IS TEARING UP THE IOU.
I have often invited people hurt by others to write out their IOUs, that is, what the offending one owes them. I tell them I would understand if they could not release forgiveness, but then I encourage them to carry around the IOU as a reminder of what unforgiveness really means. I share with them that forgiveness means that they are willing to tear up the IOU Many have found freedom by ripping up the debt and releasing others for God to deal with them in His justice and mercy.
FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. Imagine if God were to say, “You have hurt me too much; I cannot forgive you.” But He says instead, “I forgive you.” Jesus said at the cross, “Father, forgive them,” giving us the power to forgive. Loved people are able to love; forgiven people are able to forgive. Forgiveness means that we give up our “right” to get even. We exercise the power that was released at the cross. Forgiveness is not excusing the offense. We are not saying, “Oh, that’s okay.” We are not letting the offender off the hook, as if it never happened. It’s not a matter of pretending an offense never happened. I don’t forget the pastor who hurt me at seminary, but by forgiveness I have erased the emotional response. Forgiveness is not easy. It wasn’t for Joseph or for Peter, who felt his ultimate ability to forgive offenses would stop at about seven. Jesus called him to forgive seventy times seven.
FORGIVENESS IS BELIEVING THAT GOD IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE OFFENSE. Only God can reverse the irreversible. Only He can heal broken hearts, shattered lives. And He can even use the pain of the offense to sanctify the offended as well as to heal the offender. The cross is the place of the greatest offense ever—and it is the place where God’s power is shown most clearly. Forgiveness sees the offender as broken, imperfect, and needing forgiveness, just as we do.
If God has allowed us to be hurt, offended, or stepped on, He is able to defend us. And He can use this event in our lives to draw us closer to Him. If we respond to injustice in a godly way, we find His approval, just as Jesus did (I Peter 2:20-25). We need to forgive out of obedience, even if we don’t feel like it, because it is the will of God. Holiness is a higher goal than happiness. We are wanting to please God more than ourselves. Those who have grace to thank God in the midst of suffering are going the way of the cross. God will pour out His mercy upon them. It is not illegal to suffer unjustly. Don’t wait until the offender confesses—forgive freely. And if we are involved in the offense, we don’t wait until the other party confesses; we take the lead, even if we see it as only 10% of the guilt. God will honor our humility. Don’t “wheel and deal,” thinking, “I’ll do my part if they do theirs.” You are giving in to God more than to the other person.
SOME QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
- Am I blaming anyone for my unhappiness? I should not give another person the power to make me miserable.
- Am I keeping score with anyone?
- Am I reacting with a ten on a problem that’s a three? (May be a clue to unresolved anger).
- Am I carrying around an IOU, or have I released people from the debts they owe me?