Fierce Forgiveness

Christ tells us to forgive 70 x 7. That sounds like a lofty goal, but have you ever had to work so hard at forgiving – or been offended by the same person so repeatedly – that you actually counted up to that 490th time? So does that mean when we hit 491, we are exempt from forgiving? If so, I think there should be a revenge app that plays the theme from Jaws when the counter flips to 491.

Sometimes forgiveness is easy. But sometimes – well, sue me – sometimes I don’t feel particularly forgiving. Forgiving certain offenses rips at my brain and tears at my gut. My anger is especially fierce against hurts to my children or others I love.

But carrying unforgiveness causes me to hold anger in my soul and bitterness in my heart – the very same heart and soul that I have given to Jesus as a dwelling place within me. Who would want to live in that? Who would even ask anyone to live in that? There is a reason He tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us. I have discovered it is quite difficult to hold a grudge against someone I pray for regularly – or even irregularly. When I close my eyes to pray for someone, God opens my heart to the fears and struggles causing that individual to be unkind or thoughtless. That makes me look at my own fears and failures, and then I see how much I share with that person, after all – and my heart breaks a little, surrendering my grip on the negativity. I cannot help but release my resentment and forgive. This does not relieve the hurt entirely, but the bitterness and the anger are lifted and compassion flows instead.

Not all offenses are major – some are light and easy to forgive. But others generate pain, and pain leads to anger, and I must wrestle fiercely with myself and God before finding peace in forgiving those offenses.

Offense can be fierce. Anger is fierce. Forgiveness must be fierce. There is nothing more fierce than battling the powers of Hell and death in order to offer grace. As a Christ-follower, I am called to be a living, breathing carrier of the very grace and forgiveness that was given to me – no matter the circumstances. So on the days when my heart burns with hurt, I remember that Christ burned with so very much more. My soul is humbled – my defenses are lowered. His mercy flows hard and fast through me. And the light of forgiveness bursts outward in a fierce healing rush.

Welcome to the Love Zone

We all need a Personal Love Zone.

No, no – I am not referring to your local XXX establishment or even your favorite karaoke bar. A Personal Love Zone (PLZ) is a metaphorical safe place within our souls; a place we share with others in our lives, a place where we give and receive unconditional love and acceptance without judgment. A PLZ relationship (or even a PLZ moment) is not to be confused with agreement and acceptance of the behavior and ideas of the person loved. It is a wild, insane myth of our time that loving and accepting a person is synonymous with endorsement of their every thought.

Think of your children, your spouse, your parents, or anyone you know well and love dearly. As part of the love you share, do you cheerfully support absolutely everything they do? Do you agree with and encourage their every thought, and they yours? Perhaps you sometimes argue with those you love best. Perhaps you step back a bit because, no matter how much that person is in your PLZ, you cannot be with them in a certain moment (I may love people who demonstrate for a cause I don’t share, and I may even appreciate their commitment to their beliefs, but I have no intention of joining the picket line). Perhaps you remain thoughtfully quiet on certain topics because you both know you will never see eye-to-eye, even though you hold each other close in your PLZ’s.

It’s called giving each other grace. It’s not always easy – matter of fact, it’s often pretty hard – but it is doable.

Unconditional love is graceful. It’s messy and honest and argumentative and quiet and pervasive. It hangs on through laughter and tears and joy and heartbreak. It doesn’t run away after a fight, and it knows that staying and working things out does not necessarily mandate agreement. Unconditional love is passionate and faithful. Unconditional love finds a way to make life work.

God knows we are all different – He created us that way. The Bible is pretty clear that God loves us all equally, unconditionally, and eternally, including those who fight Him. The Bible also makes it pretty clear that anyone who believes in God should reflect His heart to the world, so – aren’t we all supposed to love like that?

I think we are.

Welcome to the Love Zone.