Two previous articles focused on surrendering to God the ultimate rights of judgment and mending broken relationships after people mess up. These actions are called forgiving and reconciling. I showed how the gospel of John calls this the Great Commission of the Christian faith. Yet, the spirit of offense, unforgiveness, and unreconciled relationships are so commonly tolerated among Christ-followers. So, what causes us to fail at the Great Commission to create this Great Omission?
The simplest answer would be the removal of the letters “C” and “M” from the word commission to be left with omission, C is representative of the Christ, and M represents his Mission. Christ's Mission makes the difference between commission and omission. For the Christ follower, forgiveness and reconciliation must be Christ-Missioned (Christ-centered) in all ways. Following are some thoughts about how to make this more practical in your life
Here are 15 contributors to the Great Omission. These are things that routinely get in the way of true forgiveness and reconciliation.
1. Settling for second best (striving instead of thriving).
Striving to succeed in a performance-based culture devalues our needs for rest and reflection time. Pragmatism (making things work) is valued over prudence (making things right). Bitterness, resentment, and blame are considered “normal.” This high emotional pain tolerance can only be reversed through vulnerability and risk. However, thriving mentally, emotionally, and spiritually makes it possible to thrive in all areas of life. Why settle for less than God's best? We are each worth more than our current level of perceived striving (or thriving)!
2. Performance-based living and decision making.
When we reduce forgiveness merely to a decision, we become reliant on our own will power to forgive instead of relying on what Jesus has accomplished for us. We don't have to forgive and then come to Christ. Our decision must be to cooperate with what Christ has done for us. That puts Christ in control, and not us. It also makes Him the achiever, not you.
3. False beliefs about forgiveness
Here is a partial list of myths about forgiveness I discuss in my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart. Forgiveness is NOT: simply remorse, forgetting, excusing, trusting, letting go, letting time heal, a feeling, reducing unforgiveness, hinging upon an offender to make a gesture of repentance. Not everything you hear and read about forgiveness is true. You may have to commit to unlearning what you already believe about forgiveness, and learn the truth.
4. Demanding “quick fix” rather than process.
When seeking the help of a counselor, people often say, “I just want to get this problem behind me and move on.” What they really mean is, “Don't tell me I have to change something about myself, and I sure don't want to face my pain.” Whoever said, “No pain, no gain,” had it right. Acknowledging and surrendering our offenses (and offensive behaviors) is a growing process. Growth always involves stretching and new learning by definition. Because offense is inevitable in a broken world, at any given point in time, we are only one step away from our next lesson in forgiveness.
5. Trying to go it alone
When we value self-sufficiency and independence above interdependence, we rebel against our innate design for human relationships to provide mutual support for dealing with the many challenges of life. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness, but merely an acknowledgment that you are human. I've heard it said, “Since we are hurt in relationship, we must also be healed in relationship.” We all have “blind spots.” We are very weak in self-critique. We need others to point our short-comings so we can improve our character. We must be teachable to benefit from constructive criticism.
6. Lacking commitment to inner person change
Resisting change is our default nature. Intentional change from the inside out, is necessary to conquer, rather than simply manage, undesired (and sinful) behaviors. Confession and repentance is God's way to initiate this change. That simply means we verbally admit the error and turn our heart in the direction toward God (away from self). When we make this a regular pattern, we can build up resilience by increasing inner capacity to handle losses and failed expectations. Then unforgiveness has less, or no place to take root.
7. Excusing bad behaviors.
When we complain, blame, or justify the bad attitudes of our heart, we short-circuit the “weeding” process to remove the bad roots. Our behaviors all begin with our thoughts, and our thoughts are largely governed by our standards and core beliefs. Bad fruit is produced by bad roots and bad soil. Sowing good seed in good soil will yield a good crop of fruit. Choosing to focus on (good) thoughts, placed in a (good) heart of surrender to God, will produce (good) behavior.
8. Clinging to poor self-concept
Many fail to see the link between how they act and how they think about themselves. Second only to our thoughts about God, our thoughts about ourselves are the greatest influencers of our actions. Do you, for real, believe from the bottom of your heart, that you are worth forgiving and being forgiven? The value God places on your being is totally disconnected from any ability, or lack of ability, you have of earning it. Your perception of innate worth shapes your self-image and how you react or respond to life.
