Open Doors

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18, NIV)

These verses can be so hard to live out! When we are wronged, our fleshly response is to retaliate in some way. If not with our actions, then with our words, thoughts, or attitudes. We do not like to think of those responses as evil, but if our motive is not love, God says they are. When we give in to evil desires, we miss out on far more life. I made that mistake this week; I got caught up in defending a perceived wrong by pointing out the offender’s sin in front of others. But instead of feeling better afterwards, I felt worse! That made me realize I had chosen evil over far more life.

Fortunately God tells us how to find far more life in situations where we have been wronged or offended: do what we know is right. We know it is right to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We know it is right to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). We know it is right to forgive (Colossians 3:13). In my situation this week, when I finally decided to do what was right, I first chose to forgive the person who offended me, which changed my heart toward them. Rather than trying to convince them of their wrong, I chose to accept that we had different perspectives and values. This changed my anger to sadness. Then I was able to admit my wrong thoughts and actions, first to myself, then to them. I could feel my heart getting lighter with each step of this process, each choice to pursue far more life.

God takes it a step further: the verse continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I appreciate His clear instruction that we are only responsible for our part, and sometimes peace is not possible. I think of it like adjoining hotel rooms; both doors must be open for you to pass freely back and forth. If only one person opens their door, you remain separated. We can open our door to peace by doing what is right, blessing the offender with our words and actions, praying for them, and showing them love. Whether or not they choose to open their door and live in peace with us, we can have a clear conscience about our actions and thoughts. It is sad and uncomfortable to be separated from others, but our open door serves as an ongoing invitation for them to join us in pursuing peace whenever they are ready. God says that is enough. In my situation, I have accepted that the other person and I are not on the same page in life, so the door to many deep conversations is closed right now. I plan to pray all I wish I could say to them in love and trust God with it. I will speak carefully in future conversations unless they directly ask for my input. That is the best way for me to show them love and experience far more life. For now, that is the level of peace we can share.

Why is it important to God that we live in peace with others, especially others who are following Christ?

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Peace brings unity, which is important to God. Merriam-Webster defines unity as oneness or a condition of harmony. God is perfectly united with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are one, they live in harmony. And He says this to us, who are created in His image and filled with His Spirit:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  (I Corinthians 1:10, GNT)

God wants His children to live in harmony with one another because that is the only way His purpose can be accomplished. If our purpose is to love God and bring Him glory, can we do that if we are divided and arguing? No. In fact, God makes it clear that our love — which grows as we grow in unity — reveals our purpose to everyone:

If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, GNT)

This verse always amazes me. It is not our Bible knowledge that shows we are disciples of Jesus. Or the number of Bible studies or church meetings we attend. It is not the good works we do or the causes we support. What communicates our devotion to Jesus is the love we show others, especially other followers of Jesus. Sometimes that love is most evident when we return evil or sin with a blessing. When we do what is right rather than retaliating. When we pursue peace with someone who has offended or sinned against us. When we share our lives and pursue a common purpose. When we choose far more life!

Sisters,
Do you tend to repay evil with evil or with a blessing?
When have you found far more life by choosing to do what is right?
Do you have a relationship that is not at peace? Is your door open and inviting the other person to peace?
How are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus?
Pray and look for opportunities to show love — and choose far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Forgiveness is…

As we journey through life, we encounter hurt and disappointment. What do we do with this?  Some of us give it right back, wanting to get even. Others withdraw or build walls to protect themselves. Some ignore it, hoping it will go away. Others replay it over and over in their minds, seeking to understand and learn from it. Some cover it with humor or activity to minimize the pain. Some bury it deep inside and try to forget it ever happened.

These responses may enable us to feel better temporarily, but none resolve the hurt. Sooner or later unresolved hurt becomes baggage that restricts us from experiencing far more life.

How can we unpack the hurt in a healthy way and move forward unencumbered?

 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

Forgive. As the Lord forgave you. What does God’s forgiveness look like?

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12, NIV)

Then he adds, ‘I will no longer hold their sins and their disobedience against them.’ When sins are forgiven, there is no longer any need to sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:17-18, GW)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19, NASB)

God’s forgiveness removes our sin from us; we are no longer defined by that sin. God does not hold our sins against us; He doesn’t ask us to keep making up for them. After dealing with our sins, God gladly treats us with mercy and compassion; our relationship is restored.  This is the forgiveness He empowers us extend to others as well.

  • Forgiving is a choice to obey God. Since God instructs us to forgive others, He empowers us to do so. This is hard, but it is worthwhile. Lack of forgiveness keeps us hooked to the hurtful situation; obeying God brings peace and joy. God wants us to have far more life!
  • Forgiveness comes from the heart. Saying the words “I forgive” without engaging our heart is not effective. Forgiveness requires us to admit — to ourself and to God — what negative emotions and false beliefs the person’s action or inaction triggered in our heart. We must resolve the belief about ourself that is causing the pain by replacing it with God’s perspective. Did the hurtful incident communicate we were unloved, unimportant, not good enough, or something similar? We must reject those messages and let our heart dwell on what God, our perfect, all-knowing Father, says about us.
  • Forgiveness is between us and God, not us and another person. God is our primary source of forgiveness because only He can heal our wounded hearts. Forgiveness is releasing our hurt to God and letting Him administer justice and punishment against those who hurt us. We may reconcile with the offender, but first we must privately forgive them before God.
  • Forgiveness is letting go. It is choosing to not retaliate or seek revenge. It does not mean we automatically trust the person or let them resume their old place in our life; that may not be safe or wise. But even when strict boundaries are necessary, forgiveness allows us to let go.
  • Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequence of another person’s sin. In reality, we always live with the consequences of others’s sin. But forgiving frees us from anger and bitterness that suppress far more life.
  • Forgiveness is letting God. It is trusting God to provide all we need for far more life, even things that others’ sin has taken away.  It is also trusting God to mete out justice in His perfect timing, whether that is in this lifetime or at Jesus’ return.
  • Forgiving is not forgetting. It does not erase the incident from our memory as if it never happened. Our life may be profoundly changed, but Christ can heal our wounds so the memory is not painful.

Sometimes when people sin against us it doesn’t even hurt.  This happens when we can see their actions for what they are: reflections of their pain that have nothing to do with us. One day I was cut off in traffic and my first response was to pray for the safety of the other driver.  I was surprised because that was not my normal response! As I pondered the difference in my heart I realized I hadn’t take their actions personally.  They clearly acted on whatever pressure or stress or negative emotions they were experiencing, which had nothing to do with my driving. Since I knew their decision wasn’t about me, their wrongful actions against me didn’t prompt a painful emotional response. Forgiveness was easy.

This isn’t always the case. Often others actions feel like personal attacks. In reality, they are revealing areas where we aren’t seeing ourselves as God does. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to trade our misperceptions for God’s perfect perspective. As forgiving becomes our lifestyle, we are hurt and offended less often. We clearly see that people sin against us because of their own hurts. We feel compassion for them rather than pain. And living with less hurt and more compassion is far more life.

Sisters,
How do you react when others hurt you?
Is the baggage of past hurts weighing you down?
Which bullet points describing forgiveness are hard to believe? Tell God.
Talk to God about your hurts, admitting how you feel and what they tempt you to believe about yourself. Drink in His truth about you.
Ask Him to heal your damaged emotions.
Thank Him for the gift of forgiveness and emotional healing.
Enjoy far less pain and far more life.

-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso