Deep Forgiveness

I am proofing a book for my husband which is a commentary on the book of Hebrews. I was working away when I came to this paragraph, which I feel I must share with you all because it is so good and applies to everything, especially as we consider father hunger or mother hunger or other ways we have been wronged in this life. So here is my favorite author, from an upcoming book:

“We are dealing here with deep forgiveness. The Lord Jesus did not come, live a perfect life, die on the cross and come back from the dead in order to dab around the edges of our wound. Our complicity in the sin of Adam, and our continuing screwed-up-ness required a great remedy, which could not be had apart from the work of a great Savior. But remember that Jesus is saving us from our sins, and not merely from the consequences of our sins. And one of the central sins he is saving us from is the sin of the double standard — wanting to receive forgiveness on easy terms, and wanting to extend it with the heart of a stickler for justice. We want to borrow easily, and lend with difficulty. We want our fingers open to receive, and our fist clenched for giving. But Jesus has given us fair warning that we do not receive forgiveness on our terms. Not at all. In the Lord’s prayer, we are taught to say this to God — ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (Matt. 6:12). ‘Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.’ Do the words stick in the throat? ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’ (Matt. 18:21-35). Forgiving others is not optional. This is the very heart of the gospel message.”

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22 thoughts on “Deep Forgiveness

  1. “Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.”

    Wow…that really expands it, doesn’t it? It’s not just “Forgive me X, Y and Z as I’ve forgiven them X, Y and Z,” it’s “Look at my entire being with an attitude of gracious acceptance and love just as I look at them with…um…oops….”

    You can’t imagine how timely this notion is for me. I know just where I need to apply it this very minute!

  2. That kind of grace, that kind of forgiveness brings with it such freedom, such peace and evenness of spirit. It’s more than just getting into the “hot soapy water” it’s spring cleaning from the inside out.

    Valerie is right, this is very timely indeed. The Lord is so good to His people, to give them a word in His perfect timing.

    So the question is: Once you’ve done that kind of forgiving, what do you do when you’re minding your own business singing a hymn while washing dishes and all of a sudden all these thoughts and emotions and anger start swarming you out of nowhere?

    My husband quotes Martin Luther to me. He says: “Well, you know what Luther said: ‘you can’t stop the birds from flying around your head but you can stop them from nesting there.'” I hope I got that quote right.

    Lately I’ve been using what God said to Cain as a way of keeping those kinds of sins at bay. I keep telling myself, “Sin is crouching at the door and his desire is for you.” It has been a very helpful reminder.

  3. I think one thing that is so difficult about deep forgiveness is that it is often something that requires continual action. Not in the sense that you have to muster up this forgiveness on your own. Of course, we know that is quite impossible. But what I’m referring to is extending forgiveness towards those whose actions may not necessarily change towards us though we continue to walk in forgiveness towards them. Nancy, could you say a word about this where forgiveness is possible but mutual reconciliation has not yet unfolded and how confusing that can be at times? I’m hoping I am making some sense and you are able to understand what I’m attempting to communicate. I am really enjoying the depth of your recent blogs and the circle of women who comment on them. It’s like having virtual fellowship almost every afternoon when I sit at my computer. Though I realize it never should take the place of face to face real live person connection. But I can sure enjoy both!

  4. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for this very timely post.

    Recently, I was trying to convey this truth to two of my children who were harboring unforgiveness toward one another.

    Since they pray the Lord’s Prayer together before bed, I think tonight I’m going to present it the way you described, “Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.” Now THAT’S a scary thought!

    However, do you have any thoughts about how to forgive those who don’t ask for or even WANT forgiveness from you? What about forgiving those who continue to act hatefully? When I think about the Prodigal Son, I think how easy that would be. He came to his father broken, humbled, and repentant.

    And if God requires repentance from us before He forgives us, what are your thoughts on why we are required to forgive someone who is unrepentant?

    Forgiving those who are repentant is easy, but the following is more difficult:

    “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6:27-31, NKJV)

    What does living this out look like? Especially in light of setting boundaries with those who consistently and repetitively sin against you? Forgiving the repentant is easy. Any ideas on forgiving the arrogant and unrepentant?

  5. Nancy,

    Thank you for sharing Doug’s quote. That is good stuff. Oh that Lord prayer get’s me. Nice and thick and a little hard to swallow. I think I’ll need a drink with that one. But I love it, bring it on!!!
    By the way, I love the Luther quote, I had not heard that one.

  6. This brings to mind your father in law’s book about How not to be Bitter, which really changed my life.
    These ideas on forgiveness really are the essence of all that matters for us. I am so thankful for how your family has been used by God to bring this message that we are forgiven of real sin and must also be forgiving of real sin out in the open.
    No more fakey Christian niceness. We have get real and forgive as Christ has forgiven us, and that is dying to ourselves.

  7. Excellent word, Nancy. There will not be any healing of the father hunger issues until forgiveness and repentance become a reality in our lives.
    A counselor told me something very helpful years ago, “Mindi, Jesus would invite you not to keep score.” He was a very expensive counselor. I think it cost me ten bucks every time that he said it in the course of an hour. I was filled with bitterness. It was money well spent.

  8. I have to agree with the above two responses that mention bitterness. Whenever I have difficulty forgiving someone, if I look a little deeper, the real issue isn’t their sin, but mine–my bitterness. Your husband also gave a sermon on bitterness a few years back (I think in 2003) that really hit home with some practical application. (If you remember every detail, and you find yourself having imaginary conversations with this person…) That was a life-changing (and relationship-changing) sermon for me. That, and the hours of tears and prayer it instigated–I particularly appreciated his admonition to stay in prayer until all the bitterness is rooted out, and that one might have to be a jack-in-the-box for a while (Up. No, there’s more bitterness. Back down on those knees!) It really is a root that runs deep, and you don’t know how deep until you start asking God to pull it out! (Dandelions come to mind…) God is so good, and y’all are such a blessing!

