Patience and Forgiveness
An unexpected thing happened this week in Beth Moore’s look at patience – she challenged me about forgiveness.
Now I was all ready for a great challenge on learning about how to be more patient – goodness knows I can always learn more on that subject. But Beth delved into the kind of godly patience that comes through mercy and focused in on forgiveness. Yeah – I was surprised too.
Here is how she introduced the subject to us:
This week we study a distinctive form of patience called makrothumia. Mercy drives this patience. Because God has mercy on us, He shows us incredible patience. Because we are becoming like Him, we reflect His patience to others.
As Beth usually does, she starts out with some Greek. There are two Greek words that are translated into the English word patience.
Hupomone is the capacity to bear up under things or circumstances and is inspired by hope.
Makrothumia is the quality found on the fruit of the Spirit. It means “long suffering in respect to persons” and is inspired by mercy. Mercy is fueled by forgiveness – the focal point of the study.
As I mentioned, this focus on forgiveness surprised me. I had not seen the connection before she pointed it out. Beth showed me that I can not be filled with the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience toward others when I am judging others and refusing to forgive. I need to be in submission to God and obeying his teaching to not judge others and to forgive as he has forgiven me. Makrothumia (patience) is impossible except when expressed by God through us.
But hold on. This is not an easy task – forgiveness. It can hold us back so strongly, as we cling to our bitterness and hurt – and often with good reason.
I have not had major trauma in my life. There is no huge, catastrophic injury that I need to move past. But I have my share of bitterness anyway. Yes I have some unresolved issues of forgiveness in my life.
Now, I keep thinking I have forgiven. But if I am honest with myself, I feel the pangs of bitterness and judgment quickly resurface – I have not sincerely released this pain.
Some of you may have serious, horrific reasons to be angry and hurt. Forgiveness may seem not only impossible, but wrong and unnecessary. Because I have not known such agony I am not the one to talk to you about forgiveness. But Beth, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, has and I was struck by what she has to say. I really wanted to share it with you, but of course I can only touch on part of it here. (As I have mentioned before, I recommend this study to you. Beth is an incredible and authentic teacher and I have learned so very much from her.)
So what struck me most about Beth’s teaching on forgiveness? It was her clear explanation about WHY we should forgive and how not forgiving is actually torturing us.
First Beth defined aphiemi (the Greek word translated forgive) “to let go from one’s power, possession, to let go free, let escape.” Basically it means to cut someone loose.
She concludes, “Unforgiveness is the means by which we securely bind ourselves to that which we hate most.” Ughh – the last thing we want is to be eternally tied to the crime that hurt us!
But so often that is exactly what happens. The perpetrator of the crime is long gone, not even remembering what he or she has done, and the victim is left carrying this huge burden of pain, anger and bitterness.
We cannot be free with this heavy burden of unforgiveness strapped on our backs.
Beth experienced this with her personal journey. She says that for years she refused to forgive her perpetrator. She feared that is she forgave it “would make it all right,” and of course it was not all right. She had been terribly scarred and damaged.
Finally God helped her realize that her failure to forgive was hurting her! She realized that God demanded her to forgive for her own sake so that she would not be tortured by it for the rest of her life. Yes – she says it has worked. She is not free from memories, but free from all torture.
In my life I have seen my unforgiving heart separate me from God and keep me from fully experiencing the fruit of the Spirit. And for what? It is a lie of Satan and of my own pride, holding me back, robbing me of so much. Beth says,
“It is impossible to be filled with the Spirit and filled with unforgivenss. Only Satan wins in the war of unforgiveness.”
I want no part of that foolishness. I want to obey God and to be free from the binds of sin and bitterness. First, because God has commanded me to forgive as he has forgiven me. And second, because I do not want to have anything to come between me and God. I want to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.
Only when we have allowed ourselves to forgive, through God’s power, can we move on in freedom to fully experience the mercy and patience with one another that is fruit of the Spirit.
If you have been traumatized in your past, I understand this can be nearly impossible to do. Please though, do not allow Satan to trap you there forever. Get help and perhaps Beth Moore’s teaching may help you.
And for the rest of us, who allow ourselves to load up burdens of unforgiveness and judgment, what are we doing?!? It may be so hard to swallow our pride and forgive or ask to be forgiven, but the rewards are so worth it. God knows what is best for us and he has commanded us to forgive. And thankfully, he in all his mercy first forgave us.
If you want a refresher on what Jesus taught about those who were forgiven of much, and then refuse to forgive, read the parable of the merciless servant (Matthew 18:15-35).
Dear Lord, I am so guilty of judging and not forgiving. Please forgive me – once again – and grant me the strength, humility and wisdom to respond with mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt me.
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links
to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for
the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm – Saturday 8am.
Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is
welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live
beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of