Growing up, my family did their best to shield the children from curse words. Like most, they looked for replacement words to express themselves when they hit their thumb with a hammer or faced shock or pain. I’m not sure what the words meant, but I do remember hearing them a lot. Words like: “Dad gum it”, “Dad burn my luck”, and “Durn”. Every generation has them. No one has to be taught to express shock and pain with anger. It comes natural with the package of being human.
When it comes to relationships there is something else that we are also hardwired with. It comes with the package of being human. It is the belief that when someone does wrong, they must pay. We don’t have to be taught this belief. It comes completely natural to us. If someone hurts us, we expect them to pay for what they did to us. We want to see them get equal treatment for what they did to us. We want to see it happen and we don’t mind being the ones who makes them pay!
The problem is that this belief leads to
As we focus on what we didn’t deserve and what they now deserve we become something even worse. We become:
- someone consumed with our self – we know our own needs, but little of others
- trapped in our pain and blame – we can’t get past what others have done to us
- imprisoned in protecting ourselves – we find it difficult to develop and maintain relationships
- consumed with thinking about all that we deserve – we have very little gratefulness because we think others never do enough
- obsessed with what we ought to have – we see others for what they ought to be doing for us
- wrapped up in demanding to be treated with respect – we are easily hurt and offended because we didn’t like the way we were treated
- passionate about getting what we paid for – we insist on getting what we paid for in relationships, stores, and restaurants
- unable to control our temper when treated unfairly – seething anger flows uncontrollably from our heart, actions, and words
- irritable, stressed, and live on edge – we depend on medications and substances to settle our overly stressed mind and heart
- obsessed with making others pay – we want to make others pay with our words, actions, looks, and lawsuit
That is what “you owe me” thinking leads to. And it takes us far away from the one thing that can heal our heart and relationships: forgiveness. Forgiveness is the opposite of “you owe me”. It releases others from having to owe us. It frees our heart from anger, resentment, and revenge. It frees us to be at peace and sincerely love others.
Forgiveness is natural to the heart of God. He demonstrated through His Son, Jesus that His approach to the failure of others is love and forgiveness. His death on the cross shows the profound difference of God’s heart. The Bible says that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. In the face of pain, rejection, and being taken advantage of, He forgave. He did so before we asked for it. He did so before we realized what we had done. He did so while the pain was still fresh.
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14
Is it possible for that kind of forgiveness to become natural to us? Is it possible to get to the place where our first thought was not “you owe me!” Is it possible to truly release and forgive others? Can we escape self-consuming anger, resentment, bitterness, and revenge?
The answer is yes.
When we begin the process of taking in what Christ did in paying for our failures, we experience the freedom from owing God. His death and resurrection free those who accept it from having to pay back God. They live free! They are no longer consumed with ongoing guilt, shame, and fear of what God thinks of them. They don’t live out of obligation to Him. They live in the joy of release and respond with love! To the degree that forgiveness is believed and received is the degree that it flows from us to others. The Bible says it this way…
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
We are able to forgive others to the degree that we believe we are forgiven by God. As we continue to take it in, the natural desires of our heart begin to change. We begin to arrive at the place where forgiveness becomes the instinctive response from our heart when we are faced with pain.
It may seem like an impossibility to you. It may seem far away from where you are now. You may think there is no way that it could become part of you. The wonder of the transformation starts not with your effort to try to do something that is not you. The change happens as you take in what He gives when you can’t measure up and fail. As you take it in, change begins.
Let is humble you.
Let is overwhelm you.
Let is settle you.
You no longer owe.
God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13b-14
And you don’t have to make others owe.
Click here for an expanded audio version
Check out Encounter.