Growing in God
By: Rev. Suzie Chamness
Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you."
God is for us, not just with us. Because of Jesus, God is for us. The Bible says that God didn't just intend for you to receive a blessing, but we are to share the blessing. If you have been cared for by God, then care for others.
Jesus said to give as freely as you receive in Matthew 10:8. Whatever you've been given by God you should be willing to give to others. Especially when it comes to forgiveness. We have received forgiveness more than anything. We are challenged with forgiving others. We live in a society where forgiveness is frequently in the headlines. Many ask for forgiveness for mistakes but usually from people rather than from God.
We have misconceptions when it comes to forgiveness. We like to water it down. We apply forgiveness to anything and everything so much that forgiveness means nothing. We work at helping people not feel any guilty for fear that we may be judged by other people as unforgiving when it is not our place to forgive or to judge. That would be a God thing.
What did Jesus say about forgiveness? Forgiveness is not conditional. It is not something you earn. It is not something you deserve. It is not something you buy or bargain for. It is not something you get as part of a bargain if you promise to never do it again. It is unconditional.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." At that point, nobody had asked for forgiveness. Certainly nobody deserved it. Nobody had bargained for it. That was an unconditional offer of pardon. Genuine forgiveness is unconditional.
Growth in God does not minimize any pain. If there is forgiveness then there must have been hurt. We grow when we are in painful situations and if it is forgiven it must have hurt along the way. Minimizing pain is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is admitting the hurt but ending the pain by not letting it become your life allows growth through God. It is another of those painful circumstances where we have to let it go.
When I think of how much I've been forgiven, how much God is growing in my life and how much I've received, I forgive but not without pain. I am forgiven and therefore I forgive others. I am forgiven thru Christ and my path is to do as He did and provide forgiveness thru God. Forgiveness isn't available because you will never do wrong again. Forgiveness is there because you put your faith in Christ. That is the starting point for genuine Growth in God. If you don't feel like you are growing in God, you cannot share with another that which you do not have or feel. If you do not forgive yourself, you cannot forgive others. You are not able to do for another you cannot do for yourself.
However, with God's grace and love, the more you will grow in God and the more you can share with others. Jesus tells the story of a street walker who came to Him and in front of a bunch of other leaders, took a very expensive alabaster box of perfume and broke it and washed His feet with this very expensive perfume. The religious leaders were incensed by this. They said, look who's doing this -- this woman of ill repute. And she could have taken that box, sold the perfume for money and given the money to the poor and it would have been a whole lot better.
Jesus said, "Lighten up! She has been forgiven much so she's giving and growing in God's grace. She'll be remembered from this day forward because of what she has done." It was an act of worship, of love, of grace given. Because she felt the growth of God, her giving was gracious love. Start with remembering how much you have been forgiven. We are all forgiven and through that forgiveness we give in growth with God.
True growth in God is never easy. There are deep scars and remembering the pain I have received or that I have caused gives me faith to continue to accept God's gift of love and to then continue to share with others what God can and has done through me. Learning to follow the path God has set before us is not easy. But if it was easy, it would not provide the growth and faith we are given to be gracious to all people at all times. Asking God to help with bitterness and anger or resentment that will hurt me as much if not more than it will hurt others is a prayer and home for a peace that will calm the tattered soul in us.
Resentment hurts the resenter more that the resented. "For if you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly Parent will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive them their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
That is clear. Resentment is unhealthy and forgiveness through the growth in God will bring joy, peace and love in and with God today and eternity.
Rev. Suzie Chamness serves as the Interim Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC in New Port Richey, Florida. Contact her by email at revsuzie-at-spiritoflifemcc.org
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