At first I was stumped trying to figure out why it was such a big deal to him, and then he told me, "there's bird poop on the window! My sister's window doesn't have any poop!" Ahhh, it all made perfect sense, bird poop. What's funny, is that to him all he wants is a clean window. He doesn't care about the poop, and he holds nothing against the bird who was responsible. Conversely, how many times have I had a perfect-hit, right in my line of sight on my windshield, and I've responded by saying, "stupid bird!"?

Allow me to stretch an analogy to its breaking point. Bitterness, resentment and hatred are like bird poop on our soul. We should only care about cleaning it off, but we are more concerned about who put it there to begin with. "Stupid bird" becomes "I hate..." "I can't believe..." "I'd never..." And our soul continues to be stained. Cursing the bird does not clean the windshield.

So how do we cleanse our hearts of these feelings, so often justified by the hurt caused to us? Romans 12:14 reads, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Is that command, yes I said "command", challenging to you? Do you take it personal? It should, and you should, because it's hard, it's unnatural, in fact I'd go so far as to say it's impossible.

We say "bless you" so casually when someone sneezes. But what does it mean to "bless"? Are we following Paul's command in this verse when, while we are talking about someone we bite are tongue and say, "God bless 'em" instead of saying what's really on our mind? How do we bless those who hurt us?

Blessing is the opposite of cursing, so instead of wishing harm, you desire God's best for that person. Desire God's best for those who hurt me? That's why I say it is impossible. It can only be done through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. But before we can get to actually desiring God's best for this person, we need to want it for them first. And that is a personal decision that begins the process of scrubbing that stain off your soul.

This all begins with forgiveness. We cannot bless until we first forgive. Again, that sounds hard, but we've warped the meaning of the word. We say things like "forgive and forget" or even tell someone we forgive them when we don't mean it in our hearts. We also confuse forgiveness with justice- the victim of a crime may forgive her perpetrator, but the courts may still mete out justice. With God it is the same, we may forgive, but it is God alone who ensures that justice is served. Forgiveness is the decision to "let it go" and not allow your feelings of hurt to leave a stain on your soul. You can still hurt, you can still desire justice, but you've made a decision to no longer allow that hurt to control you. Let me say that again, you've made a decision to no longer allow that hurt to control you. Personally, this sounds exactly like what we need, to stop allowing the hurt to control us. Addiction, relationships, depression are so often motivated by the hurt. We give power to that hurt instead of allowing God control and stripping the hurt of any power it may have over us.

This is so important that immediately after Jesus equates hate with murder he goes on to say, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24) Think about the implications of this for a moment. Your gift to God, whatever you are doing to glorify His Name, must be put aside until you are reconciled with the one(s) who has hurt you and/or the one(s) you have hurt. The stain on our soul, the power we foolishly allow our hurt to have over us, prevents us from giving our all to God.

Let it go. Forgive. Be reconciled. Begin to scrub off that poop.

Think: What does it mean to bless your enemy in [Romans 12:14]?
Reflect: Why is forgiveness the first step in blessing the one who has hurt you?
Understand: What stage of forgiveness are you in? The [decision], the process, the completion?
Surrender: What is the most difficult aspect of forgiving the one who has or is aiming evil at you? Ask God to remove any bitterness and give you the strength to begin the forgiveness journey.
Take Action: Choose today to forgive the person if you have not already done so. Write it down in your Bible with today's date.
Motivation: Jot down Matthew 5:43-48 on a 3x5 card or half sheet of paper. Read over it prayerfully each day for the next week.
Encourage Someone: Pray today for the one who is your enemy. Choose to obey God whether you feel like it or not.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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