Day 134 - The Stench

 
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A pastor came to speak at our church not too long ago. His name is Brad Reed. He is part of the Dream Center in New York City. Brad is an interesting character. He's from the deep south, talks really fast and has a perspective on a characteristic that victors have to have in order to live out the life God has special made for them.
Brad knows a great deal about the issue of forgiveness. A lot has gone on in his life that has made it so that he has had to forgive. I'm learning that forgiveness is a key to victor living. Without it, not only are we doomed to victim thinking, we are going to eventually become victimizers in ways that will make forgiveness an issue someone else will need to deal with as it relates to our offenses.
Forgiveness is really the key when it comes to the issue of victor living and victim thinking. We can either forgive and get ourselves positioned where victor living is a real possibility or we can wallow in that place of offense where bitterness threatens to take over in our lives. Bitterness is probably one of the greatest killers to relationship we will ever have to deal with. Letting bitterness wrap its tentacles in our soul is what victim thinkers do when they simply can't get to a place where they can forgive all the things those have done to them that has brought offense, great or small.
Brad said this about bitterness, "Bitterness is offense that has spoiled in our lives". That statement really struck home for me because of something I was able to experience many years ago. I had the privilege of going down to Mississippi a few months after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I spent a week down there helping families clean up from the devastation caused by that powerful hurricane. In one home there was a team of 15 of us clearing out the house of a sweet woman fighting a battle with cancer. This particular house was over one mile from the coast and yet the walls were all stained twelve feet off the ground. The title surge was twelve feet deep that far from the coast.
Everything in the house had to go. I was in the garage working with a chiropractor from Connecticut. He was a giant of a man. Tough as nails. We were in the garage cleaning out all the silt from among this lady's possessions. All of a sudden there came wafting through my respirator a smell that I will never forget. Inside the house some of our team mates were moving the refrigerator out to the curb. They happened to drop the fridge and the doors came flying open. Inside was food that had spoiled and rotted. All of us gagged for hours as we simply couldn't get that smell out of the air.
That's the picture I got when Brad spoke of bitterness being offense that has spoiled. We all get offended from time to time. Some of the offenses we encounter are serious, some of them are really quite petty. You know what I'm talking about here. No matter how serious or how petty, offense is something that has to be dealt with. Failing to deal with offense makes it so it ripens and ripens until suddenly that offense spoils. The stink from spoiled offenses is just as bad as that smell that came from a waterlogged refrigerator that had sat in the hot, humid Mississippi air for several months after Hurricane Katrina.
The only fix I have found for offense is forgiveness. Hey, I know how hard that is to hear. It is not an easy thing to forgive, particularly when the people you need to forgive will probably never change. But, let me tell you something. If bitterness is spoiled offense, I never want that kind of stink to be what others think about me. That's exactly what will happen if I allow offense to spoil in my life in such a way as to cause bitterness. That stench is something I will never forget and I hope it drives me to forgive time and time again. I hope you too will get rid of that stench in your life by forgiving as well.
Forgiveness is so hard because of what we think we have to do as part of the forgiveness process. When we forgive we are not letting the offender off the hook. When we forgive we are not saying what they did to us was OK. When we forgive we are not required to put ourselves in a place where we have to come into relationship with the offender. Forgiveness has so little to do with the offender and so much to do with us.
It is us that God is worried about when it comes to forgiveness. He wants us free, heck He died for our freedom. Offense that leads to bitterness is nothing short of a prison sentence for those of us who have been offended. Forgiveness is the key to getting out of that prison.
Brad said something about forgiveness that really hit home in my life. He said, "There is no way to forgive someone if you feel superior to them." Ouch, that resonated deep in my being. How many times have I been offended, and then held a grudge against that jerk that offended me? Every time that person came to mind I see how bad they are and think how right and good I am. If that isn't a superior attitude, I don't know what is.
How can I ever forgive if I think I'm better than that person who offended me? You see as badly as that person treated me, I've treated God even worse. If God can forgive me, then shouldn't I be able to forgive that person who offended me? Brad put it this way, "The gospel is the greatest equalizer there is. It first takes us down to the level of dirt and then raises us up to the heights of an heir where all of God is available to all of us ."
The Bible tends to agree with what Brad said about forgiveness. Check out today's reading with me.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14 (NIV)
If we forgive, then God will forgive us. By implication the opposite must be just as true. If we find it hard to forgive others then it sure seems like God will find it hard to forgive us as well. As bad as I hate that stench of bitterness in my life, I can't stand the thought of not being forgiven by my Heavenly Father.
How ripe are you right now? Has something happened in your life that might be turning to bitterness? I can't urge you enough to stop what you are doing and forgive. It's really simple, but I have to tell you it's not easy. Picture that person who has offended you and simply say, "I forgive you." Then every time a picture of that person comes to mind forgive again. If you are like me it might take a thousand times before forgiveness really starts to take hold. Don't worry about that. The minute you take the first step, God rushes in. He disinfects your life so that stench of bitterness will be a distant memory to you and to those around you. He also opens the door to a prison you have been locked up in for way too long.
Forgiveness is such an important characteristic of the victor God made you to be. Honestly, forgiveness is the only thing we can do to be the most god-like in this world. It takes a big God to forgive. That bigness resides in each and everyone of us He calls His Child. Don't let offense be something that makes it possible for victim thinking to take over. Forgive, forgive and then forgive again. Your freedom depends on you being like the Father who has done so much to make you His child.

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