"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Forgiving the Inexcusable Evidences God's Mercy

Have you ever been in a position of wanting to "get back" at somebody you think has behaved inexcusably? Have you ever felt a struggle within to forgive another person? Do you wrestle with a spirit of unforgiveness - fighting against it - or do you succumb to bitterness and shut out those who've wounded you or others?

In a classic work by C.S. Lewis called The Weight of Glory, Lewis shows that forgiveness of others is the irrefutable sign of God's mercy within you.  The brilliance of Lewis' work is that he shows how it's easy for a Christian to say "I forgive," but how forgiveness isn't seen in one's words; it's seen in the way one treats another human being.

In a generation when many get their news and information from Twitter's 140 character bites, Lewis's works are rarely read, much less understood. With this in mind, I am reducing four profound statements by Lewis' on the subject of forgiveness to 140 characters of less. I may tweet them at my leisure, but I must live them for my Christianity to be real. 
"You must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: When I'm thinking about getting even with someone who's hurt me, I'm forgetting the grace and ease with which God has forgiven me.
"As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: Spending more time creating and accepting excuses for the sins of others than for my own sins is a sign I'm on the path of forgiveness.  

"But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me.
"This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There's no hint of exceptions; God means what He says." C.S. Lewis
Tweet: My refusal to forgive evidences my rejection by God,  for my forgiveness of others is the irrefutable sign of His forgiveness of me.

21 comments:

Shari England said...

Years ago, an individual deeply wounded me and my husband with false accusations. The kind that pushes hate to the surface. Every morning during my time with the Lord, I asked Him to help me forgive her, to love her the way He did and MEAN IT. I ALSO ASKED THAT He bless her, which was the most difficult thing to do given her intentions. In time, my heart changed and it was no longer difficult to pray for her and actually had a love for her I could not explain. I was FREE of the anger that had been keeping my stomach in knots. True forgiveness is liberating.

Wade Burleson said...

That's powerful Shari.

Christiane said...

"forgiveness of others is the irrefutable sign of God's mercy within you"

I remember an incident that happened years ago in our lake community. My husband and I were on the same bowling team with an older couple whose son was also special needs. The captain of the people on the other team made up a 'name' for our team that was intended to make fun of our special needs children . . . then the captain called her friends over to see what she had done, and someone told us and I looked at the score sheet and she began to erase the made-up name.

Next day, I saw her at the lake beach and I asked the others around to let us speak privately and I spoke FOR the mother of the other special needs child on our team and I asked her for how long had she been persecuting that worn-out older woman who had been through so very much.

A few months later, I saw the captain driving in the shopping center, and I felt the strangest feeling of compassion for her .... it just washed over me, and I knew she must not be defined by me solely in terms of her persecution of our team mate . . . . what I experience there must have been some kind of grace from God and I was left deeply moved by the experience.

Recently I heard she died from complications of ALS. I was sad to hear it and in the way of my faith, I prayed for her soul.

"I forgive you" are just words, unless God's grace makes it really happen, because we cannot get to that reality on our own. It's too far for us without Him.

Wade Burleson said...

That too is a powerful story Christiane. Thanks!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

A very good post!

My grandmother had 8 children and the youngest was 2 when her husband that she called “Papa” died. She was a widow 38 years because a drunk doctor, instead of treating her husband’s blood poison from a scratch by bob wire, said, “Turn him out to pasture; he’ll be alright.”

By the time it took to get a good doctor from Texas to Oklahoma Indian Territory, it was too late as he told my grandfather, “You’ll not be with us in the morning.”

My grandfather had a thousand acre ranch and wanted his six sons to be ranchers, but that night he told his wife, “Now you can make them all preachers.” He was never in church but under conviction he had knelt in a ditch and asked Jesus to save him.

He had said he would never die in bed. He got up, put his boots on, and sat in a rocking chair waiting for a sunrise that never came.

The mention of the drunken doctor’s name distressed her so much she prayed to forget his name. Her prayer was answered.

Once in West Texas, she urged people to pledge money to build a church. She said, “I’ll give half my herd of cattle.”

“Now Mrs. Ray, we all know you’ve only got two cows.” (The church was built.)

My father and mother sat by her hospital bed as she was in a coma. She rose up with a smile big as Texas, saying, “Its so beautiful; I see Papa.” Then she was gone.

Dave Panzera said...

Early in my life I had great difficulty dealing with other kids. So great was this difficulty that I failed nearly every subject, had to repeat 7th grade and the school system wanted to blame my parents for it all. Got beat up a lot and always in a scrape or two with others. Trust me, I still have issues today as a result of those formative years. My parents did two things, put me in a private Christian School ( a very demanding one I might add) and brought me at great expense to a wonderful Christian counselor. While these two things acted in concert to right many of the personal wrongs in my life some things remained that I struggled with. Forgiveness was definitely one of them.

