Forgiveness without Reconciliation pt. 2

Forgiveness is costly. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” He was not providing a blanket forgiveness. He was petitioning His Father, willing to pay the price for their sin against Him. In the same way, Jesus took the punishment of my sin so I wouldn’t have to. That is love–and it is the kind of love only Jesus can give.

jesus_on_cross

None of us can take another’s punishment for sin. We have our own to worry about. But forgiveness* is a promise to withhold punishment for another’s sin against us. It may seem a petty thing–and in the scope of eternity it is–but in the moment, depending on the offense, it is astronomical. What does it look like to forgive a husband who belittles you in public? Demeans you in front of the children? Withholds finances? Takes joy in making your pain?

When we see the ugliness, waste, and offense of sin, we are tempted to retaliate, make him pay, want him to feel the pain and suffering he’s caused. That’s normal and natural. But Jesus can change that. Examining my own heart and sin against God and others brings me to a point of seeing the pain and suffering I brought on Jesus; on friends, church and family members, co-workers, children. And as I fully embrace the price Jesus paid for my sin, all of it, I am able to give him my pain and suffering as a result of others’ sin against me.

Willingness to forgive does not fix the problem. It does not make the offense go away or stop it from happening.  What a heart of forgiveness does do it to take the Jesus-card out of my back pocket and put it in the sin chip-reader. “Charge it to His account. There’s more than enough to cover the cost.” When I delve into Jesus’ forgiveness and extend it to others, I am free from the need to punish them or get revenge. I trust God to take care of things, and I know He will. As far as my own sin, the punishment was at Jesus’ expense. Paul wrote, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Apart from God’s forgiveness in Christ, I can never be ready and willing to offer forgiveness. But through faith in Jesus, I can choose a heart of forgiveness. If the offending party has not acknowledged, owned, and dealt with his sin, I am free to bring it up when it is in his best interest. In that case, I determine to use his sin against me for Christ’s glory instead of my own.

I will not smash the mirror of God’s Word over someone else’s head, but I may lovingly, gently hold it up as the Standard in non-combative moments to say, “This is what I’m seeing–do you see it, too?” A willingness to love and forgive may mean removing one’s self and children from a dangerous or sinful situation: “I am not going to embrace or be an audience to your sin against God, against me, and against those who are in your care.”

The key is this: *sin cannot be forgiven (or “sent away) until it is acknowledged and forsaken. Until then, we can be willing and ready, dependent on Jesus Christ, extending His kindness and love to the just and the unjust, doing what is right, and using the resources He has put at our disposal.

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:26)

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27)

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:18)

Why the Term, “Victim?”

Using the word “victim” to describe an individual experiencing domestic abuse is, perhaps, a bit archaic. Old-fashioned. Politically incorrect. Or is it?

The choice of the word is intentional and sets itself up for discussion. What word would you use? Secular society chooses the word, “survivor.” The idea is that anyone who has suffered abuse successfully is not a victim because the word victim denotes weakness and subjugation. Surviving abuse is worthy of recognition. I don’t disagree.

The word, victim, as used in the book, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse, is a temporary term that applies to an individual suffering unjustly for a limited time in a specific setting. It is not a term of identity, worth, or prophecy.

Why not use the word, “survivor?” Because survivor comes with a t-shirt. Survival is a term of endurance and evident success, but the word, “victor” is so much more powerful. In Christ, and through the power of the gospel, a woman experiencing domestic abuse is not a victim. She is not merely a survivor. She is a victor.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Unjust Suffering

We are all familiar with suffering the consequences of making a poor decision. Children refuse to wear the clothing their parents tell them to and suffer as a result. We like to think that those who cheat, lie, steal, and hurt others will suffer the consequences of their behavior, but we don’t always see it. Is it really true? On the other hand, when women experience domestic violence, abusers tell them, “If only you’d _________, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s your own fault!” What a twisted reality!

That’s why the Bible is so vital to sorting out domestic abuse. It is the only source of absolute truth and God lays it out clearly:

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)

Violence is wrong. Manipulation, deceit, coercion, justification, and posturing are wrong. Using someone to get what you want–power, influence, control–is wrong. The person who lives this way will be held eternally accountable.

The key word is, “eternally.” We may or may not see the consequences now. Asaph saw the injustice of evil men: they were rich, sleek and fat, boasting in themselves and committing acts of violence. Life seemed easy and, somehow, they got away with it. But, Asaph, lamented, his life was uncertain, hard, and he struggled to do what was right. “Why?” he asks. “Why am I trying so hard? What’s the point?”

Then Asaph looked to God and gained a different perspective. This is not the final chapter. From where God sits, unquenchable, eternal judgement is on its way. We may or may not see it in this life, but it will come. In a moment the violent and arrogant will be cast down, tormented by fear and terror. Judgment will come swiftly, inescapably. It is an absolute certainty.

What does God have to say to those who suffer injustice? Asaph wrote these words of encouragement and hope for himself–and for us:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:23-28)

You can belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ,. When you cry out, He hears you. He sees your need and will see you through. Continue to cry out, trust and obey: tell others, ask for help from friends, the local church,  law enforcement and social services. Keep doing what is right, with your eyes on the long-term goal and your faith in the only One who is with you, in you, and empowering you to press on. Run to your Refuge and Sanctuary. He is steadfast, sure, and able.

Want to know more? Order your copy of Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse. It’s here to help women and their churches see beyond the immediate and obvious to what’s behind and beyond.

Who Knew?

Statistics reveal “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.” Today I am on call with the Family Resource Services as a medical advocate for domestic violence. It’s a reality, but a hidden one.

Few victims, if any, communicate the truth of their experience. When you have a bad day, how often do you dive into details? Especially if you’ve been misused and taken advantage of. To a close friend or spouse? Maybe. To someone you don’t know at all? Or whom you look up to? Probably not. Why? Because it’s embarrassing. Not only did you suffer injustice, you “let” it happen, and then you walked away as if it never happened.

The same is true for those who suffer domestic violence. To endure the pain, degradation, and intense hatred of someone who supposedly loves you is one thing. To say it aloud, to admit the horror, is to experience a new level of shame and risk. It happens. Has happened. And, honestly, it’s easy to understand why women don’t want to take the chance. Instead, they’ll say, “He knocked me around.” “It was just a tiff.” “We got in a little bit of a fight.” “It was nothing.”

And that’s exactly when those of us who can, should listen louder. Ask questions. Get more information. Hold our tongue. Believe. Be genuine. Love. Pray. Help.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.

I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.

Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.

Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior. (Psalm 38:9-15, 20-22)