Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Pain and Failure as Keys to Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:41-47

I have two leadership roles in my church, two different “small group” ministries for which I am partly responsible.  I am pretty passionate about both of them, and I am always learning from each of them.  The Gathering is my Sunday morning Bible study group, open to any and all comers, all ages, all walks of life and all levels of spiritual maturity.  It is a slightly non-traditional offering as a part of my church’s “Sunday School”.  We meet around tables, effectively creating “small groups” of 6 to 8 people every Sunday morning for Bible study.  Heart 2 Heart is also a small group ministry, but for wounded people.  Every Tuesday night, these dear friends meet in small groups built around specific issues and pains in their lives.  Some of these groups …

The Truth Behind “It is finished.”

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

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

This is the time of year when we, as Christ followers, remember the three events which all happened within a few weeks of each other and which changed our world forever: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Pentecost.  Within the Christian world, different groups have tended to focus more on one of these events or another.  In my particular flavor of Christianity, we tend to focus more on the resurrection than on the other two; so much so, in fact, that I sometimes lose the practical significance of either the crucifixion or of Pentecost.  This week, as an exercise to help me balance this, I have been thinking a lot about the crucifixion.

In The Gathering this past Sunday, I challenged everyone to consider their daily routine, their life and their world without the crucifixion.  What would it look like?  What would it be like?  It made for some interesting discussion, as we each began to come to grips with what the crucifixion means to us individually.

So, I have also been asking the same question with regard to the entire church.  What does the crucifixion mean for us corporately?  What would “church” look like without it?  For me (so far) the picture is both simple and scary: there would be little forgiveness and there would be little grace.  I believe that because, over and over again, scripture draws a clear and convincing connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of each other.  Don’t …

Red Flags of Brokenness

Tuesday Re-mix –

Broken relationships are like infections, they only get worse with time, and the consequences can be devastating.

They almost always start the same way.  There are hurt feelings which go unaddressed.  Maybe there was bad behavior involved, or maybe there was just an oversight.  Maybe there was no wrong doing at all.  But feelings got hurt and were left that way with no meaningful attempt to deal with them.  The injured person tries to ignore the pain or tries to hurt the other person in return, but the pain itself is left to fester, much like leaving an infection unattended.  Very soon after that, the relationship is broken.

But like the infection, the damage then is only beginning.  There are actual stages of brokenness in the relationship.  They can be identified, even measured to some extent.  There is a common progression, a typical stage-by-stage process which every broken relationship goes through.  The stages represent some clear “red flags” which I can use to check myself.  When I see these things happening in me, I can know I have crossed a line and need to do something about it.  Depending on the person and the circumstances, some may go through the stages quickly, and others more slowly.  But when my relationship with you breaks,the progression is fairly predictable:

Stage 1: “Otherization” – You determine that I am no longer “one of you”.  I am suddenly different.  I have a different character, a different essence.  This represents a distinct change in “us”.  You “otherize” me when you suddenly choose to focus on what is different and you choose to ignore all our history which may show otherwise.  Maybe this distancing is just a defense mechanism, or maybe it is a conscious choice.  Either way, it is taking a step …

How You Can Prepare for the Coming Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix –

I have mostly tried to forget my early teenage years (from about age 12-14…the dreaded middle school years…every boy’s misery).  But aside from the many nightmares I have surely forgotten, there are still a handful which I remember as if they were yesterday: being spit on by Jimmy E. (7th grader) on the first day of 6th grade; being beaten up by Andy W. in the boys locker room; getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl on my very first “date” (so very sorry, Glenanne); and my illustration for this blog…trying to run the 440 yd. high-hurdles my 7th grade year.  Nightmare!

I was a low-hurdler.  Not the fastest in the world, but pretty well-trained and pretty well-equipped for my particular race.  My race was a quick 100 yards, with just a few hurdles to clear and then the race was over.  I liked it that way.  So when Brian W. had to pull out of the 440-yd. high hurdle race at one of our track meets, and the coach just needed a warm body to run the race (something to do with team points), I got picked…out of nowhere.  I won’t take you through the parade of horribles which ensued.  Let’s just say that, after not clearing the first hurdle and after basically running around the rest of them and then not being able to finish because of the unexpectedly long distance…well…it was a nightmare.  I was not ready for ANY of the obstacles that race held for me.  I had not trained for it, I had not studied it, I was completely unprepared for it.  I had not been given even the most basic, fundamental skills for running that race. I learned some things that day about preparation.

The more I work with conflicted congregations and the …

Forgiveness is the Church’s “Purple Cow”

Tuesday Re-mix –

“The world can do almost anything as well or better than the church…You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick.  There is only one thing the world cannot do.  It cannot offer grace.” Philip Yancey (What’s So Amazing About Grace?) quoting Gordon MacDonald

In his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being RemarkableSeth Godin teaches that a business (and I would contend every organization, every group, every institution, every movement and every individual) must find a way to set itself apart in order to stand out in its industry, like a purple cow standing in a field of Holsteins.  I believe his metaphor introduces an eternal truth, one which it would behoove the church to understand and embrace.

Thinking about what the Christian church has to offer the world, what it’s “purple cow” must be, it really has to come down to one thing: forgiveness.  That is the “felt need” the church can address.  If the church is serious about making disciples, if it is serious about introducing a lost and broken world to the only Savior Who really can save, then the church must get very, very good at the whole concept of forgiveness.  Paul, talking to the church at Corinth, speaks of both the message of reconciliation (i.e., that God loves you and forgives you) and the ministry of reconciliation (i.e., that we do too).  I believe Paul would say that, if we are not demonstrating forgiveness in our relationships with each other (the ministry of reconciliation), then our message of the gospel is meaningless.

