Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24 (ASV)
As I read these words, I realized how scary this could be. I know that God knows my heart, but to invite Him to search and look for evil… yikes. But this is exactly what we need to do to remove the seeds of bitterness from our hearts, our minds, and our behavior. If I want to have a forgiving spirit, I need God to expose the roots of bitterness that I may not be aware of. When God shows me an area to work on, I need to respond – even if I think I’ve already dealt with the issue. God knows the true condition of my heart and He will bring to light those things which need my attention. Are you willing to ask God to search your heart? Am I?
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14 (ESV)
According to Paul, what are we supposed to do about the past? When we forget the past, we simply choose to be unaffected and uninfluenced by it.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:18-19, 25 (ESV)
The passage from Isaiah gives great promise. Can you take hold of God’s promise and understand that God will make a way for you to forgive – and be healed yourself?
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Cor 2:5-11 (ESV)
Last week we looked at this passage from Paul’s perspective. We discussed the need to show compassion toward people who cause us pain. But how does that same pain/compassion paradigm affect the church? Many scholars think that this passage is connected to 1 Corinthians 5:1 (It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 1 Cor 5:1 (ESV) Apparently, the church had confronted the man and he had repented, but now the church refused to welcome the man back.
What did Paul tell the church to do regarding the offender? Did Paul demand a personal or public apology from the offender? How does unforgiveness in the church affect the church’s mission? Its ability to worship and minister? Why did Paul want the church to forgive?
Are you easily offended? Have you ever played the martyr and continued to act unforgivingly? How can those actions play into Satan’s “designs”?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor 13:4-7 (ESV)
If I could follow these guidelines for love, what would the impact be on my circle of friends? If the church acted like this, what would the impact be on the world?
Lots to think about. Lots of “rules” to follow. These rules are set by our loving and living God, and are designed to lead us to happy and healthy lives. Will you choose to deliberately try to follow God’s rules a little more every day?
See you Friday for the last day of this study.