Before the pandemic and its pandemonium, I had planned to do a series of workshops on “Finding Freedom”. I believe this is a vitally important subject. Sometimes we hear about people being caught in cycles of poverty or cycles of addiction. I would propose that a cycle of unforgiveness undergirds these other horrible cycles!
We have all been hurt but those raised in dysfunction, poverty and addiction have experienced a disproportionate amount of hurt. Circumstances have placed a heavier burden on these folks. Often they have much to forgive, and their current lives are drastically impacted by a variety of wounds.
Some of those who have been so hurt go on to hurt others. The burden of unforgiveness grows through our own need of forgiveness.
I remember a conversation with a friend who had committed unspeakable crimes in his past. He was discovering new life in Jesus and asked me, “How can I forgive myself?” After a beat I answered, “Forgiving yourself is not your job. Your job is to recall that you have been forgiven by Jesus!” Too many of carry the heavy load of guilt and self-condemnation and we need to remind ourselves that we are forgiven through Christ. “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” There are many occasions when our past rises to accuse us and our task in the present is to remember the cross and thank God that we are freed from the burden of guilt and shame.
Having discovered forgiveness through Jesus and beginning to practise living in that freedom we are now charged with the ministry of reconciliation. If we would truly be free we must forgive! Sometimes I am asked “How can I forgive after the horrible thing that person did?” In a very real sense forgiveness is not something we can either give or withhold. Our role is to simply turn people and circumstances over to Jesus for either vengeance or pardon. When we cling to the role of ‘judge, jury, and executioner’ we are rebelling against the One True Judge.
Once having turned a situation over to Jesus the hard work begins. We will be reminded again and again of our grief and grievance and each time we are to recall that we have given this over to Jesus to adjudicate. After awhile the frequency of these painful reminders will diminish. This can sometimes be shortened through ‘healing of memories’.
Life will not get easier for us as long as we hold on to resentments, no matter how aggrieved we have been. Unforgiveness does nothing to its object but only harms us.
Lately I have taken to posting tidbits of my “Finding Freedom” workshop on the Street Hope Saint John Facebook page. They have created a lot of comment and subsequent conversation, confirming the timeliness of this subject.
I hope that this fall I can finally begin these workshops. I am anxious to see what God can do through these simple biblical teachings accompanied by practical application.
We are about to begin production of a promotional video for our Threshold House project. Lately our network of people interested in this project has grown and we hope that we might soon regain momentum for this ministry which had faded a bit the last few months.
Please keep us in your prayers.