Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
Timothy Gallagher makes a great point on this step, so let me quote from the first section on his chapter on forgiveness:”This step in which we ask for and receive God’s forgiveness touches deep relational spaces in our hearts. We must approach it with great sensitivity, for much in the practice of examen depends upon how we understand and what our hearts feel in regard to this: asking God’s forgiveness.
“Jean Vanier writes: ‘Forgiveness and celebration are at the heart of community.’ The two pillars that sustain relationships are the joy of togetherness and the readiness, when human limitation emerges, to ask forgiveness. Vanier continues:
‘We can only truly accept others as they are, and forgive them, when we discover that we are truly accepted by God as we are and forgiven by him. It is a deep experience, knowing that we are loved and held by God in all our brokeness and littleness.’
“In its fourth step, the examen is the privileged daily space of this ‘deep experience’ of ‘knowing that we are loved and held by God in all our brokeness and littleness.’ To live the fourth step daily in all its richness strengthens our communion with God and empowers us to be agents of healing forgiveness in our communities, in our families, and in society as a whole.”
So forgiveness has a lot to do with our image of God, how we relate to one another, and of course avoiding cancer–be it emotional or even physical.
If our image of God is based on Jesus, Scripture, and nature, I believe we will then realize God is loving, merciful, and forgiving. That He has already dealt with our sin through Jesus’ sacrifice, so there is nothing to fear in approaching YHWH. The curtain separating us from God has been torn. It is only up to us to approach then. Confessing our failings brings healing via the touch of God. We are human. We are limited. We fail. Admit it. Release it. As God does. It actually feels pretty good to do so.
“The God of Christian revelation is a God who rejoices in the encounter of forgiveness, whose loving forgiveness respects human dignity and heals human hurt. Joy is nowhere so repeatedly mentioned in the Gospels as in Luke 15, the chapter of the parables of forgiveness: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. The profound link in the Scriptures between God’s forgiveness and joy indicates that the more truly we experience step four of the examen, the more this step will become a time of joy.”
And remember what Tozer said: “Whatever comes into your heart and mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
Relating to others. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Col.3:13) There’s a few places in the Bible mentioning that we will be forgiven the same measure we forgive. If we believe this, and our image of God is good, we will pretty darn quick to forgive. (We could start an organization named “PDQ Forgiveness”!) There is no healthy relationship without forgiveness. A while back we described forgiveness as:
Actively relieving others of payment for their wrongs against you. Our punishment of others, which is their payment, often comes in the form of our silence, but may also be our disgusted stare, slander, defamation, or simply our inner resentment.
Forgiveness refuses to punish with silence.
Forgiveness does not punish with a disgusted stare.
Forgiveness does not punish with slander.
Forgiveness does not punish with defamation.
Forgiveness does not nurture inner resentment.
Forgiveness is not easy.
There is no healthy relationship without forgiveness. Which leads us to avoiding cancer. So my mom, trying desperately to get me to eat green beans-which I hated, would tell me at dinner, “Rob, eat at least three green beans or you might get cancer.” Now I may be misquoting her slightly, but it was something like that, something mildly traumatizing. But we could definitely utter in truth a similar phrase related to forgiveness. “Relieve people of payment for their wrongs against you or else get cancer.” Maybe not physically (though I think that’s a possibility because of one story of someone I know), but at least emotionally or spiritually. Unforgiveness will tear you up inside. Don’t try it. It will eat away at you until not much is left of who you once were.
So forgiveness is huge. Receiving, as well as giving. It is healing. Even more than green beans.
Tomorrow, the fifth and final step: Renewal.
Always, only, for my King