I really don’t know why I am writing about forgiveness today. No one has particularly severely wronged me since my last blog, so I have not been stretched in the immediate past few days, personally, about this aspect of being a follower of Jesus. However the draw seems to be on my heart to say something about “Forgiveness.” Perhaps it will help you, if you are struggling with that issue today. I hope so.
Obviously this is a blog and not a book, therefore its scope and depth is limited. If you want to read a life changing book, then read R.T. Kendall’s “Total Forgiveness.” If I could put one book in everyone’s hands, that would be it. It could help to revolutionise your life, your relationships, your marriage, your work place. Have we realised how many situations could be transformed today if people, if you or I, decided to totally forgive another?
Anyway, here is my thought to mull over. I have said in these blogs how much I appreciate the writings of Henry Nouwen. (I feel that for all people who might worry about my theology when I reveal that , that I have to say “Of course, I don’t agree with everything he says… obviously!” But, that sounds so patronising and “small” to put in such a caveat about the writings of someone who has helped untold numbers of people through his sharing of experiencing God in his own human vulnerability.) A theme throughout his writings could be summed up in this phrase, “To forgive is to allow other people not to be God.” (“A Spirituality of Living,” H. Nouwen – it is a short and inexpensive book. Get a copy and read it!)
Throughout my pastoral life I have tried by the grace of God to help people who have been severely wronged in one way or another. In this blog I am thinking today more of the run of the mill wounds and hurts and fallouts, and tensions that we experience as part of normal every day life, in the home, in the workplace, in church , in friendships, relationships etc. Probably you have had opportunity to forgive at least 3 people who have wronged you in some way this very day!
I want to help you think through what that quote from Henri Nouwen may mean for you today. Let me ask you some questions: “Are you putting too much expectation on someone, demanding more than they can be to you or give to you? Have you made room for them being who they are, not who you want them to be for you? Can you accept that though they can offer you something of God, they are not God?
As a pastor, while ministering up North, I learned how best to run a church. For the first half of my ministry I tried to keep everybody happy. I received a “eureka” moment of revelation one day. I could never keep everyone happy, but I might be able to keep everybody equally unhappy! I remember the joy and laughter that accompanied that insight and the decision I made. It has brought me joy ever since! That became my way of operating. No one “group” in the church got it all their own way, even those who were supportive and agreed with me the most, so no one was completely happy, but everyone was happy enough. Well, almost everyone, except the handful who didn’t like my predecessor and don’t like the minister who is there now! It has been harder when I know perhaps I have disappointed people pastorally who hoped I might have helped them more than I was able to. But I am not God.
Have you learned the principle of “enough?” Perhaps a parent is reading this today and needs to hear that word with some sort of relief. I remember hearing a top psychotherapist saying that what children needed were parents who were good enough. They are not God. (Perhaps you have to still grow up and forgive your parents today that they are not.) You can apply that principle in all sorts of ways, situations and relationships, and maybe you need to do so today. Gratefulness is a great life-giving principle. Joyce Meyer said in a T.V Broadcast lately, “Do you realise that there would be many people in the world grateful to have your spouse, your house, your crummy job?” By the way, I may as well shock a few more: I think Joyce Meyer is one of the best bible teachers around today. (I feel that for all the people who may worry about my theology when I reveal that, that I have to say…. wait a minute, there I go again… Fear of man is a snare and makes blogs needlessly long!!) I don’t know anyone who more successfully and honestly helps people understand what it means in practical real life situations to die to self and live in Christ more effectively than Joyce Meyer. No wonder many Christians don’t like her. Hearing how to put into practice death to self is never pleasant! Please don’t bother commenting if you don’t agree… I won’t approve or reply to the comment. The type of blog I am writing is not the place for debate….. It is simply a beggar sharing with other hungry beggars where I have found bread that nourishes and sustains me, in the hope it will nourish and sustain you too…
Rant over, so let me get back on track now with where I was heading. Your day could be transformed if you could accept that someone you expected more from either legitimately or unreasonably, is not God. No human being can satisfy that deepest place in each of us to be completely loved, completely understood, treated every moment completely the way we need to be or should be. No human being can be the answer to all the unsettledness that may be in your very spirit today. Instead of trying to get “them” to give you more of what you are looking for, or trying to force them to behave in a different way towards you, why not forgive them and be thankful for who and what they are and have done that is positive. Let them be them and God be God to you. Be thankful rather than living from a spirit of complaint and nursed injustice.
