Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
Far too often, I hear from very well-meaning people that they are saddened by those who come and confess their sins only to return to them later. We judge outwardly by the actions after the confession and leave off the command of Christ. Often this scripture is used to talk of salvation, when it is clearly sins against a brother – between two saved people.
Our judgment is faulty; our discernment tainted – at best. Only God can discern the ways of our hearts.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Who can know it? Certainly not you nor I. Yet, we play judge in the lives of those around us whether passively or actively. We hear their words; we see their actions and we begin to evaluate in our hearts what type of man or woman they might be. We set criteria whether they are worthy of our trust. How could such an one say they repent and go right back to the world?
My friend, repentance is NOT just words spoken. Repentance is followed by defining actions of movement toward the Savior. A leaving off of the old behavior if you will. Repentance of smoking is not just to say “I quit.” It is to destroy all the accompanying paraphernalia: cigarettes, lighters, tobacco (if you roll your own), and that safety pack – that one hidden just in case you can’t quit cold turkey.
Repentance needs accountability. To do it in secret means that no one but you and God know what is going on, though I suspect others will too. Telling someone allows for support in your decision; strength when you are weak.
Jesus was telling all who heard that day that they should be forgiving as they would want to be forgiven – no matter the sin. I have heard all who have suffered at the hands of a wicked verbal, physical and even sexual abuser who repents and the victim cannot forgive. They feel that the confession of words and outward humility is not even close to repaying the deep wounds and scars left by their lengthy abuse.
So, did Jesus have some special words for them? “Except in the case of extreme abuse?” Search… you will not find it. We feel justified in our anger. We can even gather sympathy from others like us who will stand with us against our abusers. My friend – the tortured soul of the abuser is as much in need of forgiveness as the victim – maybe even more so.
So, what is the remedy for the Christian?
Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Are you saying I should be a doormat to the abuser? Allow them to do that to me? When you and I return hatred for hatred, blow for blow; we are acting just like the world. Our Heavenly Father is telling us to LOVE them; BLESS them; DO GOOD to them and PRAY for them. Love is that act of commitment toward them no matter how they treat us. Jesus’ life was such an extreme example of this. No matter what they did to Him, He returned love.
I truly believe that you and I cannot work up in our character the grace needed to love someone such as that. Only through the Holy Spirit in us will we ever find the love needed and necessary to love as we are commanded by Christ to love. Most who are addicted have left in their wake, a wide swath of destroyed finances, health and relationships. Far too often, we cannot get beyond the carnage to see the soul of the one in such bondage to walk WITH them to victory.
They are shunned, cast out and kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Yes, they have hurt you! Yes, there is damage seemingly irreparable. But understand this: as long as that person still has breath in their body, God is allowing them a chance; a space to repent. God forbid that we through our inability to go to God for the grace needed to forgive as we are commanded to do, take part in such behavior and not extend the hand of grace to help in their time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Mercy – for our weakness, hatred, and unforgiving spirit.
Grace – TO help (for others; not for us) in time of need
Is there any greater need or any greater time than now?