Two years ago, Blake and I had Christmas with his family down in Orange County, California. I had just found out I was pregnant, and Blake’s grandfather had just passed away that August.
It was a big year all around, but a special seed was planted that Christmas that took root and began to grow.
Christmas morning, as we all sat outside around a table, my mother-in-law began to read the Word of God. She then shared some thoughts on forgiveness and keeping our hearts from offense.
During this time together, she paused and looked each of us in the eye, called us by name, and said these powerful words:
“Elizabeth, I find no fault in you.”
Something about that statement shook me to the core, and my eyes couldn’t help but well with tears. It is the root of Love. Love does not find fault. It keeps no record of wrongs.
In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable of forgiveness when his disciple Peter asks how often he should forgive his brother. Jesus responds with seventy-seven times, then he tells this story (my paraphrase):
There was a man who owed the King millions of dollars - a huge debt he could never work off or repay. As he is about to get thrown into prison, he begs for mercy, and the King, moved with compassion, cancels his entire debt!
This same man, just freed, goes and finds another servant who owed him a small amount of money. When the servant couldn’t repay it, the first man has him thrown into prison. He wasn’t moved with compassion - he wanted was owed to him.
The King finds out and scolds him, then has him thrown into prison for his lack of mercy.
This story hit me in a fresh way this past week.
I do a decent job of keeping my heart from offense. I regularly ask the Lord to search my heart, to show me if I have any unforgiveness that needs dealing with.
Yet somehow, when asking this of the Lord, I typically only consider large debts.
Those are easy to spot. If someone really wrongs me, or betrays me, or hurts me - those things come to mind, no problem, and I pray them through.
It’s the little debts that tend to trip us up: the small infractions from family members, the unnecessary look from that friend, the tone of voice from your spouse.
These things didn’t really OFFEND me, right? It’s so small! I’m not that sensitive! It’s not something to say a prayer about or “deal with,” surely!
The problem with this thinking is that these small debts tend to collect and add up. And once someone owes you a debt, even a small one, everything is colored with that lens.
I see all that they do with a critical eye. I am looking for shortcomings in order to further build my case that I AM OWED - that I am justified.
It’s a record. And once it starts, it builds quickly. Small debts have become one HUGE problem.
And it’s my problem - a heart problem.
You see, LOVE keeps no record of wrongs.
That means that LOVE must forgive on the regular - even as Jesus said, “Seventy-seven times.”
2016 has been a doozy for a lot of people - which means there are probably a myriad of opportunities to forgive and release some things.
I am determined to deal with these small debts. I don’t want to drag anything into 2017 that doesn’t need to be there. I want to start fresh, with a clean heart - free from offense.
So I urge you, take some time in the next few days to:
- Receive this Truth for yourself. I love to go through The Lord’s Prayer regularly and ask the Lord to “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Are there any shortcomings or sins in your life that need to be set before the Cross of Christ? If so, confess it (even better if you can confess it to a friend/spouse/family member). Then, accept that the Father has looked you in the eyes, and declared, “I find no fault in you.” Let that sink in. Digest it. Christ has cancelled your debt.
- Take inventory. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any offense, little or big, that needs to be released. No one is off limits. Even God. Even yourself. Even technology! (Lord help me with technology). There’s a psychological response that happens when we move into annoyance and anger, and resentment can easily build. As Christ-followers, taking regular heart inventory can prevent unforgiveness and offense from taking hold.
- Make a choice. I can almost guarantee that you will not feel like forgiving. It is counter to our nature. We want things to be fair and to have the other person make things right. But our job is to allow God's love to thrive in our hearts, and that can only happen when we choose to forgive. Say it out loud. Say their name. Declare that powerful phrase, “I find no fault in you.” Repeat if necessary! You don’t even have to say it to the person - just your own ears hearing this phrase toward another can be powerful. And God hears. He will help you.
- Stay the path. Once you’ve made the choice to forgive, don’t make life harder on yourself by replaying the wrongs in your head over and over. Don’t allow your emotions to fester. Cast down your imaginations, and even if you have to repeatedly choose to release something, stay after it. Get tenacious! You are walking the way of Jesus, who chose to forgive mankind while he was on the cross - “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
- Build the habit. I’m a delayed processor, and I often don’t realize that something has bothered me or offended me until much after the fact. I want to get really good at releasing things immediately. The moment my defenses come up, or I feel annoyed, I want the Love of God to rush in and remind me to forgive! This takes practice, and the help of the Holy Spirit. Help us Lord!
Friends, the Father has looked you in the eyes and declared, “I find no fault in you.” This is only because of Jesus Christ. Receive it. Determine to be a dispenser of this same grace to those around you. Walk in love and mercy in 2017 and allow the power of forgiveness to flow through you to those in your life.
(My mother-in-law shared that she first heard of this from Kenneth Copeland. Here is an article with more details from their 2014 Christmas magazine.)