Monday, March 1, 2010

When others fail

I have heard a lot of people talk about personal failure and how it is harder to forgive ourselves then to forgive other people. Perhaps this is true in some cases when we have inflicted some great pain on someone, but in most cases I have experienced it is much harder to forgive others when they fail us. I don't know if you would be honest about this and admit it but when people fail us it causes a great deal of emotions to be stirred up. I think we try to be noble about it and we say the words that we are suppose to say but the hurt and the pain are very real as the sense of rejection takes root. None of us like that feeling but there are some ways to handle it.

The first thing you need is to make sure your focus is right. You cannot understand or accept any direction from God's Word or any comfort from the Holy Spirit if your focus on Jesus has slipped. This may seem like such a simple thing but often the pain of other people's failures can cause our eyes to slip off of Jesus and onto ourselves. That makes things so much worse and the pain takes a deeper root in us and then it is difficult for us to remember how much God forgave:

 Forgive us our sins,
      for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
(Luke 11:4)

There are also consequences for lack of forgiveness:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Yet, how will any such warning and awareness touch our heart if our eyes are on us instead of Jesus? Do we dare say then that this is the greatest danger of someone else's failure, that it could knock us off of our path? The fact is that we can do nothing to change another person's heart. Even though their failure impacts us, we do not own it. The only heart that we can do anything about is our own and we cannot use someone else's failure as an excuse for our own. We are cautioned to be careful in our attitude:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:1-2)

We could say that forgiveness, when people fail us, comes down to the simplicity of faith. We can receive lots of instruction, study the most eloquent sermons, read hundreds of inspirational thoughts and yet miss the whole point because we do not have enough faith to forgive. Forgiveness is as basic as it gets.

I am going to be perfectly honest with you. There are times when I get extremely upset when people's failure to be faithful, to be obedient, to walk in their responsibility prevents us from moving into what Jesus has called us into. I get upset when people's failure impacts my children or interferes with my ability to look after my children. Yet, as I reflect on these brief moments I realize that these are my failure moments; failure to believe God's promises. failure to trust, failure to forgive, failure to lean on him instead of other people. It takes some effort but as I get my focus back on Jesus I am reminded of his love, forgiveness, and sacrifices for me.

I cannot and will not allow other people's failings to affect my obedience and faithfulness in the mission to which I have been called. I cannot allow unforgiveness to block my obedience. That would be the ultimate triumph of the enemy over me as he stirs up my emotions against these people. The fact is that Jesus said that the Father's forgiveness is tied to my ability to forgive and at times that scares me:

But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

Of course forgiveness is a fruit of love, of our love for Jesus. The moment you struggle with forgiveness you can be assured that your eyes have slipped. You have been called to obedience. If you fail in this no excuse will be accepted because you are the only one responsible for your obedience. Obedience is our faith in action and forgiveness from a heart of love is the most Christlike thing we could ever do. Let the failures of others fall away from you. You do not own them, they do not belong to you and the only defense against them is forgiveness. Keep your eyes and heart fixed on Jesus as our example and the object of our affection.

No comments: