Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 15th, 2012.
I’ve been enjoying a new song playing on the radio by Matthew West titled “Forgiveness.” As usual, West delivers thoughtful and challenging lyrics in his music and this song doesn’t disappoint. Upon hearing the song, I thought back to a book I read a few years ago by James MacDonald that included a chapter on the importance of giving forgiveness for our well-being. The points I make below are from his book 10 Choices.
I’m sure you are like me and you have some very painful experiences in life. I have found that most people think since I am a pastor that I grew up in a blissful home that was void of pain or troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like me, you have people past and/or present that have hurt you deeply. We all struggle with the issue of giving forgiveness to these people, whether they ask for it or not, and moving on with life.
Most of us have what is fondly referred to as “the junk drawer” at home. This is usually a drawer in the kitchen that serves as a catch-all. And if the junk drawer at your house is like the one at mine, about twice a year you have to clean it out because it will no longer open or shut. It’s capacity is limited. Think of the junk drawer as an illustration of what we do with pain in our life. MacDonald notes that over the years, negative stuff in life can start to pile up. Life moves so fast that you start putting hurts, conflicts, and pain into a “drawer” if you will. Before too long that drawer fills up and you can’t shut it anymore. But at some point in time, as the pages of the calendar turn, you eventually run out of room in life to stash all of the unresolved conflict, all of the hurtful things people have said and done to you, and the inevitable pain that just life can bring. It’s about capacity. You can’t move away from it, because you carry it around with you wherever you go. We call it “baggage” today.
There are probably more of us today than we realize who are at a breaking point in terms of capacity and pain. You feel like you can’t take it anymore. You have to do something with the junk, but you don’t know where to put it. You have a sinking feeling that you’ll be stuck with the baggage for the rest of your life.
So what do we do? The good news about the accumulated hurt and pain of life is that God gives us a way to get rid of it. Each of us can clean out the drawer and we do so through forgiveness. The older you get, the more you realize you have to become good at forgiveness because you just don’t have the capacity to carry the load. We have to deal with the wounds and the weights gathered through life.
Jesus told a story in Matt. 18:23-35 of how important it is for us to forgive others. In summary, a servant was forgiven an incalculable debt by a king. That servant then went and found a fellow servant who owed him a comparatively tiny sum. Yet, instead of forgiving the fellow servant as the king had forgiven him, he threw the man into prison until he repaid him the full amount. As can be imagined, the king was very upset. In this story we see two major points. One, followers of Christ have received the amazing gift of God’s forgiveness. Two, as followers of Christ, we are to extend our forgiveness to others. These are core truths in rightly walking with God and cleaning out the junk drawer.
Forgiveness Releases an Obligation
What an amazing gift is God’s forgiveness of our sins! Christ did for us at the cross what we could not do for ourselves- pay the penalty of our sin. Further, God’s forgiveness enables and empowers us to extend our forgiveness to others.
The word “forgiveness” in the New Testament was used to describe the release of an obligation or debt. Think about how that applies to our lives. When someone hurts you, they create an obligation because they have taken something of yours. Someone took your money, or your lawnmower, or your promotion at work. Even if you get it back, there is still the emotional baggage to deal with. You have the choice to forgive. You can look at someone past/present and say, “That’s the person that took my___________.” Or you can choose to realize that you have been forgiven a much larger obligation and forgive that person. In forgiveness, you release the obligation and when you do so you have taken something out of the drawer and removed it.
Granted, this isn’t easy to do. If the obligation is something material you can many times get past that pretty quick. It gets harder when you have to forgive intangible hurts: someone took away your healthy childhood, someone took away your dream of a happy marriage, your dignity, your trust, your safety, or your purity. When something is intangible, it is often deeper and more complex. What has been taken cannot be returned. The offense feels deeper. So what do you do? I wouldn’t dare minimize your pain. I understand it is huge just to even consider forgiveness. But the bottom line is: what choice do you have? Your capacity is full. You cannot carry the weight anymore. It eats on you like a cancer. As Matthew West’s song says, “Forgiveness can set a prisoner free…the prisoner that it really frees is you.” Your only choice is to forgive.