9. Trivializing the so-called smaller offenses.
In 2006, world-wide attention was drawn to an Amish school-house shooting just miles from where we live in Lancaster County. Forgiveness by the Amish toward the shooter and his family was a major theme of media stories. Pardoning the horrific actions of shooting ten innocent school girls is a noble thing, but truly forgiving from the heart is demonstrated by the daily, sometimes moment by moment, surrendering to God our ultimate rights of judging. Often times these are unintentional actions (and attitudes), of a human being that cause our judging. That human could even be yourself if self-condemnation or self-rejection is part of what needs to be surrendered. So-called smaller offenses and losses can be harder to reckon with than the larger ones. An example may be unkind words from a close friend or family member, betrayal by a spouse, or attack on your integrity by a church member. These routine interactions may not be dramatic enough to grab media attention, but they are the essence of what true forgiveness and reconciliation is all about.
10. Failing to take full responsibility for your part in an offense.
Even if an offense is 90% the fault of another person and 10% your contribution, you must take full responsibility for your 10%. For example, if an alcoholic spouse mistreats his or her partner, and the offended spouse retaliates without taking appropriate steps to resolve the conflict, the offended spouse must ask God's forgiveness for offending God by condemning the offending alcoholic. No person can change another person. A person can take responsibility for his or her own actions, but not the actions of another.
Shaming another person, no matter how offensive their behavior, will only continue a cycle of unforgiveness and make you an offender against God.
11. Forgetting about restitution.
One way to define forgiveness is to release the debt of a debtor. When debt is caused by an offense, and the offender repays the debt as part of reconciliation, that is called restitution. Restitution helps the offender demonstrate his understanding of the damage or hurt he caused the person he offended.
12. Fear of conflict and confrontation
Conflict is necessary for healthy relationship. Confrontation is often necessary for reconciled relationships. These are two different things, but I include them together because they both have to do with uncertainty and potential disruption of security in relationship. Fear is a powerful motivator, and often keeps people from taking the action they know to be right.
13. Judging (over-reliance on your own expectations and perceptions of reality)
Critically judging inevitably brings criticism back on the one who critically judges (see Romans 2:1-2). This is a rule of life, as certain as gravity pulling a brick to the ground, dropped from a 10th story window. Condemnation crashes in on the one who condemns. Shaming another, shames yourself, because we're all made of the same stuff.
I think this is the chief contributor to the Great Omission. Condescendingly judging, and failing to recognize when we do it, is offensive to Almighty God. When we attempt to devalue a person to whom God has given innate value, we pretend to be Judge in place of God. It is okay to condemn (judge) behavior, but not okay to condemn the person. So, what is the difference? Condemning behavior says their actions were bad. Condemning the person says they are a jerk, good-for-nothing, damned, loser.
Believe me, I've felt this way about many people (and sometimes still do), but I pray God shows me quickly when this is happening, so I can repent and surrender my heart to God for him to change.
This bad judging can occur by making assumptions without the facts, prejudging, misjudging, misunderstanding, misinterpreting, or misperceiving the intent or motivation of a person. The more secure we are about our own innate value to God, the less inclined we are to condemn. Accepted and validated by Father God, we have no need to try to put down others, in order to build up ourselves.
14. Involving a third party unnecessarily.
What often happens when a person is hurt by an offense, instead of confronting the offender to reconcile, they go to another (third) person to seek validation for their victim role. They condemn the offender, rather than try to correct and make it right. Condemning judgment becomes even more damaging when it is taken to a third person.
That is called slander. Gossip is when, for example, a person can't resist putting a negative spin on a comment (or outright “trash-talking”) about someone not present to defend themselves. Slander and gossip occur frequently and do not get recognized for what they are, the damage they incur, and the contribution they make to the Great Omission.
15. Spiritual disconnection
The book of Hebrews in the Bible describes people as not being able to find rest in their hearts when they harbor bitterness, resentment, and blame There is no joy and peace for the soul that does not surrender unforgiving and contentious motivations. Self-honesty and humility are per-requisites for opening the lines of communication with God and connecting to the true power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
For each of the contributors above, ask the question, “What is one Christ-centered action I can take to reverse this tendency in my life?” Then, begin taking that action right now, take that action tomorrow, and each day for a week. Review your progress in a week, read this article again, and continue taking the actions necessary fulfill the Great Commission in the fullest way God created you to BE!
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.com
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry