Dr. John B. MacDonald
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How do you experience relief, even healing, from the unpleasant emotions and burdens that flow from a damaged relationship?

Many ‘therapies’ are proposed.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous is “just forgive, and get on with the rest of your life.” As pointed out in earlier posts this approach is not forgiveness at all. It’s a sham that misrepresents God.

 

Forgiveness is the process of rebuilding a broken or damaged relationship. Its goal is reconciliation between those who have been estranged.

In the previous post we introduced the therapy – or, the way of healing – even when forgiveness has not taken place, or can never take place. The way of healing is love (agapē). This is love that finds its source in God, and is modeled by God. 

Dan Allender puts it well: 

Bold love is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some and an aroma of death to others.

Here’s another fundamental of this agapē-love: love is pro-active, not re-active.

 

Re-active

Re-action is natural for us.

If a person hits you, the natural reaction is to hit back. When a person offends you, the normal or “human” response is to re-act in kind. For instance, if a person yells at you, the inclination is to yell back. 

It may be obvious, but it needs to be stated: a reaction re-acts to the action of the other person. Every re-action is scripted or controlled by the action of the other person – it is not your script; it is the other person’s.

 

Pro-active

Love empowers you to act differently.

Love enables you to be the initiator of a new kind of action – it is pro-active.

So, in our examples, if a person yells at you, the pro-action of love is to respond with kind words. Proverbs 15:1 reflects this principle: “A gentle [tender, soft] answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

If a person hits you, the pro-action of love is to act in a new kind of way –  not to retaliate.

This pro-action of agapē-love doesn’t come naturally to us.

What does this pro-action look like?

 

The way forward

Jesus’ declares that his followers are to “love your enemies.”

Do these words have a real and practical impact on you?

Take a look at the broader context of Luke 6:20-49 which is Luke’s synopsis of the Sermon on the mount. Here’s what Jesus says (Luke 6:27-28):

 But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies,

            do good to those who hate you,

                        bless those who curse you,

                                    pray for those who mistreat you. 

First, Jesus makes a general statement: “love your enemies.” Then he tells us how we do that in thought, word, and action.

  • When you have an opportunity of doing something toward someone who hates you – do good.
  • When you have an opportunity of saying something to, or about, someone who says negative and destructive things about you – bless.
  • When you find yourself thinking about those who have mistreated you – pray for them.

In our "thinking" about others, we can find ourselves getting angry or re-active about someone who has “done us wrong.” If so, begin praying for that person. Praying as an act of love is pro-active, displacing the anger or bitterness you are beginning to feel over an injustice. 

“But,” you say, “where do I get the ability to do that?”

 

God’s love

In the previous post, we mentioned that as you are attracted to the God who is love, you have a choice to make. You either withdraw, or you draw closer.

If you withdraw, you continue on your old course. 

If you draw closer, attitudes and other things change as you are aligned more and more closely with the heart of God who reveals himself as Jesus Christ. You begin to realize that this is not your love, but God’s love through you as demonstrated in Jesus Christ.

 

What has this got to do with forgiveness?

Some teach wrongly that you must forgive an offender when that offender is not repentant or remorseful. What an additional and cruel burden that heaps upon the victim of the offence. 

Again, forgiveness is God’s process of rebuilding a damaged or broken relationship. When the time comes for forgiveness to be exercised properly, forgiveness releases the offender from his or her offence. Love releases the victim.

Love aligns the victim with the character and purposes of God. Love empowers the victim to experience the character and purposes of God, and treat the offender accordingly.  

In this way the crushing and destructive burdens of disappointment, rejection, abandonment, ridicule, humiliation, betrayal, deception, and abuse begin to fade as you are drawn closer to the heart of God.

This pro-action of loving is the way of healing.

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Photo credit: wallyg via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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