From Grudging to Forgiving

 In Pastor Jeff's Blog

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive”. – C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness is hard work. In my experience the most difficult person in the world to forgive is myself. And in my conversations with others I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in that struggle. How do we learn to forgive ourselves?

The name “Satan” means “Accuser”. It refers to the prosecuting attorney in a court, and in the Hebrew Scriptures that’s the role that Satan plays in God’s heavenly court (eg. Job 1:6). Satan brings accusations against people. It’s a voice we’re all familiar with. It’s that voice in your head that, after you’ve blown it, says over and over again, “You’re a failure. You always blow it. You’re worthless. You’re not worthy of love or friendship. You could never be forgiven.” Psychologists refer to this voice as your “Inner Critic”.

The name Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel is “paraclete” (John 14:16, 26). Often translated “helper”, the name literally means “Advocate” and describes the role of defense attorney in a court of law, the one who defends you against accusations. The Spirit speaks the truth into our lives (John 16:13) and reminds us of our identity as beloved, forgiven children of God (Romans 8:16).

We all blow it. We all fail. We all do things we deeply regret. Learning to forgive ourselves begins when we recognize whose voice we’re listening to – the voice of Satan (our Inner Critic) or the voice of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. One speaks lies and the other speaks truth.

When I’ve blown it and I’m wallowing in guilt and shame, as soon as I become aware that I’ve been listening to the voice of Satan I stop and name it and talk back to it, “I know your voice, and I’m not listening to your lies.” And then I pray, “Holy Spirit, speak the truth of God’s love into my life.” These are moments when I find it helpful to have memorized Scripture such as 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We are loved and we are forgiven. That’s the truth that sets us free to forgive ourselves.

Your failures have consequences. Relationships may require reconciliation. Reparations may need to be made. But your identity is not in question. You are a beloved, forgiven child of God.

Need a reminder today? Watch and listen to this.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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