Forgiveness Must Overcome Obstacles
There are some reasons we don’t forgive:
The offense is so great, God doesn’t expect me to forgive. The problem is that this doesn’t jive with what Scripture teaches. If I am truly forgiven by Christ, I will find it in my heart to forgive others. Besides, if you hold on to unforgiveness it turns to bitterness and the drawer remains full. God doesn’t want you to live like that. I have found that the bigger the hurt, the more I have to get rid of it. We somehow have this erroneous thought that the pain will get smaller if I refuse to forgive. The truth is that the pain just gets bigger. I have to learn to trust God to enable me to forgive even the biggest offenses. I have to trust in his ability to forgive, not my own. It’s like the story of a boy who went to the store with his mother. The shop owner handed him a large jar of suckers and invited him to help himself to a handful. Uncharacteristically, the boy held back. So the shop owner pulled out a handful for him. When outside, the boy’s mother asked why he had suddenly been so shy and wouldn’t take a handful of suckers when offered. The boy replied, “Because his hand is much bigger than mine!” When it comes to forgiveness, God’s power and capacity is greater than yours.
I’ll forgive when they say they are sorry. The person that hurt you is probably off doing the same thing they did to you to somebody else and you and your pain haven’t even crossed their mind. Don’t think that if you hold to unforgiveness the other person will see your pain and resentment, feel bad, and then apologize. You have to move on and empty the drawer.
I can’t forgive if I can’t forget. Actually that is backward. You can’t forget unless you forgive. God can empty a drawer; heal a scar and pain like no one else. He can completely change your perspective on whatever issue it is. You say that if you forgive and forget the person will just hurt me again. Forgiving and forgetting doesn’t mean you put yourself in the position to be hurt again. If your husband abuses you, you can forgive him by releasing that obligation he owes to you. But God has no expectation that you stay in an abusive relationship. Remember that when you forgive someone that doesn’t make them right; it makes you free and empties the drawer.
Forgiveness Produces the Best Outcomes
Think about what unforgiveness destroys. Look again at the story Jesus told.
Unforgiveness destroys relationships. After the one servant got through choking the other, do you think they were fishing buddies? The relationship is over.
Unforgiveness destroys reputations. Notice how in the story the other co-workers are so appalled at the actions of the servant who had been forgiven so much that they go to the king and turn him in. The forgiven servant lost all credibility and integrity with those around him.
Unforgiveness destroys end results. When the forgiven servant is recalled to the king, the outcome is different. This time the king sends him to prison. The unforgiveness he exhibited to others is now what is being exhibited to him. Unforgiveness leaves you with little more than a thirst for revenge that ends in the outcome pain and misery.
Forgiveness isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. But since we have been forgiven such a huge debt by Jesus we must trust Him to enable us to forgive others. If we fail to forgive, our capacity gets full. Who in your life do you need to forgive? What obligation do you need to release? Empty the drawer- you really have no other choice.
I have watched with some interest over the last few weeks the comments and opinions of many on blogs and websites concerning the movie Magic Mike. What got my attention was the number of women (and some men) who are Christians who have gone to see the movie. I have been surprised at how few female writers have brought up the glaring, horrific double standard in play regarding this film. If a group of husbands went to see a movie about women working in a strip club, “the claws would come out” as one female blogger put it.
Christians seeing Magic Mike claim that those criticizing them for seeing the movie are being judgmental. Perhaps that is true in some cases. However, after reading reviews of the movie (which would make many people blush) and discovering that the film contains many explicit sexual scenes and over 150 uses of the “f” word, those who have cast judgment in an erroneous way have only done so in an attitudinal sense.
This by the way, is the very definition of being judgmental which is very different from making good judgments. One of the fallacies of a secular worldview is that to tell anyone they are wrong automatically means you hate them. That is untrue and certainly not part of a biblical worldview. I can say that what you believe or what you have done is wrong and still love and care about you (we do this with our children all of the time). That said, too many Christians do have a sanctimonious attitude in their conveyance of the judgments they make which leads them to the sin of being judgmental.
Yet, none of what I have just written is the main point of this post. In reading reviews and comments about the movie, it saddens me that our culture’s idea of masculinity is a guy who can work at a strip club and has great sexual prowess. Movies such as Magic Mike and Failure to Launch seem to communicate that the more a man can put off the responsibility of marriage, family, and career the more masculine he is. To be married, to go to the kids’ recitals, and to go to a regular day-to-day job is being tied to the ball and chain and in effect emasculated. In other words, responsibility is a bad thing.
A couple of years ago, the New York Times Magazine ran an article on men in their twenties and the growing epidemic of stretching adolescence well beyond the high school years. This led Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll to note, “the world is full of boys who can shave.” The result is that our culture is lauding an indefinite adolescence leaving us with, as again Driscoll stated, “a Peter Pan syndrome where men want to remain boys forever.”
Is being a boy, free from responsibilities and free to gratify any indulgence, the true picture of masculinity? Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 13:11- “When I was a boy, I talked like a boy, I thought like a boy, I reasoned like a boy. When I became a man, I put childish and boyish ways behind me.” Males are supposed to move from boyhood to manhood. So what does real masculinity look like? Man is created in the “image” of God (Gen. 1:26; 1 Cor. 11:7). This doesn’t mean we look like God the way we physically look like our parents. It means we are conscious beings able to reflect the truth, love, compassion, and other attributes of God in the way we live our lives. As a reflection of the image of God we are called to be creators and cultivators. This is what God did. He produced the universe and created a world splendidly designed and crafted for a variety of amazing life forms to exist. Not only did He create everything, but He sustains and cultivates it as well (Col. 1:16-17).
The problem is that culture doesn’t necessarily view masculinity as creating and cultivating (marriages, families, and careers), but rather consuming everything you can to gratify yourself. Consider this excerpt from the Driscoll post I mentioned earlier:
“The marketing sweet spot for many companies is young men ages eighteen to thirty-four. These guys don’t know what it means to be a man, and so marketers fill the void with products that define manhood by what you consume rather than what you produce. The tough guys consume women, porn, alcohol, drugs, television, music, video games, toys, cars, sports, and fantasy leagues, as if being a man is defined by how much meat you can shove through your colon, how many beers you can pound, how fast you can drive, how stinky you can fart, how hard you can hit, how far you can spit, how loud you can belch, and how big your truck is.
The artsy, techie types consume clothes, decaf lattes, shoes, gadgets, cars (not trucks), furniture, hair products, and underwear with the names of very important people on the waistband. For them, manhood means being in touch with one’s feelings, wardrobe, and appearance.
A legion of moms and girlfriends enable these boys who can shave. They pay his bills, pick up his messes, loan him their car, and refill his sippy cup. Girls need to know this: you want a guy you can marry and have babies with. You don’t want to marry a guy who’s a baby. Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers. You’re defined by the legacy, the life, and the fruit that come out of you, not by what you take in. But most guys are just consumers.
I don’t care if you buy a truck or play some video games or rock out on your guitar. The problem is when those are prevalent and predominant in your life. Some guys would argue and say, “It’s not a sin.” No, but sometimes it’s just dumb. You got fired because you were up trying to get to the next level [on the video game]. That’s dumb. You work one part-time job so you can play more guitar or Frisbee golf. That’s dumb. You spend all your money on a new car or truck, or toys, or gear, or clothes, or gambling, or fantasy football. Dumb. Some of you say, “Well, it’s not a sin.” Neither is eating your lawnmower. It’s just dumb. There are a lot of things that Christian guys do that aren’t evil, they’re just dumb and childish.”
With the growing trend of masculinity being consumerism with no responsibility it’s difficult to find a man in his twenties at church. The call to follow Christ and grow in discipleship is a call to sacrifice, selflessness, and responsibility. Being a man is not about how much you can consume, but what you create and cultivate. Being a man isn’t about sexual conquests, it’s about committing to one woman and loving her as Christ loves the church- for whom He loved so much He gave His life. Being a man isn’t being a kid, but spending time with and nurturing your kids. Being a man is about giving, not taking, and as Driscoll notes “that’s what Jesus, the real man, did.”
Read the Mark Driscoll post referenced in this article here: Driscoll Post in WP
Morning service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 8th, 2012. ”Does God Care How We Worship?” John 4:20-24.
Pastor Todd and Doug visit about his recent opportunities to preach at Fall’s Creek this summer.
Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 1st, 2012. ”Why Do We Worship?” Exodus 20:3-6.