The irony in this is that, for the most part, the church proves itself week after week to be  surprisingly bad at forgiveness.  Our relationships often do …

Trusting God’s People…Again

This video testimony is a perfect example of why Debbie Williams and I wrote Trusting God’s People…Again. I’ve been using it as a support group curriculum for a few years now, with some remarkable success.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpnHE0FabAs&hl=en_US&fs=1]

For more information on this ministry, see the Heart 2 Heart website.  For those of you in the San Antonio area, groups begin August 24.  For those of you outside our area, maybe your church should consider a support group like this.  I promise you the need is there!

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

There is Nothing Natural About Reconciliation

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I am pretty sure there is nothing at all natural about confession and forgiveness.  I think that, among the Spiritual ramifications of the fall of man, there is this part of the human condition which makes saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” difficult words for us to form.  It feels almost counter intuitive.  It doesn’t come naturally to anyone.

So, I’m reading the story of Joseph and his brothers and how they sold him into slavery and then told his father he had been killed.  He eventually got resold into the house of Pharaoh and later would rise to become second in command for all of Egypt (o.k., I skipped some of the story).  It is now many years later when he sees his brothers for the first time.  An ironic twist in the story is that they do not recognize him.  He sends them back home without disclosing his true identity and keeps one of them in prison while he awaits their return.  We don’t know how long they’re gone, but it is at least “seasons”, all the while he is keeping one of his brothers in prison.  Eventually, after they return to him, he discloses his true identity and he forgives them.  It is an awesome moment in the scriptures, one of my favorite stories.

Joseph is such a lovable and nearly perfect character, one might easily miss the fact that it took him a pretty long time to choose forgiveness.  He kept one poor brother in his prison the entire time he pondered his options.  It was not a choice that came naturally for him.  He had to draw upon something else to come to that conclusion.  …

Learning to say, “I’m sorry”

Tuesday re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(Read this post in connection with this previous post on Learning to Say, “Ouch”. They belong together, because that is what happens in reconciliation. )

Remember when your little brother did something really mean and hateful to you or to your stuff and you “told on him”?  And remember how your mom grabbed him by the ear and dragged him over to you and literally forced him to say the words “I’m sorry” under threat of some unspeakably horrible punishment?  Do you remember how you felt after that happened?

WAIT!  …o.k., you felt like you got your revenge and you enjoyed seeing him nearly get his entire ear ripped off the side of his head…but what about the apology?  Did it make you feel reconciled to him?

Of course it didn’t.  Because that is about as poor as apologies get in terms of actually bringing any healing to a situation.  But what if you could actually learn to express regret in a way that adds value to a relationship?  After all, feeling genuine regret in your heart is one thing, but learning to express it in a way which heals a broken relationship is another thing altogether.  If there were some practical things to learn, some skills to perfect in terms of communication, some things that would help you make a positive difference in your relationships, would it be worth your while to learn them?

We have an amazing example of the kind of apology that brings healing in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 11:21).  Using the prodigal’s apology as a kind of model, here are some things we learn about how to express regret in a relationship:…

Forgiving is Not Forgetting (but maybe it should be)

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I used to have a great memory, especially for numbers, directions, and tunes.  For names and faces, not so much, but for sports trivia and other such unnecessary stuff, I was a memorizing machine.  It seems to me that the older my girls get, the more my memory comes into question.  I really hate that.

So, now I’ve started devising little tricks to help me remember things.  I’ve programmed birthdays and anniversaries into my computer and my phone, I’ve found important locations in the house and the office to put things so I know I’ll see them.  I am finding more and more ways to “tie a string around my finger” these days.

One thing I’m still pretty good at remembering, though, is pain.  When you do something that hurts me, whether you intended it or not, I have a remarkable ability to remember it for a very long time.  I’ll bet you’re like that too.  What is it about painful circumstances that seem to linger in our memories forever…long after we have expressed forgiveness?  And more importantly, does that mean we haven’t really forgiven?  After all, when God talks about forgiveness, He promises, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34.  And we are commanded to forgive just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).  So, if I have truly forgiven, why do I still have these painful memories of times I was wounded?

I don’t have the answer to that question.

But here is something I do know: forgiveness and forgetting are not the same thing, at least not for us (and don’t get me started on the question of how a God …

Forgiveness is Not “Overlooking an Offense”

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Proverbs 19:11 says, “It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  So, is that wisdom about forgiveness?  Is forgiveness really as simple as just pretending the bad thing never happened?  As Christians, when someone hurts us in a profound, devastating way, does scripture really require that we just whistle a happy tune and pretend everything is good?

Is Christian forgiveness akin to sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring a brother’s bad behavior? Is that really the picture of forgiveness?  In order to forgive, do I just have to get good at pretending?

I believe the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “no”.  There is a great deal more to forgiveness than just pretending it never happened.  Frankly, that would be too easy.  If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it.  But they’re not… because it isn’t.

I am no Hebrew scholar, but commentators smarter than I have explained that the word for “offense” which is used in Proverbs 19:11 is not the Hebrew word most commonly used for sin.  Rather, it is a word whose connotation is more about “annoying” or “irritating”.  To use an American colloquialism, When someone rubs you the wrong way, you might just need to build a bridge and get over it. This wisdom from Solomon has more to do with not being overly sensitive than it has to do with actual forgiveness.  It is about patience. It is the right response when your spouse squeezes the toothpaste in the middle of the tube instead of the end of the tube, or when he puts the toilet paper on the roll backwards (or not at all).  It is …