It was not until I was in pilot training in Enid in 1993 that I was at home studying and was hit with the realization that I had not forgiven any of the people in my life that I had remained so bitter with so many years earlier. In some senses my High School and Middle School yearbooks made it easier. I took the both of them out, went page by page and what happened was 2 or so hours of tears and release as I looked at so many faces...and let it go to God's Hands. Several years later I would do the same thing in life only this time seeking forgiveness of others. A far more difficult task. Still, something remained...

I never really forgave myself. Now, before you think of what that means let me say to you what it means to me...Its not really me forgiving myself...Its me acknowledging to our Savior that His forgiveness is real, that the burden I had is no longer mine, that I am free from it and its dragging power on my life. I am crying even now as I feel His Hand of forgiveness. He said I'm free...He said I am forgiven, to deny it is to deny Him and I am learning in ever increasing ways how to deny satan a victory here.

Anonymous said...

From my own faith journey...
I have come to believe that I do not have the power to forgive myself. forgiveness is only something we can give to others and accept from God and others. So if I struggle with forgiveness with others/self it is because I have not experienced or accepted the reality of the truth of God's forgiveness in my life. If I have accepted/ experienced the reality of forgiveness from another it births in me a desire (sometimes within the context of a lifelong process/struggle) to offer it.

Rodney Sprayberry

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
how is that in the same comment you manage to bring me to laughter AND to tears? :)

"Once in West Texas, she urged people to pledge money to build a church. She said, “I’ll give half my herd of cattle.”

“Now Mrs. Ray, we all know you’ve only got two cows.” (The church was built.)

My father and mother sat by her hospital bed as she was in a coma. She rose up with a smile big as Texas, saying, “Its so beautiful; I see Papa.” Then she was gone."

Love your stories so much!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I’ve asked myself if I’ve ever forgiven a person that caused me much anguish. We’re friends now but the question remains what happened four years ago.

I was married 55 years and the last five were hard as she developed a disease called Lewy body Parkinson’s. It’s a type of dementia.

I kept about a fifty page record of doctors, medicines, and events such as her making 911 calls wanting to go home, crying because it was the day she was going to jail…you get the picture.

The last six months required 24-7 care. During those five years our pastor who lived ¼ mile from us came to see her once at home and once at a nursing home.

She spent her last week on earth in a coma at that nursing home. Our children and I took turns. MY daughter and I were there when he walked in as my cell phone rang. I went outside and drove away.

My daughter called and said he wanted to talk to me. I replied I didn’t want to talk with him and watched from a distance until I saw him drive away. A family member conducted her funeral.

Bill said...

That pastor would no longer be my pastor and that's just the way it is.Sorry folks.

Anonymous said...

Bill,

In many ways I agree with your sentiment. But, I also know that pastor really well and I can tell you this.... it pains him now that he did not visit this family more during their time of need. He has had to live with that regret and yet still learn to rest in Christ's forgiveness of that sin/failure against Rex and family for himself. Over the years he has tried to make amends, But every pastor knows about that "failure list" that is tucked away in a side pocket of the heart....

Let me tell you a few details of the journey towards friendship they have experienced. Think about this.... that pastor was asked to perform the wedding ceremony for Rex and his 2nd wife a few years later. It is amazing what God can do. This, of course, is a testament to the redemptive power of Rex's forgiving spirit (even when it still maybe in "process").

Another example...
That pastor stopped by to ask to go fishing on Rex's property one day this past summer. He was invited in and there was small conversation. Before leaving, Rex told his wife Judy to go over and open a drawer and retrieve something out of it for the "preacher". That item was a key to the gate! Rex looked at the pastor and said with a smile "our pastor should have a few perks". He was stunned.

Sitting on the dock of Rex's big beautiful lake watching the sun go down that evening, the pastor with gratitude and amazement. He bowed his head with a smile on his lips, tears in his eyes, grace on his mind, and peace in his heart thanking God for the miracle that was done in that relationship. Grace does change everything.

Rodney Sprayberry

Bill said...

Surely I am looking at this from a distance but a quarter of a mile and two visits in 5 years is inexcusable in my book.Like I said.He would not be my pastor after that.Sorry folks.This is me. Rex speaks for himself.Now don't condem me for being unforgiving.

Rex Ray said...

Bill,

I hear what you said, but here’s “the rest of the story” why only two visits to my wife. It was not because of her but me being a thorn in his side on everything I thought he did wrong as I thought it would make him a better pastor. He is not as old as some of my children.

He was pastor for five years in a small building. (We were not members then.) He left for seven years, and came back to an additional million dollars plus building.

When he came he gave a paper to the church telling how he would lead us to change from the old convention of Texas (Baptist General Convention of Texas BGCT) to the new Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBCT) which accepted the 2000 BF&M. He also changed the name “Committees” to “Teams”. He wanted to appoint the leader of each team and those leaders would make up his “Personnel Team”. This team would lead the church in all that God wanted. (He did not get to appoint leaders and his Personnel Team never existed.)

In one service he walked through the congregation, put a microphone in faces of three people, and asked: Have you ever lied, have you ever stolen, have you ever had impure thoughts?

Back on stage he laughed and said, “You can see we are nothing but liars, thieves, and adulterers. One woman, who had just lost her husband, never came back.

Most of his sermons were about himself. On “Anger”, he used himself as an example. (He has Attention Deficient Syndrome) In a rage, he lifted his mother-in-law’s antique rocking chair over his head and smashed it to pieces.

I told him to stop airing his dirty laundry from the pulpit because it hurt the church, but it didn’t help. He preached two sermons how he was hooked on pornography. Said it almost caused a divorce.

I finally got him to stop saying MY deacons, MY ushers, and once he said at a baptism, “I have a convert.” (He had on a shirt and bathing suit.) I told him I had a problem with him conduction deacon meetings with his feet on his desk.

At one time he asked the deacons to have a church meeting to have him removed and if it failed he would ask me to be removed. At this meeting, I told him the church was not going to remove either of us and it would be a can of worms.

That was all the bad...I don’t know what caused the good, but he has changed. His preaching is about Jesus. Maybe it was ‘growing up’, or it might have been five heart attacks he had last year. He was unable to preach last Sunday because of his heart, but Wednesday night he seemed alright. I’m praying for him now, where I never did before.

PS,
I wrote the above and was going to put it on the blog, but I read Rodney’s comment and it made me cry.

Wade Burleson said...

Speaking as a pastor myself, sometimes unspoken expectations are difficult. I much prefer outright requests for ministry, or clear and immediate expressions of disappointment over hurtful slights. However,. I am grateful that this is worked out and you are friends.



Bill said...

One of your members is gravely ill or just ill,really doesn't matter.A request should not be needed for an occasional visit.Juat common sense and common courtesy.

Rex Ray said...

CHRISTIANE,

I was wondering if you believed this Scripture like I do, if God would seem closer.

“…I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name…Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and will have abundant joy.” (John 16:23-24 NLT)

“Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.” (John 16:26 NLT)

BTW, I wrote “Dear Abby”:

I thank God and wonder how long our happy 14 month marriage will last. We were married over 55 years when our mates died. We were college sweethearts. At 83 and not speaking for 57 years, I didn’t know if she was alive. I hired an agency to find out. She had a jewelry box I made her with my picture inside.

Christiane said...

It sounds like Providence may have had a hand in your happiness at age eighty-three, REX RAY. :)

Rex Ray said...

I believe WE agree with you assessment. :) We’re looking forward to going with Wade to Israel in March.

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
that is wonderful news .... I hope for everyone's safety when they travel to that region

My son went to Latvia to visit the family of his fiancee. They were supposed to fly NYC to Helsinki Finland to Riga Latvia; but because of weather in NYC, they were re-routed to Istanbul Turkey, then to Latvia.
They made it out of Istanbul HOURS before an attempted coup began. I also believe in Providence. Fortunately, they came home through Finland, and not Istanbul.

In March, I will spend time in prayer for all of you who travel together to Israel, yes, for safety and good health, and for spiritual blessings. You will be in very good company, thank God. :)

Rex Ray said...

HI YOURSELF CHRISTIANE, :)

That was close about your son and a “coup”. I’ve wondered about the expression “close call”.

Jerry Clower told the “Rat Killing Story” where a young boy was proud how many ‘tools’ he used in beating a large rat to death. His excited voice changed to pitiful when he saw the preacher behind the door: “Then the Lord called the poor thing home.”

Probably most people don’t know till afterwards they’ve had a ‘close call’. “An hour later and you’d be pushing up daises”. Nurse: “Pray! He’s stopped breathing.”

You said, “…thank God”. Yes, He is the one. Many people and I often end our prayers “…in Jesus name.”

But I think of the Scripter of Jesus saying, “…I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me…” (John 16:26)

Maybe we should pray as Jesus told his disciples to pray: “Our Father, which art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9 KJ)

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
as I get older, I find myself saying many more prayers of thanksgiving than any other kinds of prayers. I still pray the other kinds of prayers and the psalms through the day and the night, but giving thanks has become more prominent in my life.

All kinds of ways to pray, you know. Even wanting to pray is a kind of prayer. My favorite prayers remain:

'Jesus Christ, I trust in You.'
and
'Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us'