Friday, March 6, 2015
Don’t withhold what you were freely given!
Wartime meat rationing started in 1940 and coupons were still needed for some shopping basket items ten years later. Where we have felt deprived, we may hold firmly on to what we feel we have, and this happens with love and grace – and forgiveness.
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
MY MOTHER had a difficult time during the Second World War, on her own with three small children (my father was serving in the Royal Navy and shore leave was rare and often cut short by a recall). The family had to move several times – naval bases were heavily bombed – and rationing was a big challenge. Little surprise that she ended up as a lifelong hoarder. We all have a bit of a hoarding instinct and we especially hang on to what we feel a lack of. If love and acceptance was in short supply early on in life, chances are you will be reticent about doling it out to others. You may even resent those who seem very free with a generous spirit.
The teaching “… if you forgive… if you do not forgive” can be taken as a cause and effect amounting to a simple command. That is the plain meaning. However, there is another level here, and it is about perception. If we have a strong sense of having been forgiven, out of gratitude we’ll be similarly generous with those who cause hurt or offence to us. But if we don’t perceive – perhaps because we don’t receive – the Father’s grace to us in forgiveness, then our generosity of spirit is probably going to be lacking.
Actually, to withhold forgiveness for any reason is a sin – that’s our third ‘W’. There’s no getting away from it. The church of Jesus Christ is a place of reconciliation and healing of relationship with God, a place where we receive (and are reminded of) the grace and forgiveness that comes to us through Jesus, as we stumble through life. Yet what is the most common sin in churches? Unforgiveness and all the relationship breakdown and bitterness (including gossip) that goes with that! We have seen how it’s done, modelled by Jesus, we gather in His name and yet we hear a fellow worshipper say: “I can’t forgive!” Or “I can’t be reconciled!”
That, of course, puts the welcome mat out for the enemy with the door ajar. Just come right in and mess up my life…
The remedy? Be generous, as God is generous. Let go of pride, and forgive, as you are forgiven. Extend the grace you have received. Don’t hoard it, give it away – and you will be amply resupplied.
CHECK IT OUT
- Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you have been less than generous in spirit towards another. Could this be why you are battling some fears and insecurities – or even health issues?
- When did you see a generosity of spirit in action – someone else being treated better than they deserved? What did you observe in the generous person’s life that you would like in yours?