I have never looked for justice from men or women when I have been wronged personally, though justice in the world and for others matters a lot to me, especially for the poor and the persecuted. I am a follower of one who suffered the greatest injustice possible, Jesus Christ. I am not saying it is wrong to look for justice, because God cares about justice and its presence in the world one of the top priorities of the Risen Christ, but please, don’t put your personal life on hold until you sort out everyone who has ever wronged you and until they say, “Sorry.” That will waste years, which you, not the locusts, have eaten up. The biggest challenge of my life in this area, at least to date, came a few years ago when in the face of an injustice that was about to begin and to go on on for many years ,God spoke to me. I was reading R.T Kendall’s book, mentioned above. He was speaking about the fact that Jesus was vindicated in the Spirit. I felt as I read that God asked me a question, “Kenny, will you be content with a secret vindication?” I said, “Yes Lord,” and I meant it. The immediate effect was a fresh meeting with God in a vision/dream and a promise of a future beyond the injustice if I would be content with a secret vindication now.What I was shown in the vision came true in each detail. I never went back on my “yes,” to the vindication of God in my heart being enough for me to be happy. I believe that because of that, I experienced what is said of Christ in Isaiah 53, a chapter about the injustice of the cross. “The will of God shall prosper in his hand.”
I am only trying to tell you what works. This is neither the be all nor the final word on forgiveness, injustice, etc. But I am also speaking like this to perhaps save some reader from wasted years and bitterness and going round and round in circles waiting for something more from someone that may never come… because they are not God. If you feel you are getting nowhere fast, or getting nowhere full stop, perhaps there is something for you to think about in this blog today. If you find yourself getting angry as you read it, it is probably a sure sign there is something in it for you! You maybe want to say to me, “But you don’t understand…” Well, even if you told me the whole story, I would still try by the grace of God to share the same truths. Don’t lose sight of what God may be saying to you today through wanting to raise your hand in objection and offer and speak forth “buts” or “what about this or that…” That is too convenient a ploy that all of use to shirk a painful facing up to truth when it comes too close for comfort.
If it all works out publicly in this life and you get all the exonerations, appreciations and honourings that you crave, well then, that is a bonus. Thank God for it… but perhaps ask the useful question as to why you crave these things so much. However, things may not work out, justice wise, in this life. Just read Hebrews 11, or think of your persecuted brothers and sisters in the world today if you have heard a teaching that everything works out fairly rather than God taking all things and working them for the good result and purpose of making you and me like His Son. Things may or may not work our fairly, no matter how much faith you have or how convinced that God is passionate for justice… He is by the way! Is it time to live for another Kingdom today. Even non-Christians can be happy when they get justice. Being happy when you are treated right is not a trait sufficient to mark us out as followers of Jesus. You are in a different Kingdom; the already here, increasingly coming but not yet fully here Kingdom of Heaven. You have an eternity for things to come right. Is it time to ask God to help you forgive and move on. Is it time for you to discover the happiness and joy a Christian can know even when life or people have been unfair?
Somewhere in my mind there is another thought that I have picked up from R.T. Kendall about spirituality or maturity as a Christian. It is about closing the time gap between what God says and you actually doing it. Is the God who loves you and who wants you to know life in all its fullness speaking to you through this blog today? I hope you can close the time gap and not let disappointments and injustices eat your life away. “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart!” You may be greatly gifted, but do you bear the marks of still being a spiritual infant? Is it time to grow up and discover the way life in the Kingdom of Heaven really works here on earth? I want to say to you what is not an easy truth to communicate, especially to those of you who are very conscious of being faith-filled Spirit-filled charismatics! You need to be filled with Bible truth too, otherwise you may well spend your life getting nowhere other than round and round the roundabout of frustration and distress, again and again. Here is a truth you really need to hear, no matter who may have taught you otherwise: There is one thing that you know will come your way if you are really following Christ in this world: an unjust cross. In a church where worldly values seem to be becoming more respected than bible values, you can expect the same. Whatever you may feel is the right way biblically to think of the church, let me add another definition for you to think about: Church is a crash course in forgiving people.
So, stop telling everyone about “it’ or “him” or “her” or “them” or “that church” or “ that minister!” Stop repeating the story. If something has been done against you that is criminal then be assured you should refer this to the police or the relevant authority. The fact that a person may end up in prison does not mean you have not forgiven them, nor does it stop them seeking the forgiveness of God. If you need to speak to a minister or a counsellor because you genuinely want to be free, then I would advise you do that too, but don’t spread the story just to make you feel better and to let everyone know what that other person is really like. As R.T. says, that can be a secret way of getting revenge, by lowering another person in the eyes of someone else, who didn’t need to know. The circle of those who need to know in order for you to be helped and move on is very much smaller than the circle who need to know for purposes of the expression of un-forgiveness and revenge.
I agree with RT that there is nothing harder than total forgiveness. Though it may be hard, it could give you back your life… today!
PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and to share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is
In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.