Give, Forgive and be Forgiven

There are some things that come naturally… and the word “naturally” is derived from the word “nature”. Put another way, there are some things that are simply not in our nature to do.

Generally speaking, it is not in our nature to enjoy pain. And when someone indicates that they enjoy pain, we classify them as being mentally ill, and refer to them as masochists. It is not in our nature to want to fail. Nobody gets up one morning and says, “This is a good day to fail”. And so anyone who consistently wants to fail and be broke, is also considered mentally ill. Because it is unnatural to want to fail.

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High on the list of things that are not in our nature to do are to give and to forgive. Our mother carried us in her womb for nine months and during that time we were predominantly receivers, not givers. After we were born we were almost totally dependent on our parents and care-givers for everything.  They fed us. They cleaned us. They bathed us. They lifted us. And some babies can get very comfortable with that status quo, and can even become very demanding for their parent’s attention. All through this stage, we were predominantly receivers, and not givers.

Our formative years of dependency and being pampered predisposes us to become very possessive.  The muscles of the fist are among the first to be exercised as the baby repeatedly clenches its fist. When they hold on to anything, they are not letting go. That extends to our early childhood when we have to be taught to share our toys with others. Interestingly enough, generally speaking, we don’t have to be taught to want to play with other children’s toys, but we do have to be taught to let other children play with our toys.

And so, throughout our early formative years, circumstances, nature and nurture predisposed us to become receivers, and even takers and yes, perhaps even grabbers… whereas the art of giving and sharing has to be diligently cultivated. And, dependent on how good a job was done, we run the risk of carrying the “receiver-getter-taker-grabber” mentality into our adult life.

 Unfortunately, as unnatural as it is, our power and our strength and our prosperity lies more in giving, than it does in receiving. Those who master this truth have no difficulty with making progress.

No wonder Jesus, the greatest philosopher and teacher that ever lived, gently reminds us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

But there is at least one other thing that is as unnatural to us as is giving… and that is forgiving.

When someone does us wrong, as frequently happens in a variety of ways, the natural thing is to  get back at them.    Somebody pushes me and my instinctive reaction is to push back, or at least to want to push back, depending on their size.

And when we do not immediately react to our natural instinct to push back, we burden our minds with the negative forces and heavy loads of grudges and revenge and bitterness. These negative forces consume our otherwise productive capacities as they fester in, and infest our sub-conscious, to the point that they erode our peace and tranquility and replace them with anxiety and overpowering stress which invariably contribute to ill health.

It is now universally understood in scientific circles, that the holding of grudges and harboring thoughts of revenge first destroy the holder of these thoughts, long before it impacts the intended target, if at all. As unnatural as it is, forgiveness is always in our best interest, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. It is the polar opposite of holding a grudge, resentment, revenge and bitterness.

Christians sometimes have a difficulty reconciling the position of the Old Testament law on issues like forgiveness. The Old Testament specifically prescribes an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot and a life for a life.

On the other hand, the New Testament prescribes the opposite. We are to love those who hate us and say all manner of evil things against us. We are to forgive one another even as Christ has forgiven us. And therein lies the rub.

Jesus told his audience that He did not come to destroy the Old Testament law, but to fulfill it. The just punishment for your deliberately breaking my foot, is for me or the State to break your foot. That will never change. in effect Jesus is saying that I Godfrey McAllister have done some really bad things called sins that injure God, and which carry an eternal punishment. Jesus then reminds me that He died on the Cross of Calvary and was raised again to pay the price and bear the punishment for my sins. It is on this basis, and on the basis of this alone that He then commands me to forgive someone who injures me, and who deserves to be punished, since Jesus has forgiven me although I deserved to be punished for injuring God.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, let us descend into the familiar realm of selfish motives. Forgiveness of others is all about an investment in me, and not in others. To be clear, Our actions have  intentional and/or unintentional consequences. Forgiveness does not extend to the consequences which always have to be addressed.

Forgiveness is about detoxing my mind, and removing the poisonous toxins of bitterness, grudges, revenge and the desire to get even that are guaranteed to sap my emotional vitality, inflict illness on my body and paralyze my propensity for progress.

And here is one for the road. When we willingly and lovingly give, we receive exponentially more than we actually gave. When we forgive, we do so not only because we have been forgiven by God, but it lays the groundwork for us to be forgiven by others, when that time comes. And take my word for it. That time will come, perhaps sooner than you think.

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