  9. Hi! I think Nancy already answered Stacy’s question. I liked the blog post very much. I believe sometimes we sin and we aren’t truly sorry because we justify our actions. Then much later (God is so merciful and patient with us) we end up reaping what we sowed. Only then do we realize the hurt we inflicted upon another and start to think of the damage we did to another brother or sister in Christ.

    Nancy’s post:
    But Jesus has given us fair warning that we do not receive forgiveness on our terms. Not at all. In the Lord’s prayer, we are taught to say this to God — ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (Matt. 6:12). ‘Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.’ Do the words stick in the throat? ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’ (Matt. 18:21-35). Forgiving others is not optional. This is the very heart of the gospel message.”**************

  10. I understand how crucial forgiveness is and that we are always called to forgive as we have been forgiven. But I still wonder if there is a difference between forgiveness and actual restoration of the relationship? I have heard it said that reconciliation is dependent upon the proper repentance of the offending party. We have extended family members who profess Christ but continue to behave in rude and unkind ways on a regular basis. They have been approached about their offensive behavior but refuse to admit any wrongdoing or to change their behavior. I realize we must extend forgiveness but is it ever appropriate to decline to fellowship with family members who refuse to repent and continue to offend?

  11. JAT, I suspect one could go through David’s Psalms and find requests that correspond fairly well with the petitions in the Lord’s prayer. Re the petition about forgiveness, David certainly needed to ask for it, as he was a Class A sinner. On the flip side, he often pleaded with God for relief from his enemies, noting that when they were ill or troubled, he had grieved and sought to help them, but they hardly returned the favor. In his behavior toward Saul we see that he was willing to show grace and mercy even toward one who was trying to kill him.

    Does that get at what you were looking for?

  12. ‘Dear God, please harbor toward me all the thoughts I harbor toward others.’ That one sentence just stopped me in my tracks.

    Oh, that we might examine our own hearts on a regular basis and truly repent of our sinful thoughts and desires.

    Thanks for a great post…

  13. Nancy…. Just wanted you to know that I’m just shooing away down here. At one point this week I was dusting and those pestering thoughts came and after a few minutes I saw this bug or something fly by my dresser mirror so I went after it to kill it when all of a sudden it went off in my head “oh, I need to shoo that stuff I was just allowing my brain to fester on.” I started laughing at how beautiful God’s Providence is. He even sent me a little bug to fly right by me to remind me to shoo. After that I couldn’t find that flying thing, it had disappeared. 🙂

  14. How does this kind of thing (this is only one example) fit into the context of forgiveness?

    Ps 139:21-24
    21 Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee?
    22 I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.
    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;
    24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

  15. JAT. there’s a difference between being offended that God has been offended and being offended that I have been offended. The first reflects humility and honor toward Him; the second, pride toward ourselves.

  16. Well, then, let’s try some other examples:

    Ps 35:1-9
    1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.
    2 Take hold of buckler and shield, and rise up for my help.
    3 Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”
    4 Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.
    5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on.
    6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.
    7 For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my soul.
    8 Let destruction come upon him unawares; and let the net which he hid catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall.
    9 And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; it shall exult in His salvation.


    Ps 55:12-16
    12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him.
    13 But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend.
    14 We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
    15 Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.
    16 As for me, I shall call upon God, and the LORD will save me.


    Ps 109:1-21
    1 O God of my praise, do not be silent!
    2 For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
    3 They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without cause.
    4 In return for my love they act as my accusers; but I am in prayer.
    5 Thus they have repaid me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
    6 Appoint a wicked man over him; and let an accuser stand at his right hand.
    7 When he is judged, let him come forth guilty; and let his prayer become sin.
    8 Let his days be few; let another take his office.
    9 Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
    10 Let his children wander about and beg; and let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.
    11 Let the creditor seize all that he has; and let strangers plunder the product of his labor.
    12 Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.
    13 Let his posterity be cut off; in a following generation let their name be blotted out.
    14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
    15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that He may cut off their memory from the earth;
    16 Because he did not remember to show lovingkindness, but persecuted the afflicted and needy man, and the despondent in heart, to put them to death.
    17 He also loved cursing, so it came to him; and he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from him.
    18 But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, and it entered into his body like water, and like oil into his bones.
    19 Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself, and for a belt with which he constantly girds himself.
    20 Let this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, and of those who speak evil against my soul.
    21 But Thou, O GOD, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Thy name’s sake; because Thy lovingkindness is good, deliver me;

    Similar sentiments could be supplied but I think you get my point. I’m not trying to be obnoxious here. Just asking how this fits into the context of forgiveness that you have put forth. Thanks…

  17. Oh, one more thought: To help understand David’s attitude toward his enemies we can’t forget the places where he says (yes, in the midst of pleading for justice), “When they were sick or in trouble, I bent over backwards to take care of them and I deeply grieved with them.” Also, remember how he had Saul in his power, but did not take it upon himself to mete out punishment. He did something similar when Absalom rebelled, fleeing rather than fighting his own son.

    Forgiveness isn’t pretending that sin isn’t sin (like liberals think). See my comment under the “Finding Forgiveness” post — sin is refusing to demand that I collect on the sinner’s debt to me, but I can still pray for relief from the sinner’s ongoing sin, even if it’s to the point of asking God to punish him.

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