Forgiveness or "Justice"

I had a train of thoughts invade my head recently and need to lay them out to help me understand them in a more logical way. So I took some time to rough them out in a table format that is helpful for me to see their relationships better.

Path of forgiveness

Path of assumed “justice”

Choice of injured

Reaction in offender

Choice of injured

Reaction in offender

Forgiveness

Surprise, confusion

Blame

Defensiveness

Taking ownership and responsibility for the pain

Attraction toward reconciliation

Resentment souring into bitterness

Self-justification, pride, legal shelters

Give the pain to Jesus – release offender of responsibility

Faced with making a choice how to respond

Relive the pain, focus on wounds, attempts to inflict even more pain on others

Fear, denial, withdrawal

Focus on what God is like, His true character and how He relates to His enemies

Growing awareness of evil inside because of contrast with spirit of the forgiving victim

Focus on the assumed evil motives and character faults of the offender

Dulling of ability to see own faults, increasing blindness and insensitivity

Chose to leave all conviction in God's hands

Increasing conviction from God to repent and embrace the grace being offered and felt

Attempts to shame, denounce and vilify the offender in public

Attempts to deny, cover-up, justify, deceive and even shift blame to victim

Effects of choice:

Effects of choice:

Peace, freedom, healing, softening of the heart

Softening effect on heart, increasing guilt

Bitterness deepening into hatred, hard heart

Hardening of the heart

Compassion, love, acts of service, intimacy with God

Conviction by God to repent, confess and experience freedom

Heaping guilt and condemnation on others,

Rebellion, feelings of condemnation, guilt, pride, blindness

Becoming reflective of God's character and feelings

Increasing guilt because of growing contrast of good and evil

Becoming reflective of the evil attributes of the offender

Sense of justification because offender is acting the same way

Preparation to live for eternity in fullness of joy

Storing up wrath that will consume the person themselves in the day of wrath

There are two parties involved in these sequences and both parties have choices they will make.

The offended person, the victim is faced with a choice of how they are going to deal with the pain caused inside of them from what has been said or what has happened to them. Are they going to hold a grudge, focus on the faults of the other person, engage in blame, fault-finding and resentment? Or are they going to absorb the pain, take ownership of it and take full responsibility for it releasing the offender fully from the heart? This second choice is certainly not easy at all since it is exactly opposite to what our sinful desires always crave. But it still is an option through the grace we can receive from God.

I find it helpful to carefully follow the thread of cause and effect through each of these options. It helps me to see where I might be whenever I find myself feeling certain feelings or thinking certain thoughts. I want to know which path I am on so that I don't live in deception but in truth.

Forgiveness is a subject very little understood though most people think they know all about it. Real forgiveness is far more involved and personal and requires much more heart work than most people assume. It means not only releasing others from continued desires to get even but necessarily involves taking full responsibility for the pain they have caused me. The reason this is necessary is because God can only remove from my heart what I have ownership over. If I am in denial of the ownership of my own pain through continued blame of others for originally causing that pain, then God's grace cannot remove and heal that pain because I am denying responsibility over it by my choice to blame someone else.

It is much easier for us to appreciate the need to confess our sins so that we can experience the power of forgiveness. Confession is simply agreeing with God that we are responsible for our sins, that we are the one who chose to commit them. But when it comes to the pain we experience from others who sin against us, who violate us, who wound our hearts, then it often becomes confusing as to why we need to take responsibility for our pain. But the very same principle applies whether it is our sins against others or the wounds we need healed from other's sins against us. We must confess ownership of what is inside of us if we are to grant God the permission needed to do His work of healing grace inside our hearts.

This revelation creates an intense reaction in some people who insist that this cannot be God's ways because it feels so unfair. But they are blinded by a false idea of justice which is only masquerading as justice but is really rooted in our deep desires for revenge. Our perverted concepts about justice almost always involve imposed punishments on offenders to somehow settle a score, to get even, to balance the accounts. We are so convinced of this “balance logic” that we are usually unwilling to even question its validity at all.

But God's ways are not our ways and God's justice cannot be measured accurately by our opinions about justice. However, to address our deeply confused but entrenched internal ideas about justice, Jesus came to this earth to satisfy even our perverted ideas about punishments, revenge and settling scores. Jesus took upon Himself all of the pain, guilt, condemnation, shame and punishment that WE insist must be inflicted as a result of our concept of justice. He did this so that we would be left with no excuse to deny God's unconditional love and forgiveness towards all of us.

God often uses our language, our convoluted ideas about justice or our traditions to get us to listen to Him. That does not mean that those ideas are in harmony with the principles of heaven. It simply means that He will go to any length to get our attention and set us on a path that can lead us back to true reality. But that heavenly reality will be seen in the end to be quite different than the assumptions we have about it right now. So God deals with us where we are to start with in our sense of reality, but He does not want us to remain there; He wants to move us as quickly as possible into the much broader and more authentic principles upon which the universe was originally designed.

I perceive God's grace is the lubricant that allows us to move from where we are living and thinking and feeling towards the life that God originally designed for us to live. If we will embrace that grace and allow God to reveal His true character to us – if we will allow Him to synchronize us with His heart, with His ways, with heaven's principles, we will find that abundant life Jesus promised beginning to spring up inside of us bringing with it healing, hope, life and joy instead of the continued darkness, pain and suffering that we are so used to.

Our greatest need is to have our internal picture of God radically altered from our assumptions affected by the lies the enemy has used against Him. Everyone of us has been deeply infected with lies about God without exception. Jesus came to reverse and destroy the works of the devil and this is precisely where it is to take place – in how each one of us views God at the heart level. As we choose and learn to follow His example of instant and continuous forgiveness under all circumstances and toward all people, we will become recipients and examples of the life that He came to share with us, that abundant life that results in eternal life with the Author of life in an earth recreated for optimum life. There will be reflected His love in the hearts and faces of everyone who has been prepared to live there.

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