Sunday, January 11, 2009

The power of forgiveness

The power of forgiveness
1. In the chapter, Festival of Friends, pages 209-217, Mack experience just the visual aspects of heaven, sees the glory of Jesus, experiences the depths of Jesus’ love for him and has a tear-filled reunion and reconciliation with his father. “’We are coming full circle. Forgiving your dad yesterday was a significant part of your being able to know me as Father today (Papa changed from an African American woman to a dignified older man). ‘” (pg. 221)

Q. Have you been deeply offended by a family member, friend, or someone you trusted? If so, what would it take for you to completely forgive them?

Q. Would it help if they were punished? If they said they were sorry? If they tried to make it up to you with some kind of compensation?

Q. What if someone else took the full punishment in their place and then offered you the priceless gift of eternal life?
Q. Jesus said, "’If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him.’ The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’" (Luke 17:3-5) Why is this so hard to do? Don’t we run the risk of enabling someone to continue in sin by forgiving all the time? Why or why not?
2. Papa asked Mack to forgive Missy’s killer. ‘Mackenzie, don’t you see that forgiveness is an incredible power – a power you share with us, a power Jesus gives to all whom he indwells so that reconciliation can grow? When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, nor mine. In my relationship with those men, I will never bring up what they did, or shame them, or embarrass them.’
‘I don’t think I can do this,’ Mack answered softly.

Q. In your opinion, how is forgiveness ‘an incredible power’ that we share with God?

Q. Mack doesn’t think he is capable of ever forgiving the man who murdered his daughter. Papa reminds him that he knows how hard forgiveness can be. When Jesus was murdered on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) And his Father did forgive them. But even with Jesus’ example, how could a person ever forgive an unspeakable crime committed against them?

Q. Papa told Mack that the power to forgive comes from Jesus indwelling him. The Apostle Paul writes, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you…” (Romans 8:9-10) So, as a believer in Jesus, how do I access this power to forgive?
3. ‘I want you to (forgive the murderer). Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver,’ answered Papa, ‘to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly.

Q. The Bible says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) How has God forgiven you (us)?

Q. Jesus said, “Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) When we hold a grudge against someone who has offended us, who is usually hurt the most by it? How does my lack of forgiveness affect those I love?

Q. Jesus said, ““So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:23-24) How does my grudge against someone affect my relationship with God?

4. Do you think this man cares about the pain and torment you have gone through? If anything, he feeds on that knowledge. Don’t you want to cut that off? And in doing so, you’ll release him from a burden that he carries whether he knows it or not – acknowledges it or not. When you choose to forgive another, you love him well.’
‘I do not love him.’
‘Not today, you don’t. But I do Mack, not for what he’s become, but for the broken child that has been twisted by his pain. I want to help you take on that nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than hate.’

Q. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:19-21) When someone injures or offends us, what is the difference between a legitimate desire for justice and an sinful desire for revenge?

Q. Loving our enemies is counterintuitive, but, according to Paul, it is the most powerful thing we can do. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Love Wins?” Is it possible to conquer evil by doing good – by forgiving and loving our enemies ? Why or why not?

Q. Papa is asking Mack to empathize with the man who murdered his daughter because he was “twisted by his pain.” Do you think that those who victimize others are usually victims themselves? How should the abuse of those who have abuse others factor into our forgiveness?
5. “’So forgiveness does not require me to pretend what he did never happened?’
‘How can you? You forgave your dad last night. Will you ever forget what he did to you?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘But now you can love him in the face of it. His change allows for that. Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation. And sometimes – and this may seem incomprehensible to your right now – that road may even take you to the miracle of fully restored trust.’ (pg. 224-226).

Q. When we forgive someone, it feels like we’re just ‘letting ‘em off the hook.’ We want them to suffer for what they’ve done – to know it wasn’t right and never will be okay. God isn’t asking us to “pretend…it never happened.” What is God specifically asking of us when he tells us to forgive others?

Q. Sometimes the idea of reaching out so someone who has injured or offended us seems foolish because we just become vulnerable to get hurt again. People don’t really change, right? Consider the story of the Apostle Paul. He was part of the group that was violently persecuting and killing Christians (Acts 7:57-60). After his conversion he writes, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17) Based on this passage, is there anyone that is hopeless? Is it possible for God to change the heart of even the worst sinner? Who do you know that is least likely to change? Could you restate this passage into a prayer for that person?

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