Updated: Mar 2, 2019
One verse I’ve never been able to skip past unscathed says, “To the pure all things are pure.” (Titus 1:15) I usually think of Mother Teresa, whom I consider more pure than most, when I read that verse. Would she think of even the neediest of us, or a battered child or adult in need of God’s love and acceptance, as impure and unclean? The verse seems to be saying that when I see any impurity in someone else, it is a statement that I am impure myself. The minute I judge someone else I’ve incriminated myself and that judgment will come back on me. I likely will feel the unrest of it in my spirit. The question is, will I try and justify it, or will I own it so I can be free of it?
This was brought home to me a number of years back when I experienced a terribly painful broken relationship with some other Believers. I was committed to forgiving them. However, I was still not free. Months went on and I’d forgive and forgive but still not feel free. One day I sought the advice and prayer of Neal, a pastor I knew who seems to have a ministry of reconciliation. As he began to pray for me he said, “Lonnie, I see you with a piece of paper in your hand and on it is written, "But I was right.” Ouch! That was it. I had forgiven them for everything I could think to forgive them for. But I got caught on what I saw as the injustice of it all, wanting so much to be vindicated.
Proverbs says, “A good name is more to be valued than gold.” I longed for a good name and to be well thought of by those very people I was holding in blame for the whole incident. I hadn’t, therefore, let go of being right, which meant that I still saw them as being wrong. Even though I thought I had forgiven them, as long as I still saw them as wrong, I was still holding them in guilt - and that's not forgiveness. I relinquished to God my right to be right and released them from what I now saw as my wanting to prove them wrong, which was equal to holding them in judgment. There was a higher issue here than me being right. It was honoring God’s word to forgive as He forgives entirely.
To add another dimension to this, the time came when one of those people and I found ourselves in the same ministry situation and he told me that he and his family had forgiven me and my family. What?! For a minute there I was about to go into self-justification mode. But I had forgiven them entirely for what I had categorized as misrepresentation, and I wasn't going to let that lift its ugly head again. I remembered that ultimately only Jesus is really right, while we've got all kinds of twists and justifying turns in our egos. As one man of God once told me, We are all victimized by the Fall. How true.
If you would ask me what I love most, I’d say unity. I love seeing people support, love, help, encourage, share and bear with one another. It is a constant source of embarrassment to me that the least hint of “togetherness” and I’m all tears. And if you would ask me what I hate most, I’d say injustice especially irrational, unfeeling, uncaring or cruel injustice. When I first came to know the Lord one of the first things I had to do was forgive the Nazis for their injustice to my people. That was the beginning of my lessons from God on forgiveness.
As God has taught me about forgiveness over the years, I have come to believe that the Blood of Yeshua was so complete in providing forgiveness of the sin which separates us from God, that if even Hitler had truly repented in the last moments of his life, acknowledging his sin and realizing his desperate need for Yeshua’s atonement and the mercies of God, he would be in heaven. Yes, mercy does triumph over judgment! (James 2:13). Admittedly it is harder to forgive one who is not repentant, who is sure they are in the right, when to us clearly they aren't. But let's face it, as I had to, it’s also hard for us to fully forgive when we are sure we are right and the other person isn’t. The solution: Giving up the right to be right.
In our quest to find common ground as “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:14, 15), it would seem that we need to take our stand directly in the center of Yeshua’s profound curse-breaking words and no matter what the failure or the offense, to say with Him “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” And sometimes that even includes forgiving ourselves.
A few days later: I received a response from someone dear to me saying in essence that he didn't want the kind of God who would take a flimsy "I'm sorry" and forgive him for the kind of evil Hitler was responsible for. I have two responses to that:
1) I BELIEVE THERE IS NO SIN THAT IS GREATER THAN THE POPWER OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS!!!
2) I mentioned Hitler because of hearing from a man of God whose name you would recognize that he had been taken to heaven by Jesus on more than one occasion so he could tell others what he saw there. While in heaven he saw a man whom he said was "the last person I would ever have expected to be in heaven" and in shock said, "What are you doing here?" The man responded by saying (I don't recall the exact words) at the last moments of his life he realized what he had done and that he was about to meet God and was more than terrified and cried out for mercy and forgiveness, realizing how he deserved the worst judgment for what he had done. It was evidently not some flimsy "I'm sorry." The godly man telling the story wouldn't say who this man was, but who would you think was the last person you would expect in heaven? To me that would be Hitler, but it could be any number of persons. I believe it may have even been God in His GREAT MERCY who allowed that man to see the weight of his horrific evil so he would cry out and He could forgive him. My God would do such a thing. Would yours?
Jesus didn't die just for the worst of us. He died for all of us who would realize how desperately we are all in need of the Father's forgiveness and accept Jesus' blood as payment for our own sin. He died for SIN, not for some levels of sin and not others. Kind of makes taking what we call "communion" an opportunity for our own deeper communion with the Lord hearing a story like this one, doesn't it?